So Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog had a clever idea to poll local bloggers to see who was the second most popular athlete in DC, behind Alex Ovechkin of course. There were a ton of answers, but the most second-place votes went to Chris Cooley and Donovan McNabb. Behind them was Stephen Strasburg (even though he hasn't played a Major League game), and only then did Gilbert Arenas make an appearance.
And that surprises me. I may be biased, as a Wizards blogger first, but Gilbert Arenas, despite all that he did, is still insanely popular in this city. Let's not lose sight of that.
The thing people forget is just how involved Gilbert Arenas is in the community. Not only is he charismatic, but he's putting himself out there, particularly when it comes to people less fortunate than him. This doesn't take away from his terrible judgment with the guns thing, nor is it a sign that his head is screwed on straight. Both of those things may still be true. But it does tell you that Arenas is still really big in this town. The 70 or so letters attached to his defense memo attest to this.
Among diehart Wizards fans too, Arenas is still unbelievably popular. SB Nation's Wizards blog Bullets Forever has a poll running that asks this question: "Will you be willing to welcome Gilbert Arenas back?" Fifty one percent said they would "with wide open arms." Another 35 percent said they would, but that "he needs to do some work to win my trust back." Only 13 percent of people who responded said they would not welcome Arenas back, and seven percent of those said no "unless he's showed he's really changed." This is a small sample, but it's clear that tons of Wizards fans still love Gilbert. Maybe he's gone from being universally loved to being a bit polarizing, but there's still a huge sample of fans who lean toward the positive side.
Maybe this is an issue of demographics, as Kyle Weidie of Truth About It noted. Arenas is extremely popular with the African American community in DC, and the sports bloggers polled in Steinberg's exercise were predominantly 20-30 year old white males. Maybe it's just a matter of Arenas having a few ardent defenders. But either way, he still has a lot of popularity in this city, and if he comes back strong next year, more people will realize that.