I haven’t actually watched video or seen photos of Paul George’s injury — I don’t need that image in my life, thanks — but I’ve read enough about it to know two things.
1. It was horrific.
2. It was not necessarily anybody’s fault.
It was predictable and depressing that after the initial shock wore off, a good portion of the fan populace began looking for a head to roll. The dastardly workers at the Thomas & Mack Center were the supposed enemies first, for putting the basket stanchions too close to the court for the USA basketball scrimmage in which George was injured. When it was found the stanchion was a whole one inch shorter than the minimum safe distance, the sights were refocused onto NBA players’ involvement in international competition.
I’m not about to rule out either of these factors in George’s injury. Maybe that inch made all the difference. Maybe playing basketball year-round exposed George to a greater risk of injury. But I have no idea, and neither does anyone else.
In our rush to find someone or something to throw the book at, we tend to forget things have seldom ever happened in a vacuum. If the playing conditions were less than optimal, it’s not clear if they were worse than, say, the slippery conditions that would arise at the old Boston Garden on humid days. If international competition puts a strain on bodies, it’s not certain that it is any more strain than players experienced on USO-type trips to far-flung countries decades ago. If playing year-round is the culprit, shouldn’t there be more reports of serious injuries coming out of summer pro-ams and offseason pickup games?
The worst thing, though, is that without a tangible suspect to tab for George’s injury, we lash out at completely innocent parties for otherwise innocuous things. Kyrie Irving was mocked on Twitter for tearing up at the sight of George’s demolished leg, as though showing empathy for a teammate demonstrated a lack of toughness. A reporter was chastised for asking if the national team would consider replacing George on the roster, because collecting information — that is, doing his job — struck some observers as insensitive.
Stanchions. International tournaments. Crying. Reporter’s questions. They are all just distractions from the simple, inarguable fact that this whole situation just really sucks.
Listen, people are angry. I get it. One of the best basketball players in the world is going to lose an entire season and possibly more to one of the most devastating injuries ever seen in sports. It’s unfortunate. It’s sad. It makes you sick to your stomach.
But unless new details emerge, our rush to find a bad guy is a waste of breath and energy. No amount of pitchfork-waving is going to make a villain in the George situation magically appear. Sometimes, bad things happen and there is nobody to blame but fate.