JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Jacob SullumJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / March 13, 1998 / 15 Adar, 5758

Roger Simon

Roger Simon Latrell Sprewell's genius

WASHINGTON -- Although there are still more than nine months to go in 1998, I think Time magazine should name Latrell Sprewell Man of the Year right now and get it over with.

And that's because Sprewell is the perfect man for our age.

While the rest of us are out grubbing for money in our tawdry, materialistic culture, Sprewell is responding to his Latrell Sprewell true inner self.

Sprewell is the basketball player who choked his coach last Dec. 1 because his coach had criticized him during practice. Sprewell then left practice, cooled down a little, came back and reportedly punched his coach.

Because of this, Sprewell's team fired him, and the NBA suspended him for a year.

Recently, however, an arbitrator decided this was much too harsh a punishment and reinstated Sprewell so he could earn the remaining $17.3 million of his contract.

You might think Sprewell would happy about this, but in fact, he is not.

Now if you or I had choked and punched our bosses (which they richly deserve, I might add), we would not only be fired but probably be put in jail.

But you and I are not basketball stars. Basketball stars live by a different code.

Here is Sprewell, 27, explaining why grabbing his boss around the neck was the right thing to do.

First of all, his boss had criticized him.

"Your boss can't be on you every day like that," Sprewell said. "It just gets to you after a while."

Got that? The role of the coach/boss/supervisor is NOT to criticize. While some people respond to criticism by working harder at their jobs, Sprewell is not such a person.

Choking was his response, and he did it not out of anger but to reject the materialism of modern society. In other words, he did it as an example for you and me.

"A lot of people," said Sprewell, "said, 'Just suck it up for the money.' I love money, but my pride, manhood and self-respect was more important. I believe I was right."

See? While you and I would have just sucked up those millions for throwing a ball through a hoop, Latrell Sprewell would not sell out.

No! He was true to his pride, true to his manhood and true to his self-respect.

Which is why he had to choke his coach.

Wait a second. Did I say choke?

Here is his explanation for what he actually did to his coach, P.J. Carlesimo.

"I wasn't choking P.J.," Sprewell said. "I mean, P.J., he could breathe. It's not like he was losing air or anything like that. I mean, it wasn't a choke. I wasn't trying to kill P.J."

But what about those scratches around Carlesimo's neck?

Those, Sprewell said, were caused by his fingernails.

"If you're choking someone, you don't get scratches," Sprewell said. "You get welts totally around your neck."

And when you look at it coolly and rationally, the whole incident was really his coach's fault.

"If you're fearing for your life, you don't just stand there," Sprewell said. "P.J. did nothing when I grabbed him. If you think you're about to die, you would think he would do something about it. He didn't stop breathing or anything. He did nothing. I would have let go. I wasn't going to kill him."

The arbitrator in the Sprewell case was John D. Feerick, dean of the Fordham Law School. In reinstating Sprewell, the dean said the fact that Sprewell had already missed many games and lost millions "conveys the message that violence in the NBA will be dealt with severely but always with due regard to the principle of fairness."

If you think the purpose of this column is to make Latrell Sprewell look like an idiot, you couldn't be more wrong.

Next to some law school deans, Sprewell is a genius.


3/10/98: On truth and reality
3/5/98: No, I'm not harrassing Hillary
3/3/98: The Unforgettable Henny Youngman
2/26/98: Grow up, boys!
2/24/98: Go get 'em, Bill!
2/19/98: My 15 minutes
2/17/98: The manic-depressive presidency
2/12/98: Drip, Drip, Drip
2/10/98: Clinton tunes out the networks
2/5/98: The flight of the Beast: America's love-hate relationship with scandal
2/3/98: Speaking Clintonese
1/29/98: What the president has going for him
1/27/98: Judgment call: how Americans view President Clinton
1/22/98: Bimbo eruptions past and present
1/20/98: Feeding the beast: Paula Jones gets the full O.J.
1/15/98: Let's get it over with: it's time to deal with Saddam, already
1/13/98: Sonny Bono is dead, let the good times roll
1/8/98: Carribbean Cheesecake: First couple has cake, eats cake
1/6/98: PO'ed: a suspected druggie jumps through the employment hoops
1/1/98: Cures for that holiday hangover
12/30/97: Buy stuff now
12/25/97: Peace to all squirrelkind
12/23/97: Home for the Holidays: Where John Hinckley, never convicted, will not be
12/18/97: Bill's B-list Bacchanalia: Press and politicos get cozy, to a point
12/16/97: All dressed up... (White House flack Mike McCurry speculates on his next career)

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.