IS ANYTHING OUT OF BOUNDS WHEN IT COMES TO TRASH TALK IN THE LOCKER ROOM?
Word came down this morning that Alonzo Mourning was finished with the NBA and almost certainly headed for a kidney transplant, sad news for sure, though not totally unexpected -- except perhaps by Nets management, which recently signed 'Zo to a $22-million, four-year deal.
And, of course, Kenyon Martin. Late last week, at practice, K-Mart got into a fierce verbal smackdown with 'Zo, which reached a climax when K-Mart mocked 'Zo's kidney ailment. Ever since, members of the Writers' Bloc have been trying to decide whether K-Mart is (a) stupid and insensitive, (b) maliciously stupid, or (c) an advanced master of the cutting but performance-inspiring putdown.
Today, the WB debates that very question, and tries to place K-Mart's shot in the Pantheon of Stupid Sports Comments. We're also wondering what he's thinking about today.
By Tim Keown
The Writers' Bloc
So, Kenyon Martin and Lance Armstrong walk into a bar. Kenyon turns to Lance and says ...
OK, so maybe we're being too hard on Martin here. Maybe his decision to play the kidney card with Alonzo Mourning the other day at practice wasn't the most ridiculously off-base comment of the year in sports.
Or maybe we just don't have time to do the research.
|Alonzo Mourning had hoped to reach his first NBA Finals as a Net.|
I've always held a spot in my heart for the stupid things baseball players say. Seems like there's more time to think -- or not think -- about being truly ridiculous when you sit in front of your locker or at a card table for three hours before and after every game.
Derek Bell's "Operation Shutdown" routine from spring training 2002 has a perpetual spot in the oeuvre. Going back a bit, Garry Templeton got bonus points in the all-important poetry category when he rolled out his "If I ain't startin', I ain't departin' " gig leading up to an All-Star Game.
(And this just in: Keyshawn Johnson went on national television less than a week after being fired from the Buccaneers and said he'd be open to returning to Tampa Bay's football team at some point in the future. That's big of you, Key. My guess? They'll call you. No, no, keep your business card -- they've got the number.)
Still, K-Mart should be proud to know he's permanently etched his name into the annals. You know how it goes. One minute Martin and Richard Jefferson are joshing Mourning about not running, and then Mourning says something about Martin's slow recovery from an ankle injury, and then Martin pulls out the kidney smack, muttering, in a mocking tone, "Oh, my kidney, my kidney."
Mourning apparently didn't partake in all the Nets' late-practice conditioning drills, and here's where Martin's words surpass the merely stupid and ascend to the heights of the historically stupid: He treated Mourning like the kid in PE who wouldn't run the mile because he claimed to have asthma. That kid was 5-foot-5 and 230, but we were supposed to believe asthma was the only obstacle between him and a 6:15 mile.
Upon hearing Martin's comments, Mourning reportedly went after his teammate and said, "You talk about my kidney? I'll put you on your back."
Granted, it's not what you expect to hear at an NBA practice, but maybe Martin has a point: After all, who among us would be above using a life-threatening kidney disease to get out of running a few sets of lines?
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: If only he'd kept his word
Tim, I appreciate your love of the long ball, and in the home-run quote category, Kenyon Martin rules. But I like consistency, someone who gets it done day in, day out, a consummate professional. That's why I think some kind of Irving Thalberg award should go to Keyshawn, the wideout who, if there were any justice, would be named Peerless. You couldn't resist mentioning him for his latest outburst. And I can't resist this gem, from his Super Bowl web diary, January 26, 2003:
"I'm deciding right here and now that I'm not talking to reporters -- even the ones I like -- for the rest of my career.
"You can write the headline now: 'Keyshawn Not Talking To the Media for the Next Three Years.'
"Because win or lose on Sunday, I'm playing three more years in this league. And I'm announcing it right here that I am officially through with the media. It only took a Super Bowl to make me realize that there is no way to win the battle with the media, so I'm calling it quits. I'm pulling a Sterling Sharpe, a Steve Carlton, a Duane Thomas. I'm done."
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Hold the voting ...
I take it that Dave Bliss must be a category by himself.
