Did you hear? Ron Artest went off the third turnbuckle at Summer Slam and elbow dropped James Harden in the face. Well, not really. But when you slow down the tape to 10 frames per second, and watch it 13 times, it sure looks that way.
I’m only going to slightly touch on predicted suspensions for Artest because, really I don’t care all that much. In fact, as I write this, SportsCenter is probably breaking with that news. I’m also sure the blog-o-sphere is aleady buzzing with everyone’s own option on the incident.
Long story short: Ron Artest is kind of an idiot. I know it; you know it; moving on.
What I found interesting about the entire situation was the order in which I, personally, was exposed to these events, and the changes in my personal feelings through the different types of media exposure.
First, I hear about it. I wasn’t able to watch the game, but heard on the radio that Artest had gone gorillas again and gotten himself ejected. No big deal. As I said before, Artest is kind of an idiot. And what’s particularly sad about the situation is, this isn’t close to worse thing he’s ever done.
Next, I see highlights on SportsCenter. The first time I see it, I see it in real-time game-speed. And honestly, I wasn’t impressed. ‘Bows get thrown. That’s basketball. Between the intentional contact and the show that went on afterwards, no surprise at a flagrant two and an ejection.
Then they slow it down. Way down. And that’s when everything changes. That’s when you realize this isn’t just some everyday elbow getting thrown in a basketball game; this was bigger. This was more violent. This elbow had the worst of intentions.
And they don’t just show it once. They show it over and over. And after each time I watch it, it sickens me a little more. Each time, I see some new infinitesimal detail in Artest’s reaction or backswing that worsens his case that he wasn’t trying to literally decapitate Harden. After every replay I see a new depth of malicious intent; things I missed in the previous replays.
Or do I?
I see the replay once or twice and decide “Yup, definitely intentional. Looking at a suspension.”
After the next replay I’m thinking “That’s ridiculous though. Who does that? World Peace my ass”
After a few more views it’s, “Artest is such an asshole. I hope them ban him for life.”
That shit was damn near assault. Actually, it was assault. And with such strong video evidence, I see no reason why Harden couldn’t sue Artest. Would I actually like to see this happen? Absolutely not. Long term effects would be comparable to the effect of malpractice suites on the healthcare industry.
As I’m viewing this constant slow-motion reiteration of Artest’s actions, it’s causing an evolution in the way I’m viewing the situation, and I start to realize this.
And as I’m going through to kaleidoscope of emotions, I start to ask myself, “Am I seeing things here, in this slow-motion replay, that aren’t really there?”
I am in no way suggesting that Artest’s actions were unintentional. Was Artest looking for contact? Absolutely. You get six fouls in the NBA, and if you’re not going to use them actually playing the game, you might as well use them to make a statement. But was he looking for that much contact? I don’t think so.
Human reaction time is one fifth of a second. Im not sure what frame rate national basketball games in HD are recorded at, but the slowed down replay of the elbow can’t span more than a second a half. They slow this one and a half second piece of tape over thirty seconds.
My point is here that we, as viewers, and able to sit, watch, and judge this 1.5 seconds for an unlimited time span. We are able to sit and infinitely reacted to a span of time where an average human could cognitively execute only one physical action.
Are we injecting meaning and intention into places where it just doesn’t exist?
I only mention the slow-motion replay so often because we can almost be certain that David Stern will watch this same footage, over and over, in slow motion, just as I did. And I wonder if repeated views will affect him in the same way as it did me. I wonder if a David Stern who watches the footage once, at game speed, issues a completely different suspension than a David Stern who watches it over and over in slow motion.
Either way Artest is likely looking at a lofty suspension. Hopefully he’ll be back in time to play OKC in the playoffs with a giant target on his back. In light of the harsh penalties imposed by Rodger Goodell in the NFL, David Stern will most likely follow suit. After all, this is a player safety concern. And player safety has become more about protecting players from other players, rather than from the game itself. The situation is also similar considering both the Saints and Artest have had issues with their actions before.