Punk’d: K-Mart and why I don’t watch sports anymore

A couple summers ago, when I lived in Denver, the Nuggets were contemplating how to spend the free agent bucks they’d been stockpiling. Rumor turned to speculation turned to reality, and eventually the Nugs pulled off a deal that would pay Kenyon Martin, then of the NJ Nets, something like a hundred brazilian dollars to join the team.

There was a lot of talk around the Athletic Club at Denver place, where I played noon ball. Some thought it was a great idea. Others felt like I did – Martin was a punk, just like every other player who’d come through Cincinnati in the Bob Tarkanian Huggins era, and it doesn’t matter how much talent a guy has, character is an essential component in a championship-winning formula. While K-Mart wasn’t an Xtreme Punk (like another Little Tark prodigy, Ruben Patterson, who the Nuggets recently acquired from the Portland Jail Blazers; his rap sheet includes “misdemeanor assault, third-degree rape and a recanted allegation of domestic violence. He is the only player in the NBA required toregister as a sex offender), nobody had ever painted him as a strong locker room influence, either. He was simply a me-first/me-only guy – winning was nice so long as he was at the center of attention and drawing the big dollars. But understand, in that list of three things, winning was a distant third in importance.

If experience with pro athletes has taught us anything, it’s that handing out max contracts to punks isn’t a message that incites behavioral reform. No, it’s usually taken as validation that whatever they’re doing is right. Basic positive reinforcement lesson from Psych 101: rat pushes bar; rat gets pellet; rat will keep pushing bar. In fact, when I did that experiment back in Psych lab, it took less than ten minutes to get the rat hammering that bar like it was a set of bongos. Two-fisted, I’m talkin’.

Well, we’re now two years into the future (that’s ten minutes in rat time) and K-Mart is playing the bongos. He’s been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team after a halftime meltdown a few days back where he went off on Coach George Karl and several teammates.

The high spot of the tirade was apparently when he ripped off his jersey and screamed, “I ain’t no fucking role player.” Well, duh. Ain’t nobody I ever talked to accused you of being a team guy, ‘Mart.

I’m guessing I don’t sound surprised?

I hate it because the Nuggets are my team. Or maybe they were my team. We’ll have to see about that. They’ll be looking to offload this particular cancer on some other halfwit GM this summer (smart money says keep an eye on Isaiah Thomas and the Knicks – overpriced attitude problems are like crack for Zeke), and unless something unforeseen happens 2006-7 is going to be a step back for Kiki’s boys. And I’m even more disgusted about the Patterson acquisition than I was about Martin’s – as bad a team guy as K-Mart is, at least he never raped anybody (that we know of).

As I’ve said before, I find that I watch less and less sports these days. The why is simple: I have a lot of things I can do with my time and my priorities tend to line up around my personal principles. I don’t really value our out-of-control sports/entertainment culture in general because I see how much money we pump into things that make us worse and how little we dedicate to things that legitimately matter. And I just feel dirty spending money to cheer for stupid thugs who symbolize just about everything that’s bad about society. Ruben Patterson. Dany Heatley. K-Mart. Terrell Owens. Barry Bonds. Todd Bertuzzi. Mark McGwire. Kobe. Rafael Palmeiro. (I’d add the Duke lacrosse team to the list, except that the jury’s still out on that one. Stay tuned as details become available.)

This doesn’t mean I don’t love sports. I do. I play as much as I can and I continue to believe strongly in the values we can learn from sport approached properly. I wouldn’t be who I am without sports.

But when I watch the pros (and the college moneyball sports, as well) I don’t see sport. Not like what it should be. I see bad lessons being taught, not good ones. I see cynicism, greed, stupidity, and arrogance.

Kenyon Martin isn’t the disease, but what’s happening in Denver is yet another symptom…


4 thoughts on “Punk’d: K-Mart and why I don’t watch sports anymore

  1. Martin is a punk. He’s part of the reason we don’t watch pro basketball anymore. I still like to watch baseball in spite of the steroid bullshit. I do happen to hate Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, and others who juiced themselves. I only hope that history books will record their records with an asterisk. I blame a lot of the baseball steroid scandal on the owners and the league who swept the problem under the rug for so long. But, come every springtime, baseball is where my fancy turns.
    I detest the big money aspect of college football. I used to love to go to Northwestern games, watch them lose, but we still had a blast at Dyche Stadium…..which is kind of a Wrigley Field for college football. Even though our team lost and would trail in the big 10, we still enjoyed the games. My dad, who was also a Northwestern alum, always promised us that when NU went to the Rose Bowl, we’d be there sitting on the 50 yard line. I heard that for 30 years, and it looked like he’d never have to pay up. In 1995, NU won the Big 10, and he had to take us to the game. We didn’t get on the 50, but we had excellent 40 yard seats. Even though we lost, that was one of the most exciting games of my life because we actually had a team. Of course, the team was mainly one guy, but what the heck.
    I’m seeing the professionalism of Surfing taking away from the sport. The sponsors reward the bad behavior because it’s supposed to be extreme. What you get is a bunch of sponsored punks, with no education, becoming role models for the kids who surf. Those guys live the high life for a couple of years, then seem to have a retirement worse than what boxers experience. They’re usually broke and living on faded glory.

  2. No. It has a great rep, although these days I find myself wondering if there’s ANYWHERE in the world of journalism ed that’s getting the job done.
    I know a prof from the IMC program and once had an intern from it. Without getting into details, let’s say that neither of the two did much to improve the image of the NU in brand in my eyes….

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