When Syracuse’s Frank Howard appeared to try to trip Duke’s Zion Williamson in Thursday night’s ACC semifinals, we thought well big whoop. It didn't even slow Williamson down.
Even so, it seems to have turned into a major incident. Jason Williams went off on Howard in a big way, calling for him to be suspended. Someone else - we think ESPN’s Keith Olbermann - called for Howard to be suspended for a year.
To be clear, Williams had a point: this is the sort of thing that could lead to injury and certainly is poor sportsmanship at a minimum.
For his part, Howard says it wasn't intentional which leads you back to the old line: who you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?
It looked intentional and to us, it looked like an act of great frustration.
Williamson dominated that team and did it in spectacular style. He was so spectacular that people from former Duke coach Bucky Waters to Carolina fans were photographed exulting as he dunked. Read that again: Tar Heel fans were celebrating with everyone else.
Put yourself in Howard’s shoes, if you will, for just a minute. People are holding their breath to see what Williamson will do next and he keeps topping himself. He’s flying all around, past you, around you, over you and everyone is showing him the love.
As a competitor, it would be hard not to be annoyed. As we’ve all seen over the years, when one team is just crushing it, the other team sometimes reacts by pushing and shoving, perhaps as a way of saying you might be kicking my but but I’m still here.
Who in their right mind is gong to shove a guy that outweighs you by 100 pounds or more?
So the easy temptation is to just stick your foot out there, let Mr. Superstar take a little tumble.
We’re certainly not endorsing it. It was a stupid, impulsive thing to do that could have had very serious consequences.
We’re just saying that on a human level, when someone is so far beyond your talents that you can’t begin to stop him...what do you do? How do you react when the crowd is reveling in your humiliation? And after, as Howard said, you’ve worked so hard to get there?
As a young adult, as a competitor and a sportsman, you have to resist the temptation, but we think that anyone can understand the temptation, just for a second, to stick it to him however you can.
That kind of frustration is, of course, ultimately an admission of failure.
We may have seen an ugly bit of Frank Howard last night. Syracuse and the ACC can decide how seriously to take it.
For us though, while it was an act of supreme frustration, Williamson didn't get hurt. He didn't even seem to notice which, in a way, must be even more humiliating. It’s kind of funny when you think about it, in a Wile. E. Coyote sort of way. Beep beep!
Was it dangerous? Yes. Was it forgivable? To us, yes. We asked for compassion when Grayson Allen was wrestling with his demons, and we’d ask for people to lighten up on Howard. People will speak to him; we’re sure some already have.
It was a bad moment for him and it could have been much worse. Unless it happens again, let’s just move on. Duke has bigger fish to fry.
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