Child’s Play

Monday night Mavericks guard Delonte West poked Jazz forward Gordon Hayward in the ear. Why is this news? Why not?
West fouled Hayward in transition and following the call he walked up to him and gave him a wet willy.
For those of you who never had any fun in school, a wet willy is when you place your finger in your mouth, wet it with saliva, insert it into an unsuspecting victim’s ear, then laugh at your comedic genius.
Hayward didn’t particularly appreciate the prank, saying after the game he wanted to “fight right there.”
That, however, is a textbook response from anyone who has just been victimized by a joke as cunning as a wet willy. Had West given Hayward a wedgie or a pink belly, maybe then would taking a swing have been permissible.
The reaction I have heard in the aftermath of the incident has been overwhelmingly negative. ESPN’s Michelle Beadle called the action “disgusting.” The announcers at the game said he should be thrown out of the game and it was a “cheap shot in the biggest way.”
While the comedic timing may have been off, I find no fault in the jest. Yes, basketball is his job, but it’s also a game. Games are played by kids.
I can’t even count how many butts I slapped, shorts I pulled, or cup-checks I executed when I played sports. I goofed around in practice, I goofed around on the bench, I goofed around when I was the game.
Kids play sports because they’re fun. Apparently I never grew up because that was my approach as well.
I would talk to kids when they got to first base and try to distract them so we could pick them off, which worked multiple times. I would quote The Hangover and Anchorman during free throws. I would ask opposing linemen if they would go to the homecoming dance with me.
I think it’s refreshing to see players not take themselves so serious that they can’t joke around. Yes, their lives can get stressful, but at the same time their job is to play a game and if they’re not having fun then they’re forgetting the reason they began playing.
There are times to be serious, but there is also plenty of room to joke and West took advantage of it. Beadle mentioned on her ESPN show that Hayward could have been injured during the incident.
As anyone who has ever performed a proper wet willy knows the danger in the prank lies in the possibility that the victim turn towards you and gets a finger in the eye. It is a cruel reality of the pranking world and it does happen more often than you think.
That, however, did not happen Monday. West achieved direct finger to ear contact, putting Hayward in little to no danger at all.
As for the announcers’ erroneous claim that West should be thrown out of the game, I find that to be an immense overreaction. It’s not like he undercut Hayward on a dunk. He didn’t check him into the scorer’s table after a steal. He didn’t give him a crotch-shot in the low post. It was just a wet willy, so calm down.
I don’t expect to see players getting pantsed when they’re shooting free throws or waterboys to start filling water bottles with hot sauce. I think it would be good for professional athletes to show that they have a little personality. And I think it would be nice to see the sporting world be more receptive to such a change.


Gus Merwin

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