As it did to everyone, the news of Nick Calathes and his ineligibility for the playoffs hit me like a ton of bricks. Unlike everyone else, I found out from his fiancé, who is a close friend of mine. Instead of reading a sensationalized headline and making an uninformed opinion, I got details from her and formed my own opinion. I bet my reaction differs from yours: I feel pity. Let me explain why.
Nick took a supplement after the All-Star break that someone gave him and did not know that it contained any illegal ingredient. Both he and his fiancé are well aware of how stupid it was of him not to be more conscience of what he was taking, but even the NBA, who tested him over a month ago, had been aggressively trying to help him with the situation. But, alas, rules are rules, and NCMurder is out 20 games.
First, I would like to recognize that I am fully aware that professional athletes are and should be held to a higher moral and social responsibility. Going into their new celebrity, most athletes are well-informed and schooled on why they should not behave like a moron. In the immortal words of Notorious BIG, “Mo money mo problems,” and with the fiscal and social benefits of being an NBA athlete, so cometh criticisms and scrutiny. So when a player fails a drug test for an illegal substance, it’s not like when a regular Joe fails a drug test. Oh no: our hero has fallen. And to a true Grizzly fan, that is exactly what Nick is. He is our hero. Despite my close relationship with he and his family, I still revere Nick as Roman gladiator in the arena. But we all know what the Romans did to gladiators when they did anything but win: they got booed. They got stuff thrown at them. They got thrown to the lions.
We have already booed Nick for not performing well. I still cringe when I recall the booing incident at the poor guy’s own home court. Calkins wrote after that game that he would almost suggest booing not be allowed but the fans paid for the ability to do so. And frankly, Calkins, that is just how some people react. The latest Nick incident is no different: knee jerk reactions from fans are what they are.
I understand that not everyone has such an easily accessible and very reliable source of information for the Grizzlies as I do. So I would like to appeal to Grizz fans everywhere. Do not forget what grit and grind really means. Is this not grit? Are we not a gritty team? Memphis is anything but pretty and easy, and I would not have it any other way. Am I my saying I don’t think he made a huge mistake and let down his team, his organization, and his new home? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that before we jump to Twitter and nail this poor guy to the cross, consider this: he just turned 25. He’s a 25-year-old dude. Yes, he is a celebrity. But that does not make him infallible. If he were your average Joe, he would be fresh out of the frat house and living like the characters in Workoholics.
But he is no average Joe. He is a hero. He got booed in his own stadium, worked his ass off, and turned it around in one season to become rookie of the month. I have news for you: he did not execute such a remarkable feat just because he gets paid to do it. He does it because he cares. He was as disappointed in himself as everyone else was. Today is no different. The man is low. I would like to think that I would not be so quick to kick an idol while he is down, especially when his big crime is ignorance and not crack or pot or who-knows-what from almost anyone else. I want my hero to get back to wearing his cape as quickly as possible. Because while it is a huge disappointment that he is not playing the next 20, I am aware of how VALUABLE he has been this season. And I know some other great things, too.
Nick is a real person. He is the father of a beautiful son that looks just like him, albeit with more hair than him. He has taught his son how to dunk a basketball on a play goal. He has known his fiancé since he was 12 years old when they went to middle school together in Florida. He FaceTimes her from bed at every away game. He asks me in earnest how I am doing even though I know he has much on his mind and more professional pressures then you or I will ever understand.
Nick made a mistake. And I am disappointed. But I am also grateful he’s in Memphis and he is still a Memphis fan, despite the beating he gets when we drag him through every gauntlet. Let’s stop throwing our hero to the lions. It won’t help anything. Let’s get over this grit and keep grinding.