Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com recently conducted an interview with Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum in which Batum apologized for punching Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin duing the 2012 London Olympics. "What I'm mad about is what I showed to people about myself, what I showed about the game, about France, everything," said Batum.
Punching someone in the groin is unsportsmanlike. It's crass. It's rude. It's the playground move of a 6th grader who knows he has no chance to win a fight and goes dirty. There's no room for that kind of action in professional sports.
There, I said it. BUT...
How long have Trail Blazers fans waited to see SOMETHING from Batum? He plays elegantly. He's smooth as silk. He's like a fine wine with a delicate bouquet and an impeccable finish. But this is NBA basketball. It's cutthroat. It's dirty. It's Mad Dog 20 20 ripping out your guts from within.
Winning is the only currency that endures here. Everybody remembers Karl Malone and John Stockton throwing elbows to temples and kidneys back in the 90's. Those Utah choir boys played dirty. Those Utah choir boys also won, which is why they're revered. Nobody cares how they got there. "More power to them!" Conversely, does anybody remember who lost those games to the Jazz, or the players on the other end of those well-placed elbow swings? Nope. Playing with a hard attitude--even when that means getting dirty at times--trumps playing clean but not challenging.
Nobody would suggest Nicolas Batum go around swinging openly at the crotches of opponents. But I'd rather see that Batum--slightly angry, playing out his frustration, doing SOMETHING aggressive on the floor--than the pretty-but-passive version we've lived with for the past four years.
Maybe Batum didn't "lose it" at the Olympics. Maybe he found something instead. If it takes a little fist-groin contact to get this guy playing with fire, imposing his will on opponents, well...I've seen worse in plenty of Kung Fu movies and graphic novels. Officially Batum should be apologizing. Behind the scenes, between you and me, it's lather, rinse, repeat until the lesson sticks. You only get one shot at each game. You only get one shot at any given season. You only get one shot at making an impact with your NBA career.
Hey Nicolas, you did show people something about yourself, about your game, about France, everything. Don't apologize, Mad Dog. Take your swing.