People do ridiculous things when they're angry. Michael Nesmith punched a wall. Pat Riley kicked a cooler. Michael Richards used some career-ending language, the dweeb from Green Day yelled something about Justin Bieber, and This Moronic Author may or may not have crashed a guy's forehead into a marble bar-top when, were it not for my combatant's uneasiness due to drink and a series of surrounding friends who held him back from me after the crash, he probably would have destroyed both me and my vintage blazer.
Nicolas Batum? In a game that was broadcast worldwide in a setting designed to promote goodwill and sound sportsmanship between nations? He punched a dude in the junk. Former Memphis Grizzly and current Spanish team floater-maestro Juan Carlos Navarro's junk, to be exact. All because Batum's outfit from France was behind during a very frustrating 2012 Olympic turn, and Batum needed to foul Navarro to stop the clock.
A few months on, and Nicolas is more than a little regretful over his actions. In an interview that sounds far more in line with the Batum we've known as an NBA comer since he joined the Portland Trail Blazers in 2008, he discussed his misstep. From the Trail Blazer website, via Blazer's Edge:
"I just left London like the next day, went back to my house and got some rest, saw my family and try to see something else," said Batum. "I went on vacation to Greece, spent ten days in Greece, refreshed my mind, see something else."
See something else. While I assume that's not exactly what Nic was trying to say, it perfectly describes what he needed to do after an eventful summer that unfortunately concluded with Batum committing a now infamous foul on Juan Carlos Navarro at the end of France's 66-59 loss to Spain in the men's basketball quarterfinals at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
"What I'm mad about is what I showed to people about myself, what I showed about the game, about France, everything," said Batum. "I feel bad about it because that's not me. I'm human. I lost it. I just lost it.
"You don't want this type of action. I can't do it. You can't see that on the court. If the (International Basketball) Federation or the Olympics want to suspend me a couple games or fine me, I'm okay with that. I won't say anything."
Sounds like someone who lost his temper, and isn't happy with himself as a result.
I won't say, "let he who is without sin cast the first punch to the junk," because junk-punches still aren't one of the more popular go-to moves amongst those that have lost their temper. Still, temper takes on many forms — whether you're firing a burned piece of toast across the kitchen because you just ruined the last piece, or whether you're punching someone in the genitals because your summer hasn't gone according to plan.
Batum's summer was an up and down one. We detailed in excruciatingly boring style earlier this year while Nic was the subject of an odd bidding war between the Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves, with the Wolves biding their time and disposing of players in order to clear money to sign the restricted free agent to a massive offer that the Trail Blazers immediately matched. He got paid, into the eight figures per year range, but it was more than likely very tough for Batum to wait out as the Wolves and Blazers pitted their capologists against each other. Even millionaires can get frustrated by the uneasiness.
And even the nicest guys and soundest of sportsmen can lose their temper in the heat of a contest, even if you don't regard basketball as much of a contact sport. Batum's French team had legitimate medal aspirations heading into the 2012 Olympics, but a devastating ankle injury to center Joakim Noah and a scary incident in which point guard Tony Parker was in the same building as Chris Brown (and, less scary, Parker being hit with a shard of glass during a fight involving Brown and Drake) aided in what was a quarterfinal ouster for Batum's squad. It also aided in Juan Carlos Navarro's gentleman's vegetables becoming far-too familiar with Nicolas' approaching fist.
Nicolas doesn't even turn 24 until December, he has well over a decade of professional and international ball ahead of him, and by every conceivable account his wedding tackle-thrashing was completely unlike him. He'll have plenty of time to rid himself of the stigma that tends to come from a misstep like this — one that may have been replayed endless in early August, but one that was also relegated to some cable TV and internet weblog hand-wringing and little else.
He, and Juan Carlos' little Navarros, will be fine.