Manhood can be defined in many different ways.There's Webster's definition. There's Maxim's definition. There's the definition inherited from the examples of our fathers, grandfathers, uncles, older brothers, cousins and friends.
There's the biblical role defined in verse. There's the corporate-instilled definition, the one that sometimes places job over family. There's the definition from the streets.Then there's the one that exists inside a man's head. In this case, inside Antonio Davis' head. That's the one that defines more than a man's actions. It defines his heart and soul, too. That definition adheres to no one. It has no boss, no ruler, sometimes no conscience. It acts alone, reacts without apologies. Outcomes of those reactions vary. From Palace brawls to congressional investigations, these internal acts of manhood shape the ways of the world. That includes everything from having 12 kids by seven different women and not paying child support for any of them to adopting 12 kids who aren't your own and showing them the true meaning of fatherhood. Or, in the case of Kevin Garnett and Allen Iverson, it includes raising your baby sisters to become women. Manhood found those two at the age of 12. Wednesday night, when Davis stepped into the stands during a damn-near-classic overtime game -- Davis' Knicks fell to the Bulls at the buzzer in the United Center -- his definition of manhood overrode anything any of us could or would have tried to tell him. In that situation. As he said, "I witnessed my wife being threatened by a man." A man he thought was intoxicated. A man who appeared to be getting ignorant with the wrong man's wife. Davis had no idea who this man was or what his intentions were. So once he, as his coach Larry Brown said, "saw his wife falling back," Davis went 10 rows up into the stands to "evaluate" the situation -- cool, calm and Michael Clarke Duncan-like.
Seconds later, order restored. Drama done. Davis was escorted to the court, his family to NBA security. No punches thrown, no riot incited, no beer wasted, no words used to be taken out of context.The game resumed, and Ben "007" Gordon did another of his Kobe Bryant impersonations -- as he's done so often in his short career that we ought to be focusing on that instead of what this column is about -- dropping one from 22 feet less than a second before the red light districted the backboard. But that was secondary. *****
Now ... how can we question manhood? How can we question what Antonio Davis did -- at the time he did it? How can we question what he felt in his heart, mind and soul was the right thing to do for his family?
Isn't one of the subdefinitions of manhood to understand that not everything in your life is about you? That, at times, the people for whom you are responsible need you to protect them at all costs? Doesn't it mean that, in very certain situations, you take matters into your own hands? Even if the result is ejection and suspension?Davis got suspended for five games. Justified. No argument. But this isn't about the punishment. The suspension isn't the issue. This is the issue: If you're driving your wife to the hospital and her water breaks on the way, you're going to run that red light and accept the consequences. So how do we find fault with Davis? Just because there are rules that forbid a player from entering the stands doesn't mean the rule is absolute. Nor does it mean the rule applies to all cases. I'm not saying rules are meant to be broken. But at some point, we have to understand where certain rules don't apply. Broad view: There once were rules (laws, if you want to get technical) that didn't allow certain people the right to vote, to get fair housing or education, to drink water. Specific view: There is a rule that states that any basket scored within 0.03 seconds of the end of game time will not be allowed. Baron Davis proved that rule wrong in a playoff game a couple of years ago. The rule still hasn't been changed. And if any of you have fam, kids, wife, moms, etc., and you feel that they are in danger of being violated, what rule are you going to follow? Especially when you have only seconds to think and even less time to react? Stu Jackson's rule? Or the rule inside your heart? That written, where does the rule, the one about players entering the stands, apply to Davis? The situation last night? Yes, we all understand the NBA's position on protecting the image of the League and making sure nothing jumps off this year like it did last year in Detroit, but... Like Larry Brown said, "C'mon, that's his wife; that's entirely different. That's a man concerned about his family."
And to be brutally honest, this entire episode would not be top-of-the-hour SportsCenter news if nothing had happened at the Palace last year. Leading me to believe that this media reaction has more to do with that than it does with an incident between Kendra Davis and a fan who might have been drunk.Truth: If Nov. 19, 2005, hadn't gone down like it did, I never would have had to write this column. *****
Maybe Antonio Davis remembers something many of us forget. Remember this from Game 2 of the World Series? Remember that Astros catcher Brad Ausmus said his wife, Liz, endured a number of taunts, as well as what a Houston media report described as "a few vulgar hand gestures throughout the night." "Some of the treatment that the Astros families received at U.S. Cellular Field was a huge black eye for the city of Chicago," Ausmus told the Houston Chronicle. "My wife didn't get hit or anything, but people flipped her off and were screaming at her.'' Ausmus said, "The people of Chicago are overwhelmingly good people," but added, "if I was from Chicago, I'd be embarrassed by the way the Astros' families were treated by the White Sox fans." Patty Biggio got slapped upside the back of her head. It happened in Chicago. Manhood aside ... Antonio don't play that.
Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines and the author of "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here.