Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jason Kidd


Now, to the issue of Jason Kidd.

The Kidd question is, to me, the single most important in all of sports. In fact it may drive me away from sports altogether someday.

I need to preface this, for ethical and probably even legal reasons. This piece is written based on legal documents which have not yet reached the court. I am treading in the "allegedly" end of the pool here, but only because I think this is something that needs to be looked at.

The entire thought behind this operates on a massive assumption: that at least some large percentage of the divorce papers filed by Joumana Kidd are true.

I'm sure it will come up at some point, but let me just get a few of these out of the way: if, if, if, if . . .

In early January, Jason Kidd filed divorce papers against Joumana, his wife of nearly ten years. The brief cites "extreme cruelty," and outlines a variety of intrusive actions that Joumana took to control Kidd's life. It was speculated by some, at the time, to be a pre-emptive manuever.

But pre-emptive to what?

A month later, Joumana's lawyers filed her counterclaim divorce papers. We can assume that somewhere in Hackensack they landed with a thud on the desk of Kidd's lawyer.

I would encourage anyone who is still reading look into the filings themselves, which are found at thesmokinggun.com. I won't elaborate too much, but let's put it like this: Kidd's divorce papers tend to paint Joumana as, at worst, triflin'.

Now I don't know Jason Kidd personally and I doubt I ever will. But the man who features in Joumana's counterclaim is downright monstrous. Again, I encourage you to read it yourself, and I know that these are only allegations at this point, but. . . we could be looking at one of the all-time bad guys in sports.


Anyone with a rough understanding of alimony and the NBA salary scale could deduce that Joumana stands to receive lots of American money if Kidd is found at fault.

But several incidents of physical abuse are said to have happened in the presence of others, and more than once Joumana visited a hospital for treatment. To say that these accusations are false assumes not only a conspiracy, but Joumana's willingness to self-inflict enough damage to put herself in the ER.

The one thing case that we can accept as truth is the January 2001 episode, when Kidd plead guilty to punching Joumana in the mouth. It should be made clear that the beginning of this incident was Jason eating a french fry off his son's plate. Knowing this, let's just assume that either the Kidds were an extremely high-strung family, or that one or both of them is completely insane.

These parties will settle. Both of them will be financially comfortable, and they will probably share custody. In a few years, about five percent of sports fans will have much memory of any of this. Twenty more and it will be completely forgotten.

Now, to get to the question.

Over a 5-8 year span, Kidd would have been the first teammate a whole bunch of players would pick first. I can't remember who, but one of the ESPN.com columnists wrote a few years ago that "Kidd has completed passes that only a few other players in league history would have even attempted," and that sounds about right. He's got some of the quickest and cleverest wrists among the human race. He reads a ball hitting the rim or a sprinting group like it is his first language, and everyone else is getting the translation.

What I'm trying to say is this: three months ago, I loved Jason Kidd. I knew about the arrest in 2001, but I let it lay dormant. All I saw were fastbreaks and lookaways.

Now, I can't see anything but page on page of "defendant sustained damage to her right eardrum, which necessitated a procedure. . ."

So what the fuck am I supposed to think of Jason Kidd?

Not long ago, word got out that Kidd was on the trading block. This got the attention of about half the teams in the league and raised a half-dozen more questions.

Did the divorce proeedings have anything to do with Kidd's sudden availability? Might Beyonce frequent thesmoking.com? Were other teams factoring this into their decision on whether to make the deal? Would you, as a fan, want him on your team?

While I was thinking about this, Ron Artest had his own domestic life hit the newsreel. Artest, well, put it this way: a lot of sportswriters have probably at some point accidentally hit an "r" instead of a "t" when writing his name and thought, "Well, yeah, that could happen."

Artest is back playing with the Kings while his legal issues are taken care of, and I think this is a good thing. If Artest is unstable, and you take away the structure and purpose that comes with basketball, what's left?

By the way, most athletes have proven that things happening in their private life don't effect their game. Artest played a good, Artest-style game against Denver on Sunday. Kidd has been GREAT since the divorce papers hit. Barry Bonds swung pretty well while he was - allegedly - ingesting 25 pounds of horse food every day. And surely you'll remember Kobe hitting two game winners on his court days.

We Americans do not have this market cornered. Let's cross the pond for a moment, where in the soccer world, Welshman Craig Bellamy has been a sprinting, scoring, steaming heap of attitude for years now. He's the type who doesn't stay too long in any one place. This year, Bellamy's checks come from Liverpool.

It seems that in February, Mr. Bellamy got into an argument with teammate John Arne Riise, the prodigious left-footed Norwegian who stands a half-foot taller than Bellamy. Naturally, as this argument stemmed from a karaoke incident, Bellamy's solution was to ATTACK HIS TEAMMATE WITH A GOLF CLUB. Seriously, this is directly out of the "Jason, did you just eat one of his fries?" category.

Bellamy was allowed to play in Liverpool's next match, a crucial Champions League game against Spanish powerhouse Barcelona. It should have surprised no one, then, that Bellamy scored Liverpool's first goal.

Then, with time running out and the score 1-1, what could be more likely than Bellamy passing to his recent victim Riise, who - as if to prove that NONE of this shit makes any sense - converted the first right-footed goal he ever remembers scoring.

The point here is that what happens on the field of play seems to have absolutely nothing to do with what happens off it.

The Kidd problem runs deeper when you consider exactly how it is he plays: as one of the all-time unselfish teammates. A win-at-all costs kind of guy, but never, ever dirty. Someone as liable to hit the deck for a loose ball as he is to place a 40-foot pass right next to the rim. Pretty hard to reconcile this guy with the Jason Kidd that the legal team of Newman, McDonough, Schofel & Giger want you to see.

Contrast Kidd's situation with the Wolves' Mike James, who I've been hammering (to my uninterested girlfriend) all year as being selfish. This assertion was, of course, based on how James plays basketball. Off the court, I've never heard a bad thing about him, and he's involved in a couple charity gigs. (By the way, before the trade deadline, the Wolves were desperate to get rid of James, and no one wanted him.)

You may feel however you like about how closely we should hold people's past transgressions. But try and get your head around this one: Last week, Michael Jackson did an appearance for some troops overseas. (Apparently USO now [allegedly] stands for Undead Sex Offender.)

My stance on Kidd, and all of these athletes, is that we should let the legal system run its course, and view the accused (or convicted) as such, even when the defendant is running the fastbreak. They should be allowed to compete at the highest level they can, and their offenses should never leave the forefront of our mind. For example, want to hear something interesting about Mike Tyson?

In 1991, he raped a girl. That should be the first and last thing you think about him. End of story. If you can still see him as an athlete, then contact Cinemax. You'll have to excuse me if I sit that career out.

If I may be as preachy as possible, I think you should view your athletes only as competitors until you know otherwise. Should said athlete make a mistake, let him be punished for what he's done. Then, dues paid, he should return to the game. And, depending on the offense, he should be offered a chance at redemption at some later date.

For me, Jason Kidd's will not come until some time after he walks away from this silly game, which used to be the only thing I knew him for.

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