Come on now, who is he Kidd-ing?
Desperate moments drive men into committing desperate acts.
Certainly, this does not rank as a revelatory statement, but it’s still one that bears repeating from time to time simply because there is no foreseeable end to man’s — and occasionally woman’s — strange behavior.
In Washington D.C., that’s referred to as everyday business as usual, but the rest of the country generally adheres to a slightly higher code of ethical conduct. Thus, the majority of us tend to be taken aback whenever somebody veers off-course.
Purposefully doing something wrong while in full view of witnesses is really pretty dumb, but again we must consider the desperation angle. And few people are motivated by that trait more than those individuals in the sports world.
We know, of course, nothing trumps success on the field of competition in terms of sheer importance in all of our lives. Who among us functions quite so smoothly in the aftermath of a crucial loss by our favorite team?
And that’s true even when the franchise has been highly successful. More than a quarter-century has passed since they happened, but I’m willing to bet some Boston Celtics fans have never completely gotten over Magic Johnson’s “junior-junior skyhook” in the 1987 NBA Finals, and that more than a few Edmonton Oilers fans still envision that puck deflecting off Steve Smith’s skate into his own team’s net and helping to ruin the Oilers’ bid for a Stanley Cup three-peat in 1986.
On the flip side, we won’t mention a certain billy goat/black cat/Durham/Bartman-hexed baseball club.
What all those incidents — and most others that depress the typical fan for years afterward — have in common is that they either happened in the postseason or coincided with a pivotal point of the regular schedule. Rarely does a bizarre moment in the early portion of a season draw attention, but Jason Kidd made sure he was an exception to the rule.
NBA followers know of Kidd’s excellence as a player. He was a premier point guard for almost 20 years, and a hallmark of Kidd’s on-court persona was his seemingly unflappable demeanor.
But once he swapped his jersey for a suit, Kidd panicked when the heat was turned on.
Many of you are probably aware of Kidd’s shenanigans in a recent game between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers. Kidd, who now coaches the Nets, called for a player substitution in the late going but had no timeouts left.
The player leaving the court, Tyshawn Taylor, bumped into Kidd and caused his coach to spill a cup of soda. That necessitated a cleanup and gave the Nets a chance to quickly design a play to run in the final eight seconds.
It didn’t pan out, however, and Brooklyn suffered a 99-94 loss. Shortly thereafter Kidd endured a $50,000 loss, courtesy of the NBA front office, which declared the spilled-soda act an intentional one, something Kidd later confirmed was indeed the truth.
Mind you, this came 15 games into an 82-game campaign. Perhaps Kidd figures he won’t be around to witness every one of those remaining 67 contests, seeing as how the big-dollar Nets have already defined themselves as chronic underachievers.
Whatever the reason for his actions, though, Kidd surprised many basketball fans by resorting to them. But let’s first give the man props for what was a rather inventive way to try to circumvent the rules, even though it didn’t fool any of David Stern’s alert little minions.
Then let us remember that this kind of thing has been going on since the earliest days of athletics. Players and coaches have always sought to gain an edge, either mental or physical, whenever possible, and no means by which to do so has ever been considered off-limits as long as the covert deeds stayed hidden.
Did an outfielder catch a fly ball or merely trap it? If the umpires don’t know for certain, what do you think the man wearing the glove will say?
Hey, he caught it, whether he really did or not.
No football lineman is going to confess to holding, either, if the referee didn’t see the infraction and rule on it, and in Kidd’s sport, players frequently get away with contact-but-no-foul plays. Sad to say, honesty is rarely the best policy in an athletic setting, at least if it in any way could jeopardize success.
While Jason Kidd is currently generating news for dropping the costliest cup of soda in U.S. history, a little peek into sports’ back pages helped me uncover some other Kidd-like happenings:
• In June of 1977, a jockey named Arnold “Shorty” Cummings decided to improve the odds of his horse being a factor in a big race by putting some laxative into its pre-event food.
The timing was perfect — soon after the race got underway, the horse had a major digestive-related accident that caused serious footing difficulties for some of the other four-legged entrants directly behind him. While those equines struggled to find their balance on a suddenly-slippery surface and created a horsey traffic jam near the starting gate as a result, Cummings’ mount, unencumbered by either serious competition or any bloated feelings, galloped to an easy victory.
• During a September 1983 bout, middleweight fighter Rocky Pugilistically suddenly yelled and brought one of his gloved hands toward his eye, claiming a blow to the head had dislodged his contact lens.
No one bothered to ask why a person would be stupid enough to wear contacts while participating in a boxing match; instead, both the referee and Pugilistically’s foe instinctively stopped what they were doing — in the case of his opponent, Stone Hands Johnson, that meant administering a beating to Pugilistically — to help him look for it. Now distracted, Johnson was in no position to ward off a knockout punch from Pugilistically.
• In May of 1987, race-car driver Freddy “Four” Wheeler prospered from a surprising bit of good luck when his was the only car to not encounter engine trouble during a racing event in Florida.
Although he ultimately benefited most from the situation, no one was ever able to conclusively link Wheeler to the rash of sand-in-the-gas-tank incidents that were discovered soon afterward. Law-enforcement officials said the assortment of pails and shovels later found in the trunk of Wheeler’s car could have simply meant that he was nuts about the beach and did not represent sufficient proof of any wrongdoing.
By now, you may suspect that I’m merely exercising a bit of creative journalistic license by relating these stories, but before dismissing everything completely I urge all of you to give a moment’s thought to a few other things: Sammy Sosa’s corked bat, Gaylord Perry’s doctored baseballs, the whacking of Nancy Kerrigan’s knee with a metal pipe, the punching out of former ABA basketball player John Brisker during a tip-off, Mike Tyson biting off part of Evander Holyfield’s ear, and performance-enhancing drug users everywhere.
Trust me, reality is much crazier than fiction when it comes to ugly sports deeds. And suddenly, Jason Kidd’s spilled-soda episode seems downright quaint by comparison.