- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

LeBron James beats his chest with his right fist after completing an elementary basketball play.
This is the me-Tarzan, you-Jane thing that has trickled down from the professional ranks.
The chest-beating practitioners purport to have well-functioning hearts, good news to either Dr. Jack, Ramsay or Kevorkian.
Or perhaps it is a communication form stemming from the days of Pontius Pilate, except the Romans made the fist-to-the-heart sign just once.
You hate to see a player repeatedly beating his chest, mostly because it prompts all kinds of unsettling thoughts. Is the player having a heart attack? Is he about to turn purple in the face? Is he going to die? Don't die, please. You never know. There are no guarantees in life.
The chest-beating maneuver is either frightening or dumb. Of course, there is no shortage of the latter in basketball. In fact, the dumb appear to outnumber the average I.Q. types, especially if Chris Webber is on the floor.
It seems Webber is an MVP candidate this season. That is a tricky proposition in his case. Nothing is ever as it seems with Webber, starting with what no longer happened in the record books at Michigan and with what happened while he was with Golden State and the Wizards. If Webber is to work it out, it is probably worth 25-30 blows to his chest in rapid succession. Can he do it? Is he up to the challenge?
The chest-beating tic passes as charismatic in 2003, the follow-up to the out-of-date throat-slashing sign. It is symptomatic of those cultural icons who try so hard to be different, special and forever relevant.
Madonna, to name one, has advanced from the gold highway cones on her chest to hand grenades, as if to say: "Gold highway cones on a woman's chest are not the answer."
Mariah Carey made this very case at halftime of the All-Star Game in Atlanta, spilling out of a form-fitting gown that feted old No.23 of the Wizards.
We interrupt the philosophical pull of the gold highway cones to bring you the following important commercial message from Chris Heye, vice president and general manager of Sharpie and a big-time supporter of Terrell Owens:
"We recognize all of the visibility Owens has brought Sharpie recently, and we're thrilled to team up and give back to the community through a donation to the Alzheimer's Association," Heye said.
Owens pulls out a Sharpie after scoring a touchdown and then signs the football before giving it away, an inventive act of immodesty that leads to a public relations opportunity and the news that the grandmother of Owens suffers from the terrible disease.
"Giving back to the community" is one of the better justifications to make money, although not as compelling as, "It is all for the kids."
James is the chest-beating, scowl-plagued kid in a Hummer H2, complete with three television sets, "King James" embroidery on the seats, computer hookups, two throwback jerseys, a security detail, red flares and canned goods, just in case.
The clowns, nitwits and the hopelessly lost are winning the tug-of-war between bad taste and good. The notion that sports build character has become quaint. Sports now build cartoon characters who posture, strut, dance and make peculiar gestures with their hands and faces. They also undergo primal scream therapy at various junctures in a game, as if Richard Reid has lit a fuse to their shoes. Doug Christie is a hoot and a holler.
The dwindling absence of sportsmanship sometimes leads to curious developments, especially in the context of the flamboyant Little League baseball team from Harlem last summer.
Those 12-and-under tykes were ordered to conduct their business with dignity after a few instances of showing up the opposition. They were, in effect, held to a higher standard than the grown-ups who play games for a living. That is too funny, not unlike the football bouncing off the facemask of the dancing Deion Sanders.
Mark Gastineau, anyone?
Don't look now, but members of America's 4x100-meter relay in Sydney are striking a muscle pose, using the flag as a sari wrap.
Meanwhile, James is beating his chest, which possibly results from his need to keep it real, however wearying that process is to both the person and the observer.
It is what it is, not real at all but an utter contrivance that contributes to an edgy environment.
Chris Mills is blocking the bus of the Trail Blazers, Rasheed Wallace is threatening a referee, and Ron Artest is powerful enough to beat up Pat Riley. Go beat your chests, fellows.

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