Let’s take a moment to dissect the D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young situation and whether it’s more about how not-present we are than anything else. Oh, that and how athletes cheating is similar to my relationship to Costco samples vs. Costco dogs.
…Maybe the real problem is we now get our news from something called Fameolous.
There’s a few tasty meat-extending morsels in this Nick Young/D’Angelo Russell mess that need to be discussed: For the uninitiated, D’Angelo Russell, the 20-year-old heir to the Showtime Lakers and superstar in the making, surreptitiously filmed Laker shooting guard Nick Young in an apparent admission that Young took a 19-year-old home from the club and slept with her.
The video was leaked on the tweets and all hell broke loose in Lakerland leading to unsatisfying apologies, contrition and frustration from both Russell and Young.
Side players include troubled star emeritus Kobe Bryant, who saw this scandal as his Murtaugh toilet bomb moment—as he thanks his own lucky stars camera phones weren’t around in his day. And head coach Byron Scott, who is looking up at that guillotine blade dangling from dental floss with the knowledge that the rest of his time coaching the 16-win team will be served as daycare provider.
NBA star Nick Young Caught on Video Admitting To Cheating On Iggy With A 19-Year-Old Girl After The Club! pic.twitter.com/9ny9tDG0Mb
— Fameolous (@Fameolous) March 24, 2016
But the questions in the backwater of this mini-scandal are numerous, mostly because Young happens to be engaged to a flossy Australian rap goddess and there’s been nothing to talk about in LA since Arsenio tried to make a late-night comeback.
And so the conversation has turned to privacy, respect, the unwritten code among athletes re: their extracurricular activities and how and whether any of that translates to the product you’re being spoonfed on the court.
Let’s take these on one at a time:
- Privacy: It’s time to understand, fully and without prejudice, that as long as someone has a phone in their hand, you are no longer entitled to a life that is your own—especially if you’re one of the chosen few who happens to be of interest to the masses. I’m not saying it’s fair. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m not saying that any time a phone or the cloud is hacked and a snippet or representation of an actual person is plastered across every gossip and wanna-be gossip and horrible-troll social media account, that it isn’t an invasion of privacy and a violation of basic human rights—it is…and that is what’s at stake. I am also saying, it happens. And it will continue to happen. Don’t want your stuff out there? Don’t extend your arm and take a picture or video of yourself doing that stuff. Now, in the case of Young, he was having a casual, private conversation with a teammate and a buddy. He did not think he was being filmed. More than this, we did not see the entire conversation. Is it possible when Russell pressed the record button back to white square that Young turned to him and said, “You know I’m just fucking with you—right?” Absolutely. It’s not what happened. But absolutely. In this case it’s important to note the TV was on and Russell was on at least two other devices (a laptop and his own phone.) I’m not blaming him for speaking freely in a controlled environment, but I DO blame him for not being present in the conversation enough to realize he was being filmed and/or actively thinking about what he was saying in that context. See the difference? If you’re going to talk to someone; if you’re going to have a conversation, at least be there enough to know whether someone is, you know, recording it for posterity. If you can’t do that, yes—yes there will be consequences.
- Respect: You hear the word ‘respect’ a lot these days. It’s thrown around like ‘amazing’ and ‘literally’ and ‘actually’ with such abandon, this writer included, that it loses all meaning. Respect has been used by Young, Russell, Bryant, Scott—and a host of professional athletes and pundits when speaking on this issue. Mostly it’s been that Russell disrespected Young. And that’s a predictable, reactive stance to take—not to mention, it’s the wrong one. What Russell did was regrettable, certainly. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was a prank. Maybe the devil on his shoulder wanted to keep that little piece of intel on his phone for a time when he wasn’t getting his touches. Who knows? It was regrettable in hindsight, for sure. But disrespectful? I don’t think so. Russell’s actions had nothing to do with respect or lack thereof. I think Russell has respect for Young. I think he has respect for the rest of his team and his coaches and his handlers and his followers. This has nothing to do with respect and everything to do with a lapse in judgement or an unintended consequence. How do I know this? Roll it back to when you were 20. Did you ever do anything—you know—just to be a dick to one of your boys? Did you ever puke on his sheets or piss on his clothes when they were in the drier or eat his leftovers while he was still at work or intentionally cock block him at a bar…just because? Absolutely you did. Maybe it got a big laugh. Maybe he’d done the same to you. Maybe you just weren’t fucking thinking. Chances are it was a combination of the three…after all—you were 20. Now add in multi-million-dollar contracts and the hum of microphones and the million little clicks of cameras. Logos and brands that not only are worth as much as a small country but also give you a sense—at a very early age; at an age where your brain is still in the green banana stack—of what your absolute worth is, in dollars, to society. It’s pretty heady stuff. This all has nothing to do with respect. It has everything to do with one guy fucking with another guy and that becoming a match that was unintentionally tossed onto a giant pile of ego and money and commentary as gasoline.
- Unwritten code among athletes re: their extracurricular activities: This is the big one. This is the one that guys like you and me just. Can’t. Seem. To. Understand. For starters, most athletes (most famous people for that matter) live by a different set of rules when it comes to fidelity. Sorry, they do. It doesn’t make them different or better or worse. It doesn’t mean they can’t be good friends or good parents or good siblings or good co-workers—or even good spouses. And it definitely has nothing to do—or should have nothing to do—with what you pay to see them do. Yet every time, everyone—from the talking heads to the guy next to you talking shit before a meeting starts—pretends that he would take the high road. And that’s bullshit.
- So let me try to put famous-person fidelity in terms that guys like you and me can understand: I love Costco hot dogs. I love the way they taste. I love requesting that little plastic ramekin of sauerkraut. I love turning the relish wheel and pumping on the yellow mustard AND the deli mustard. I love how it’s warm and perfectly swaddled in tin foil but with the foil part touching the dog and the white part exposed when it gets to my hand. I love the little twist of the wrapper on top. I love that it comes with a soda. And I love that it was $1.50 in 1993 and it is $1.50 today. I love it. I love it. I love it. Sure, I could go to Costco on a Tuesday and rush through to get my Kirkland boxers and Kirkland trail mix and Kirkland picnic bench—grab a dog on the way out and not even have to expose myself to the family of five buying the giant inflatable fun island to donate to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 1,400 Coronas and enough gummi bears to send the four-year-old into cardiac arrest by the time the Honda Odyssey pulls into the end of the cul-de-sac. But I don’t. I go on a Saturday when it’s crowded and sticky and jort-filled. Why? Because of the samples. Now, just because I enjoy me some potstickers served in a cupcake wrapper by ladies dressed like they’re about to go make sushi out of E.T., a half an angus beef slider on a red tray, GMO melon swollen like an over inflated basketball and lentils on a pita the size of a Tom Clancy novel—does not mean I love my Costco dog any less. It just means that sometimes, well, there are other opportunities out there to taste. Yes, Costco dog and I have been together for 20-plus years and we’ve been through some shit, believe me. But we have an understanding. That’s not your understanding. It’s our understanding. Maybe you have your own deal going with your own Costco dog. And that’s fine. That’s your thing. But for me, for us—what Costco dog and I have works. Costco dog and I are ride or die. And we don’t let my needing to get samples on the side, much less your opinion of why I need to get samples on the side, get in the way.
So that’s it.
That’s what’s happening with the Lakers today. It’s unfortunate and it’s almost as tough to watch as their product on the court. Which is what they should be concerned about.
…Which is what the rest of us should be concerned about too.