I care that Jeff Green traveled to the White House to meet with a crew of wounded veterans called the Wounded Warriors. It’s a kind gesture from Green and obviously a wonderful cause. Green should be commended for his work in the community, and especially because he offered his time to soldiers who risked their lives for our country, soldiers who now need wheelchairs to play basketball.
But when it comes to rooting for basketball players (programming note: I’m going to sound quite cold-hearted in three… two… one…), I root for their athletic prowess and on-court mentality, not the extent of their community service. Hell, sometimes I don’t even need a reason to root for one player or root against another one. Cheering for sports teams and players can become confusing.
Producing on the court or on the field is the best way to earn praise. That’s why Albert Haynesworth has a chance to become a Gillette fan favorite, even though the former Pro Bowl defensive lineman is, by all accounts, a king-sized dunce. Judging by my Facebook feed, Chad Ochocinco has already become a fan favorite, the oversized personality with a smile as quick as his first step, even though he comes to Foxboro with a reputation as a locker room distraction. Manny Ramirez was a king in Boston until his oddities began to outweigh his fierce bat, Rajon Rondo’s a king although the Celtics once nearly traded him for behavioral issues, and fans could always overlook Glen Davis’s quirkiness until his production started to dwindle.
Then there’s Kevin Garnett, who could commit five or six murders and still be on my A-list of players to root for. I would even root for Garnett if he possessed all the talent of Mikki Moore, because Garnett plays the game like a lion would — you know, if lions could play basketball. Hell, he plays the game like Nicky Santoro.
Santoro was the muscle man in Casino. Watching that movie last night for the first time (I fell asleep in the middle of it, so don’t spoil anything — yes, I feel a little bit like my father when I pass out during the middle of a movie, and no, that’s never a good thing), I was taken aback when Santoro stabbed someone to death (or close to it) with a pen (I think), all because the person had called Santoro’s friend Ace Rothstein an asshole. I can’t quite envision Garnett stabbing someone to death with a pen (he prefers the ball-tap method of violence), but when Rothstein began to describe Santoro, I kept thinking of Number Five.
“You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat,” said Rothstein. “You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he’ll keep coming back and back until one of you is dead.”
Delonte West lives by the Nicky Santoro rules, too, and I don’t say that to open a discussion about his gun charges. I meant to say that West plays basketball by the Nicky Santoro rules. Celtics fans immediately forgave the lefty for his crimes, for allegedly meeting Lebron James’s mother for entertainment purposes (how’s that for a euphemism?), and for missing three quarters of the season due to injury. We forgave Delonte for all his past digressions because we knew that when Dwyane Wade beat Delonte with his fists during the playoffs, Delonte would come back with a bat. The bat might not always connect, but if Delonte goes down, he goes down swinging (pun intended). He’s no J.D. Drew.
As you already knew, choosing players to root for can be a complicated process. I liked Scal because he was goofy and I disliked Andrew DeClerq for the same reason. I liked Stephon Marbury because he was interesting and outspoken, but Sam Cassell’s personality bothered me to no end. I disliked Nate Robinson for his “whenever and wherever” shot selection, but I still hold a soft spot in my heart for Antoine Walker. I loathed Tony Allen because he took too many chances and I was lukewarm on Marquis Daniels because he didn’t take enough.
Maybe I should like Jeff Green because he helps wounded soldiers, and I definitely admire what he did. But when it comes to rooting for sports figures, I prefer Nicky Santoro to Mother Teresa. Or sometimes, I just prefer Scal.