Any sports fan knows trash talking goes on – a lot.
I’ve been on the sidelines at middle school football and basketball games and heard it. While it often comes and goes and the game continues, occasionally things cross so far over any discernable line that make you take a step back.
Such is the case with what veteran Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett may – or may not have said – to the Detroit Pistons’ Charlie Villanueva on Tuesday night.
Villanueva posted on his Twitter page – which has a quote from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 — that Garnett called him a “cancer patient” on the court during the game. Villanueva is bald, and not by choice, suffering from alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder resulting in hair loss, according to The Sporting News.
Garnett refuted the claim, saying he told Villanueva that he was cancerous to the Pistons and the NBA as a whole.
Boston coach Doc Rivers, one of the most well-respected bench leaders in the game, backed up Garnett’s story, saying he heard Garnett say what he claimed to have said because he was standing right in front of him.
To some degree this is a classic case of he said, he said. Perhaps Villanueva was tired of listening to Garnett run his mouth and took it out of context, intentionally or not. Perhaps Garnett said both what Rivers said and what Villanueva said – at a different point in the game.
To me, here’s the bottom line: Talking about cancer in an off-handed way is just not that funny or necessary. Like many, I have known people close to me who have contracted cancer, and thankfully, many have survived. While calling someone a “cancer to an organization” is not uncommon, it’s not particularly sensitive either.
What we say matters. Word choice makes a difference. Even on a basketball court.