Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
And it all comes down to this.
Here we are. Almost seven months since the Sixers pulled off the unthinkable -- trading for a superstar center -- we have our first line from Andrew Bynum saying he may not play at all this season. This after repeatedly saying he hadn't even considered the possibility of playing at all.
For the 1% of me that still inexplicably had hope of Bynum playing with the Sixers, this is crushing.
I want to hate Bynum for this. I wish it could be as easy as that. But it's not. It shouldn't be and it's not.
Andrew Bynum said he doesn't worry about perceptions for sitting out all year. "I'm 25. It's my life." #sixers— Christopher A. Vito (@ChrisVito) March 1, 2013
You know what? He's right. He's absolutely right. He's not some machine genetically created to withstand punishment so our favorite team can win a championship. He's just a guy. And only he can decide if he's healthy enough to play. It's his 300 pound body he's putting on the line. It's his life.
He doesn't owe us anything. He doesn't owe the team anything. And he sure as hell doesn't owe the league anything. He's making an awful lot of money to sit on the bench and get haircuts, but getting mad at him for that is misdirecting your anger. You can't project your own frustrations onto him even though we're all working a lot more than he is and not making nearly as much.
Once Bynum retires in some indeterminate amount of time, he'll slip out of public consciousness. Once he stops playing basketball, he won't matter to us. But he'll still be alive, he'll still have to live the rest of his life with Arthritis. And it's not right to fault him for thinking about that.
Blame him for how he's handled the press. Blame him for knowing he's going to get a contract regardless of how little he plays this season. Blame the Injury Gods for making him a 7-footer with bad knees. Blame the Sixers for how they've handled the PR. Blame Bynum for bowling when he knew he had a serious bone bruise. Blame me for having so much hope when the Sixers traded for him. But don't blame him for this.
So even though nobody wants to see him play for the Sixers as much as we do, and nobody is as frustrated at how much wasted talent is sitting on the bench, you can't get mad at the guy for waiting until he's ready. I don't buy into the machisimo of professional sports. I don't think Allen Iverson is a better person because he threw himself around on the court and played through everything. Bynum just wasn't built that way.
I know you want me to rant and rage and be really mad about all this. And I have been. But now it's just really sad. It's a shame. It's the worst. I'm not asking you to pity the guy, because you shouldn't. But if you're one step away from sending him hate mail, I'm asking you to take a step back and think about perspective for a second.
Because basketball really doesn't matter. It really doesn't. Andrew at age 50 does.