PORTLAND — Forget about their ostensibly posh lifestyles for a second, and that their bank account statements read like social security numbers. There’s only one true reason why compared to your career, professional athletes have way better jobs.
They get to celebrate. They can express their emotions and show unbridled joy during their 9-to-5s.
Ever see a schoolteacher spike the eraser and scream in the faces of fourth-graders after he finishes grading their homework? Or a CPA stomp around the office as she searches for chest bumps at the stroke of midnight on April 15?
But athletes get to celebrate a job well done all the time. Take for instance Trail Blazer rookie Meyers Leonard.
Last week he faced some criticism. His offense? The 7-foot-1 Leonard dunked over Denver’s slow-as-maple syrup Andre Miller and acted as if Oprah had just given him a car.
Leonard screamed; the excitement coursing through his body like electricity from his tippy toes to his reddened face. He pounded his chest and flexed as the clamor from the crazies in the Rose Garden washed over him. Then, Leonard spread his arms from his sides, held out his palms and stared down Miller, who had engaged him in not-so-pleasant trash talk earlier in the game.
But a couple days later Terry Stotts had a message for his rookie center: Chill out, son.
“I thought it lasted about a second and a half too long,” Stotts said about the celebration. “I don’t think he backs down from anything. I don’t think he would back away from a confrontation. I think as far as being fearless, I think he’s got to figure out where and how to do it (and) when and how to do it.”
I agree with Stotts checking Leonard — after all, he came temptingly close to receiving a technical foul for taunting and at least one Nuggets player, Andre Iguodala, appealed to a referee to blow the whistle.
Plus, Leonard was slowly backpedaling down court against one of the quickest teams in the league. His posing could’ve led to a quick two on the other end. Leonard even realized that mistake.
“I probably should have got back on defense a little quicker,” Leonard admitted. “Sometimes you get caught up. I’ll be the first to admit it, but now that I’ve seen it on film and I understand it. Next time it’ll be a dunk and I’ll get back.”
I get it. The kid has to act like he’s been there before. Still, I like that Leonard will momentarily lose his mind when he does something amazing.
We have to remember that sports should be fun. There can be agony, for sure. Even so, those broken hearts are regulated to double overtime losses, season-ending injuries not life-threatening, or your favorite player abandoning your city to — gasp! — go make millions some place else. In other words, the game brings more joy than despair. So, why not rejoice every so often?
Wesley Matthews salutes his threes. Will Barton and Nolan Smith prance about during pregame introductions. Leonard closes his eyes and shrieks. These guys don’t push papers for a living. They work in a highly-emotive environment among the most skilled employees in their profession and passionate reactions happen every time they punch the clock.
Leonard, a demonstrative young man anyway, sometimes gets carried away while in the workplace. But fans who spend their hard-earned money and pay the high price of admission for sports entertainment should demand to see revelries, not robots.
“It’s better to be, in my mind, a little over emotional than to be a dud,” Leonard said.
So, let Leonard be free. And next time you get the job done, give yourself a high-five.