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: A little perspective, please
Unfortunately, Tim, K-Mart has a ways to go before he can match his predecessor in the paint, Jayson Williams. New Jersey's favorite loud mouth was a connoisseur of the cheap shot. But he topped even himself on Valentine's Day, 2002, when he let a limo driver into his gazillion-dollar mansion and then made fun of the poor bastard while he gawked at a lifestyle he could never afford.
That putdown would be one of the last things that 55-year-old Gus Christofi would ever hear. Williams put a 12-gauge hole in Gus's chest, then tried to get out of a murder rap by allegedly placing his victim's prints on the shotgun to make it seem like a suicide. No, it doesn't excuse K-Mart making jokes about 'Zo's kidney. But it does put the trash-talking culture of the NBA into a little perspective, you know?
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: No shrinking violet
Dr. Bob the JockDoc Says:
My heart goes out to 'Zo (thank goodness he doesn't need one of those), but tough-love in the cause of motivation knows no white lines. Anything goes. In the shrink-craft, we call it "sore-spot stimulus." Jocks need to be needled where it hurts. Or would you rather use drugs to win? Sore-spot stim is old and proven.
On bad days I'd say to Achilles, "Pick up your heels, big guy," and I'd ask Pete Gray, "Can you get your arms around this?" More recently, I got Gail Devers back on track with "Thyroid's a pretty small gland to hide behind." I'd look down at a clinically depressed Jim Shea in the luge, and say, "Snow makin' you sad?" Ask Picabo Street and Nancy Kerrigan how they felt when I shouted, "Get off your knees!" They were ready to kill me. Then they were ready to kick butt.
For those whose minds are too small to grasp this, here's something I said to Lance last week after a poor training ride: "Whatsa matter, you got something growing in your brain?"
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: Gentlemen, we've found the sacred cow
Was it out of bounds? Of course it was. But this wasn't about inspiring anybody's athletic urges; it was about inspiring somebody's pugilistic urges. It was a taunt, a verbal smackdown, a glove slap to the face. It was straight out of the heavyweight-fight-press-conference handbook, only without the show, and with an extra dose of wounded. It was supposed to do exactly what it did: Cut 'Zo so deep he'd lose it. It wasn't clever or strategic. It was fourth-grade-playground impulsive and dumb.
On the question of inspiration, let's keep it simple:
Question a guy's manhood?
Play the dozens on his mama?
Say "some people in this locker room need to look at themselves in the mirror, and they know who they are"?
Call him out in front for public humiliation in front of the group?
Cut his playing time?
Take away his X-Box privileges?
Give him a hot-foot?
Grab him around the neck? (See Knight.)
Make him witness the castration of a bull? (See Sherrill.)
Have your wife call him out? (See Christie, G. Rice and Warner.)
Say the media manufactured his rep because of the color of his skin? (See you know who.)
Mock his potentially life-threatening illness? (See K-Mart.)
Uh ... no.
We're clear now? Good. Now let's play nice.
To: Writers' Bloc
Subject: A time to give thanks
The best thing about being a sportswriter -- outside of getting paid to yell at people on television -- is that you don't have to search far and wide for stupid comments to make fun of. To the contrary, delightful idiocy often finds you, especially when Mike Tyson has a fight to promote. Forget character, courage, class -- what sport does best is bring out the moron in people, a frantic bullpen call to our inner John Rockers.
In dissing Alonzo Mourning's kidney condition, Kenyon Martin joins a long and distinguished line of sports dopes, from Jimmy the Greek to Marge Schott to ... Mourning himself. Recall that a few months ago, 'Zo told reporters that Jason Kidd remained in New Jersey because of "God's words, through my mouth." (Yeah, right. As if the Director of Divine Operations wasn't busy appearing on a tortilla in Mexico). And don't think the sanctimony-spewing loud talkers of the fourth estate are immune. Not unless Bob Ryan really does want to smack Joumana Kidd.
How to explain it? Did sleepless concern over Iraq prompt Miami's Kellen Winslow to dub himself a soldier? Did the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. inspire Reggie White to tell the Wisconsin state legislature that Hispanics are "gifted in family Structure" because they can put "20 or 30 people in one house" and that Japanese and Asians "can turn a television into a wristwatch"? Did a passion for amateur meteorology lead Dusty Baker to offer his theories on race, performance and the weather? Or was it just the heat?
Truth be told, I don't really care. Whatever it is -- and I think I speak for the entire WB in this regard -- I'm grateful.