It was 2004 when things went bad for Ron. ESPN was broadcasting live, there were 20,000 basketball fans pocketed in bucket seats, all cheering their team's success and berating its failures. The game had seconds left.

A whistle, a foul, the ref ruled Ron was at fault. The foul was unremarkable but his opposition took exception. They mouthed off and shoved him, and as the aggrieved player seethed with anger, Ron taunted him and wound him up. It wasn't an entirely mature response.

Neither was the crowd's. Angry, boozed and miserable at their own team's impending defeat, they retaliated.

When a cup of Diet Coke sailed from the stands and hit him in the chest, Ron Artest had a handful of options. Did he suck it up, take a few deep breaths and get on with the last 45 seconds of the game? Nope. Did he swear out loud, point security to the fans and complain to the referees? Nope.


No. Ron did what any irrational, eccentric and testosterone-blinded athlete would do. Giddy with rage, he climbed into the crowd and started fighting the general public. And so ensued perfect televised anarchy.

Ten arrests, 10 massive NBA suspensions. And for his starring role in one of the worst sporting brawls in US history, Ron Artest was banned for 86 games and lost more than NZ$7.3 million - a colossal fall from grace.

This week marked two years from another. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was surely one of the heaviest tumbles in modern corporate history. In the two months after the spill, BP's market value halved. The company haemorrhaged tens of billions of dollars in capital and stock.

But where two years ago we watched the billowing black filth, today, BP broadcasts rather a different image.

Its television commercials show trusting people on pristine beaches. Birds in slow motion lift elegantly into flight.

A warm voice talks about "progress" and promises years of dedicated restorative work. Stocks have improved. In America, BP is fighting back.

Charlie Sheen is fighting back, too. Remember him? Remember the drug-addled lunacy? Remember life imitating art and the star actor from America's biggest show fired from his $2 million-an-episode gig? That was a good year ago now. Today, Charlie Sheen insists he's re-sane. His new show starts in eight weeks.

And this NBA basketball season, a once-irredeemable brawler has made an unsubtle effort to improve his stocks. Just like BP and Charlie Sheen, Ron Artest is chasing public absolution. This time, though, instead of fists, he's fighting with a publicist and a deed poll.

Ron Artest the brawler is simply no longer. In fact, Ron Artest is no longer. This season in the No 15 jersey for the LA Lakers, he plays a man legally renamed "Metta World Peace".

Apparently, Metta is a Buddhist word for loving, kindness and friendliness. Metta says his new name will "inspire and bring youth together all over the world".

It's utterly ludicrous, not to mention hypocritical. But this NBA season, Metta World Peace has been completely accepted. He's a regular starter, people buy his jerseys and nobody talks about the brawl.

Those living the grandest American dreams, of course, have the furthest to fall. But even the most spectacular public failures - the BPs, the Charlie Sheens and Ron Artests - are just a marketing department or publicist's bill away from that sequel to the American dream: American redemption. After all, who doesn't like World Peace?