The Nut Shot: Olympic Basketball's New Proportional Response
Policing your own.
It's a concept that has been woven into the fabric of many sports since time immemorial. The methods are often painful, sometimes barbaric, but within each game they're understood and largely effective.
In baseball, violation of the hallowed "unwritten rules" will often earn a player (or a teammate) a fastball in the rib cage or other assorted torso parts. In hockey, fighting is allowed in moderation (with modest in-game penalties) to prevent players from using their sticks to dislodge eyeballs from their opponents' skulls when things get chippy. Football is so physical that every play of every game kind of polices itself.
Of the major sports, basketball has always been the outlier when it comes to the need for and execution of some sort of internal "payback" system. However, these 2012 Olympics seem to have solved that little problem.
The basketball world has come together in London and apparently decided that their sport's policing system will basically amount to the blatant clubbing of the other guy's balls with a closed fist.
Eye for an eye, nut for a nut.
It started Monday night when Argentina's Facundo Campazzo decided that the best way to try and douse the flames of a 43-point United States third quarter was to bury his right fist into Carmelo Anthony's taint after Melo dropped a three-pointer to close out the third quarter:
Campazzo's testicular assault on Anthony touched off a wave of technical fouls, ignited some spirited verbal jousting and caused U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski to ratchet the "snivel level" of his angry rat face up to 14 on a scale of one to ten.
It was ironic on many levels that Coach K would be the one sporting the extra-pucker sourpuss after this incident because 1) it was actually Chris Paul who allegedly gave Campazzo's family jewels a drive-by earlier in the game (Paul has a history of this type of behavior), and 2) if the plucky, diminutive Campazzo had ever decided to take his talents to American college basketball, he would have been the prototype Duke point guard -- annoying, spunky and (I'm assuming) chronically leg-humping.
Secretly, somewhere deep below that whiny, bitchy exterior, Mike Krzyzewski loves Facundo Campazzo. Loves him.
So Campazzo's was nut-shot incident number one. Number two took place Wednesday morning when, in the waning moments of Spain's 66-59 win over France, French guard Nicolas Batum literally wound up and unleashed a fist of fury on Spanish point guard Juan Carlos Navarro's church bells:
Before we specifically address Batum's junk punch, understand that one reason there is little self-policing in the sport of basketball is because there is little to actually police. The sport is not overly physical like football or hockey, and there isn't the mythical encyclopedia of unwritten rules like in baseball. However, one plague upon the house of basketball is the incessant flopping, especially from European players.
According to Batum, his, ahem, message to Navarro was for exactly that:
"I wanted to give him a good reason to flop," Batum said.
Batum was angry with the Spanish guards for falling to the floor for what he believed was incidental contact throughout Spain's quarterfinal victory over France at North Greenwich Arena.
Asked by Yahoo! Sports if he believed his punch to the groin had given Navarro "good reason," Batum smiled and said, "I hope so."
On top of the play-to-play flopping in the quarterfinal game on Wednesday, Batum was none too happy with what he and his teammates thought was Spain's essentially throwing a final pool-play game against Brazil on Monday so they could avoid the United States' side of the bracket in the medal round:
Asked if watching the Spain-Brazil game that he was convinced that Spain had taken a dive in the fourth quarter, Batum told Y!, "They did what they had to do."
Told some won't think that a deliberate punch to the groin is in the 'Olympic spirit,' Batum told Yahoo! Sports: "Do you think if you lost a game on purpose, that's the Olympic spirit?"
Now, is the nut shot an appropriate proportional response to, say, flopping? That is debatable, although Navarro should be glad that Batum was the French player who decided to administer justice, and do so with a quick game of fist marbles. Tony Parker probably would have stolen Navarro's girlfriend and made a sex tape with her.
So this is the brave new world in which international basketball lives. Run up the score, flop like a fish and you will be dealt with severely. More specifically, your junk will be dealt with severely.
If nothing else, Greg Oden's chances of making the 2016 Olympic team are starting to look up.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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