Saving face is a feat that requires equal parts tact, intrepidity, and luck. In the arena that is sports, especially the NBA, it can take years to regain the confidence and respect that was once carried. Tiger Woods, need anything else be said? It took Kobe Bryant several years and one huge diamond to recoup what he lost after his scandal but he is back on top. For each player and team the fall from grace is by far the easiest step in the entire process but it is the most gut wrenching. The past several days have had quite a few more opportunities to save face than is common in an entire year ranging from a game of H-O-R-S-E to potentially career defining.
On Saturday, Dwyane Wade competed against one of the toughest opponents he has ever faced on the court: Andy Roddick. In a game of H-O-R-S-E, Roddick jumped out to an early lead of H-O-R to H. Wade, familiar with the situation, knew exactly what to do. Wade quickly pulled his T-Mobile My Touch phone and placed a call to David Stern. However, because he has T-Mobile he had his call dropped because service just vanished. Luckily there was a landline nearby. Wade reached the Emperor and explained the situation. Stern ordered the game to be immediately suspended until his storm troopers could arrive and bring order to the game. When the referees showed up, Wade was able to take over because the refs continually called fouls against Roddick, which sent Wade to the line again and again, despite Roddick not being near to Wade at all. The game shifted dramatically in Wade’s favor and he wound up winning. This might not be exactly how it transpired but needless to say it couldn’t be too farfetched. Wade did win saving face for both himself and the NBA.
One team recently just rattled off their longest and most impressive win streak of the season. The New Jersey Nets just won two consecutive games in a row by beating the Sacramento Kings and Detroit Pistons, two other NBA bottom feeders. These two wins have helped the Nets tie the record number of lowest wins in a season, set by the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1972-73 season, at nine games. Brett Yormark, the Nets’ chief executive, can rejoice! Maybe now fans won’t show up with paper bags on their head. Maybe LeBron James will see this little streak and hop on a plane to the “Garden State” this summer. Maybe that Russian billionaire playboy who bought the team will team up with Jay Z on his most recent un-retirement. Oh, wait, the Nets just got beat down by the Bulls? Bring on the bags! At least the Nets will not go down in NBA history as the worst team in league history. The worst they could do at this point is tie the record for the worst team in NBA history. They only have to win one more game this season to get to second worst all time. I know many people are cheering for them but I am not one of them. Let that team rot in the polluted cesspool that is New Jersey. I wish they hadn’t won this many games. They do not deserve this many wins. As a team they have slightly saved face by barely avoiding complete futility by they are still a blight to the NBA.
To say that Gilbert Arenas is having a just a slightly bumpy year would be like saying Health Care Reform isn’t, to quote VP Joe Biden, “a big fucking deal” and that Lady Gaga isn’t everywhere. He was recently sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house and 400 hours of community service. Agent Zero will serve zero time. Lucky, considering what could have been the outcome. Now he must start the long process to returning to prominence in the NBA. It starts with his relationship with the Washington Wizards. Wizards’ president, Ernie Grunfeld, has already stated that Arenas will be a Wizard next season. This is but one of many steps the franchise and Arenas will have to take before the start of next season. Honestly though, it’s not like Hibachi was actually going anywhere with the insane contract he has, not even the Knicks under Isiah Thomas would have touched that contract (maybe). Morally, Arenas did not commit any action that might make his fans detest him. In most respects, he is already regaining favor by simply pleading guilty and excepting his punishment both by the NBA and the court. Saving face, for Arenas, may seem like a distant reality but it is just that, a reality. Arenas will come out of this a winner and respected member of the NBA again.
The process which players and teams attempt to save face over the course of a season or a professional career varies in length and by particular situations. Some players never turn their image or life around. This is either because they do not want to or circumstances around them prevent them from doing so. These are but three recent examples, both large and small, of saving face. With the playoffs around the corner more such cases are sure to arise. Saving face is not always about victory, a change of perception is all it requires. Hopefully, in the cases of the Nets (despite what I said) and Gilbert Arenas this slow change will be for the better.