Grayson Allen and the double-standards of athletics

Impetus: Duke basketball player Grayson Allen suspended indefinitely by the team for intentionally tripping Elon player (and then proceeding to throw the biggest temper tantrum this side of Christian Bale)

What is the risk when a college basketball player deliberately trips another player on a hardwood court?  Broken bones, contusions, concussions, among other types of injury.

What is the risk when an ordinary citizen deliberately trips another ordinary citizen on the street, in a hallway, at the store, at school, or any other location?  Broken bones, contusions, concussions, among other types of injury.

The difference is that when a college basketball player does it, although it is seen on television and by thousands of spectators, they get a whole lot of scrutiny, criticism, disdain and blown up on social media, but when an ordinary person does it at any other ordinary location, they are classified as committing assault, and are subject to arrest, among other criminal punishment.

It goes without saying that this sort of double-standard is troubling as far as society is concerned.  Just because Grayson Allen is a talented basketball player for one of the most recognized sporting teams in its entire sport doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be punished like an ordinary citizen for his dangerous actions. 

Now sure, professional sports are all about physicality and there’s always risk of incidental harm.  But that’s more baseball or football, where heavy sticks, dense balls or armies of 285 lb+ men in pads crashing into each other are involved.  Basketball has always been more of a sport of finesse, practiced skills and human chess than it is physical.  Sure, there are accidental trips, guys hitting the floor diving for loose balls, and people simply falling over from exceeding physical limitations, but it’s not often people act in manners to intentionally harm another.

In the event that they do, there are things called flagrant fouls, in which it is what it sounds like: flagrant (deliberate) fouls deemed a little too hard and a little too dangerous to not go without harsher punishment.  It could be free throws to the opponent, player ejection, fines and suspension, or all of the above.  Basketball has made it clear that deliberate attempts to hurt others is not kosher.

Yet somehow, Grayson Allen’s third attempt to deliberately trip an opponent (because he was basically beaten either by being outmaneuvered or not getting call for flopping) have gone basically unpunished, in the grander spectrum of the game.

If fouls are deliberate in basketball, it’s merely grabbing guys or taking a stern but mostly harmless swipe at the opponent’s upper body.  Never at the legs, or any means to send a guy to the floor, because the floor is very hard, and a body hitting a hard floor is very dangerous.  Long gone are the Bill Laimbeer-Detroit Pistons-Bad Boys days of super hard fouls, because almost all of them are deemed flagrant in today’s game, so the options to foul guys has dropped to limited means.

But tripping is something that you just don’t see a lot of, because ultimately tripping is really dangerous.  When a player is hacked or a player is grabbed, mostly there’s time or means for them to remain upright and stable, but when you take a guy’s legs out from underneath them, and leave them subject to the mercy of gravity, that’s a dangerous arena.

Again, this is Grayson Allen’s third (caught) incident where he has deliberately taken an opponent’s legs out from underneath him.  Fortunately, nobody’s been hurt by any of these incidents, but it doesn’t absolve him from the fact that in his frustration at getting outplayed or just being a sore loser, his first instinct is to react in a manner that could actually result in the end of another guy’s career, in a worst-case scenario.

Frankly, Allen’s an intriguing case.  I feel like he’s a little unstable in the head, and there’s a conflict within him that wants to be the lily-white Ben Affleck wholesome mama’s boy he looks like he was raised, but at the same time, he’s a good white player on the Duke basketball team, which puts him into a category with Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick, Jon Scheyer and Greg Paulus where he is going to be perceived as the penultimate bad guy of college basketball, and he wants to embrace the dark side and he goes about it by doing what none of the others before him have done – physically assaulting opponents.

Either Allen is so cerebral in knowing the quickest way to becoming immortalized as the latest Hated White Duke Player is to act in new and creative ways, even if it means assaulting others, or there’s an all American Psycho in there that instinctually reacts by physical violence towards adversity.  Given his inconsolable tantrum after being put on the bench, I’m leaning towards psycho over cerebral.  Seriously, watching him convulse and cry and slouch after the tripping, it looks like a guy that might actually need some counseling, anger management, is having some difficulty handling the pressure of being a Duke stalwart or all of the above.

The point is, I might be sounding like I’m making a bigger deal of this than I actually feel, but there’s no denying the double standard that athletes, especially those for cash cows such as the NCAA or professional, can get away with lots of shitty behavior.  Tripping people, although sounding like sophomoric hijinks amongst school kids, is still dangerous behavior with some serious physical consequences to anyone who lands wrong. Grayson Allen, whether it’s because he wants to be a bad guy, or has such anger issues that violence is the default reaction to getting beat has some character issues that need to be dealt with, especially if he ever wants to have the fruitful career in basketball he’s hoping for.

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