I've been critical of him in the past, so I need to give him credit for this column.
Kravitz: Poor choices can be fatal
December 11, 2007
Fine. We can all agree, staying out until 3 a.m. and later at a nightclub in a dangerous neighborhood is not the smartest thing in the world. It's especially dim considering Jamaal Tinsley, the Pacers guard at the center of this latest incident, already is facing charges for his alleged role in an earlier bar fight.
Tinsley's on-court decision-making has improved measurably this basketball season, but off the court, he remains yet another guy who just doesn't get it.
We can all agree: Really bad judgment. Really bad. And very nearly deadly.
That said, I would hope we could all agree that nobody should be suspended, traded, dumped, stuck with a curfew or otherwise persecuted for the heinous crime of being in the crosshairs of some looney-toon with an assault rifle.
That's the part that we should not forget: Based on the facts that we know -- today, this moment, always subject to change -- Tinsley and equipment manager Joe Qatato were victims.
Did you see the photos of the Rolls Royce, the driver's side window pocked with bullet holes? Qatato is lucky he was only shot in the elbows. Tinsley is lucky he escaped without physical harm, although his already diminished reputation took another hit.
This would be a good time to remember Stephen Jackson's role in the Club Rio fiasco. There was a rush to judgment that Jackson, who had a well-deserved reputation for being a hothead, had beaten up somebody at the bar, then fired gunshots in the parking lot. As the facts were later revealed, we learned that Jackson was essentially firing in self defense after a driver tried to run him over with his car.
It's a dangerous thing, playing Matlock with a media pass. There was a rush to judgment in the Duke lacrosse case. There was a rush to judgment in the Sean Taylor murder.
I've been guilty, too, too quickly assuming the worst, especially when it has involved a Pacer. The 24/7 news cycle demands instant analysis, and sometimes, the portrait ends up looking nothing like the snapshot.
That mistake will not be repeated here.
I will accuse Tinsley of monstrously poor judgment, something he copped to after Monday's practice, but I will not accuse him any more than that. So he was out late. Very few of us are angels in that regard. Sometimes we stay out late and do stupid things. Guilty as charged.
The easiest thing Pacers president Larry Bird and coach Jim O'Brien could do right now is flex their muscles and make their bloodthirsty fans happy by fining, suspending or trading Tinsley. But they can't trade Tinsley considering he's signed through 2011, and they won't trade Tinsley because he's having a great season and is their only productive point guard.
And what's he been charged with here? Being a target?
Instead, they are going to do nothing, continue with business as usual and, if later facts reveal that Tinsley had a sinister role in all of this, that will be another story.
It's not very satisfying, especially for a fan base that has become almost numb to these kinds of things, but the only fair way to approach this is with patience and caution.
If Tinsley and Qatato were the victims, where's the fairness in victimizing them again?
However this thing plays out, it's incumbent on Tinsley to finally see the light, before he loses his career or even his life. He almost got killed Sunday morning. Same with Qatato. Bad things can happen anywhere and any time, but the percentages are a whole lot higher on West 38th Street at around 3 in the morning.
Jealousy and alcohol can be a toxic mix, one that can even kill you.
It's still up to the athlete, though, to make the initial decision. The Colts don't get into these kinds of scrapes. The Pacers do. So it comes back to personal responsibility.
I understand that Tinsley is guilty in the court of public opinion. For a lot of folks now, it isn't even a matter of right or wrong, whether Tinsley was the perpetrator or, as most of us currently suspect, the victim in a shooting that could have ended in a deadly fashion.
It's another incident.
It's another Pacers incident.
Another brick in the wall that has been erected between the local NBA franchise -- the TrailPacers, indeed -- and their ever-diminishing, heart-sick fan base, which deserves better than this. And you thought attendance was bad now.
Even if it turns out Tinsley was a victim here, there will be a greater victim: The Indiana Pacers.