Guest Commentary 

Women NBA fans should ask: Why are we rooting for thugs?

Long live the Suns. The evil Lakers are vanquished, and none too soon, by my estimation. I couldn't have stood watching Kobe Bryant for one more second, let alone through another series. He's always been smug, arrogant and preternaturally narcissistic, and I find it extremely disturbing that from the very moment he stepped onto an NBA court at the tender age of 18, pundits have anointed him the heir apparent to Emperor Jordan. But he was never Michael Jordan and never will be. Hell, as far as I can tell by his behavior both on and off the court, he is barely even a person.

But I suppose it's different being a female fan of professional men's basketball. Women tend to be a little touchier about sex offenders--convicted or otherwise--running up and down the courts, even if they do have a good jump shot. Men, on the other hand, are much more forgiving, particularly of anyone like Bryant, who routinely racks up 30-plus points in a game.

Yes "Bryant." Why is it that he's always called "Kobe," like some cute cuddly animal? You watch the Detroit Pistons, and even though there are two players named "Wallace"--Ben and Rasheed--the commentators just say "Wallace." If you're not watching closely, you have to think for a minute to figure out who did what.

No, Kobe Bryant is anything but cuddly. If you don't believe me, ask the hotel clerk whose blood wound up all over the front of his T-shirt and whose neck bore the bruises of those multimillion-dollar hands.

If Kobe is cuddly, O.J. Simpson must be St. friggin' Augustine.

Because no matter how many commercials the NBA airs telling us what great guys they are, what with helping the poor and reading to school children, according to Out of Bounds by Jeff Benedict, an investigative journalist and contributor to Sports Illustrated, the NBA is loaded with felons. During the 2001-2002 NBA season, a full 40 percent of NBA players had police records involving serious crimes. These ranged from armed robbery to rape. Rape, both statutory and forceful, is a big one, only it doesn't get much press, since the victims are generally strippers or waitresses and are routinely paid off to keep quiet.

Why do you think Kobe Bryant was crying during that press conference after he got arrested in Colorado? Was it because he'd hurt his wife's feelings by putting his dick where is shouldn't oughta been? Of course not. It was the injustice of it all. The hotel clerk wasn't playing by the rules. She was supposed to accept the dough, take a couple of Advil and go home, not call the cops.

But seriously, it's not just the Penny Hardaways pulling handguns on their ex-girlfriends ("Penny"--there's another precious name! How could anyone called "Penny" actually hurt anyone?) or the Jason Kidds punching out their wives. It's the fact that the television commentators, humping the legs of these thugs like terriers tweaking on crystal meth (metaphorically speaking), transmit the message over and over again that if a person has enough talent, he can get away with anything, no matter how egregious or vicious. This does not seem to me a healthy message to send our young people. It's especially not a healthy message to send me, since it makes me want to puke.

And speaking of puke, remember Jayson Williams? Big forward for the New Jersey Nets. Funny guy, a little coked out, but funny all the same; worked as an analyst for NBC for a little while. Williams getting arrested for shooting his chauffeur, Costas Christofi, was the best thing that ever happened to Tom Tolbert (an Arizona Wildcat once upon a time), who took his place. A barely covered footnote in the coverage (while Williams tried to convince a jury it was accidental shooting; the manslaughter proceedings ended in a mistrial, and he's going to be retried) was that a few months prior to killing Christofi, funny, goofy Jay-boy killed his dog. He had former Nets player Dwayne Schintzius over to his house and bet him $100 that Schintzius couldn't drag his rottweiler out the door. Schintzius prevailed; Williams got out his shotgun, and blammo, no more doggie.

Williams was never prosecuted for this, although he did donate $500 to the local chapter of the SPCA.

Ah, is that nice or what? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the NBA really does care.

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