Today in sports: Former Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas checks in from NBA exile, that homey touch is missing in Green Bay, and a reason for Seattle to curb its NBA enthusiasm.
Former Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas -- once a delightful and compelling NBA oddball -- has been in a downward spiral since the December 2009 incident where he brought guns into the Wizards locker room during an argument with teammate Jarvaris Crittenton over gambling debts. He was suspended for the remainder of the season by the league and ultimately traded to Orlando the following December. He was ineffective after the trade and was waived by the team in December. His first interview since being released is wide-ranging, earnest, and incredibly sad. He talks about making a comeback (indeed, the Los Angeles Lakers recently had him in for a workout, but chose not to sign him) but notes that his training regimen involves taking spin classes at an Orlando-area YMCA. Even though Orlando waived him, they still have to pay him $63 million over the next three years, but Arenas doesn't sound like someone that excited about trying to reclaim his interrupted career. He calls the NBA a "fantasy" multiple times, and says nobody sees him for who he really is, because ""I'm in my house all the time." [SI.com]
The Green Bay Packers have done almost everything right in recent years, but there's at least some concern from current and former employees that the "increasing corporatization" of America's only publicly-owned pro sports franchise has the potential to drive a wedge between the town and the front office. The blame for that is going to CEO and team president Mark Murphy, who got the job four years ago. While the club has thrived under Murphy, morale among employees is not what it used to be, which some feel is a byproduct of Murphy's "distant" management style. One current employee complains that the club "doesn’t feel very family oriented” under Murphy. Also, for the first time in history, the club doesn't have "a president or No. 2 administrator with long ties to the team and Wisconsin." In Green Bay's case, that matters, since the team relies on the community to sign off on critical spending issues. [Green Bay Press-Gazette]
In other Packers-related news: shares of the team are now available for purchase in Canada. The club cleared Canadian regulatory requirements and is now offering 17,000 shares of the club for purchase. The team is trying to raise money for a $143 million renovation of Lambeau Field, so they'll take all the help they can get. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]
The start of spring training has prompted a lengthy and delightful essay from former New York Times columnist Robert Lipsyte, who covered the New York Mets first spring training for the paper in 1962. That tea, Lipsyte notes, was a group of "has-beens, hardly-ables and never-will-bes stocking an empty shelf on its way to becoming one of the worst baseball teams of all time," but nobody knew that at the time. The best stories invariably center around ballplayers and alcohol: there were drunk bullpen catchers, all-night strategy sessions with veteran manager Casey Stengel in the hotel bar, and Rogers Hornsby hanging out in the hotel lobby, railing against "foreigners," former Dodgers president Branch Rickey, and the "city phonies" who reported on the game. [The New York Times]
On Friday, the city of Seattle formally unveiled a proposal to build a $500 million arena to help lure an NBA franchise back to the city. (They also want to land an NHL team.) The Sacramento Kings have been widely mentioned as the NBA franchise most likely to relocate to Seattle, since the city is facing a league-imposed March 1 deadline to have a financing plan for a new arena in place. But Sacramento's financing plan is further along than some have realized, while the Seattle proposal is going to be difficult to pull off, despite a large commitment from private investment, because any public financing must comply with a 2006 ballot measure that prohibits public funds for being used to subsidize pro sports franchises. [The Wall Street Journal]