One of the reasons that Rajon Rondo appeals to fans is that he sees eye to eye with them. Most NBA players would have to be shoehorned into a regular car, look out over a crowded mall with an unimpeded view, and either order clothes from a Big and (Very) Tall store or a custom tailor. Rondo has a penchant for hoodies and sunglasses. No wonder, in such a minimal disguise he can wander the streets (at least in America) without attracting undue attention; well unless you got a glimpse of those ET hands engulfing a bowling ball or palming a beach ball. However, with his relatively diminutive size comes some rather harsh realities, and penalties.
Dateline: September 11, 2012––19 days until the start of training camp!
Rajon is playing a losing numbers game. If you take n as the number of games (regular, post season, or both), then consider the following formulas. These are entirely made-up, but probably are not horribly inaccurate either. X is the number of times he hits the floor each season, and X=7n. Y is the number of unprotected falls or body slams he endures each season, and Y=0.33n. Z is the number of hard blows he absorbs each season where a defender “miscalculates” the steal attempt, adds a little “English” to the leading shoulder setting a pick on Rondo, or just takes a frustration swipe as Rondo speeds by, and Z=8n.
By my estimation, if Rondo sits out a couple of regular season games and takes the Celtics deep into the playoffs, his n will be around a hundred. Applying my entirely unofficial calculations this means that in the course of a season, Rajon undergoes a gauntlet of some 1,533 high-speed encounters with hard objects. For each game we actually should add to that three or four feet stepped on or come down on after jumping—say another 350 potentially disabling injuries. With this beating Rajon Rondo should travel with a paramedic, orthopedic surgeon, masseuse, and pain specialist. He should also have an insurance agent, lawyer, and pall bearers on speed dial.
It would be impressive (oppressive, frightening, queasy) enough just to list the major injuries (including a dislocated elbow [after which he continued to play], a wrist in a cast or hard splint, and umpteen sprained ankles), but consider that each game also includes around a hundred “incidental contacts” fostering a horrendous number (and degree, now that I think about it—and I’m stopping that right now!) of contusions, hematomas, Charley horses, scrapes, and dings.
I’m reminded of a passage in George Plimpton’s Paper Lion, a book he wrote after he posed as a rookie quarterback for the training camp of the Detroit Lions. This afforded him the opportunity to ferret out a myriad of inside stories and unusual insights. The one that has perhaps stayed with the longest and most graphically, is a story by one of the wide receivers who due to the “failings” of his quarterback (who had been hit releasing a pass), had been forced to come back to the ball and thus enter the territory along the line of scrimmage where the behemoths ply their trade of mayhem and destruction. George describes the receiver’s telling his tale as if he was recounting a serious accident to a close friend. On this day, at that field, against those opponents, the so-and-so of a quarterback threw short and he was forced to return to the line of scrimmage near the center of the field where the animals tore him to bits (no doubt I’m paraphrasing liberally from a nearly half-century-old read—a read I heartily recommend).
This is somewhat the way I see Rondo’s nightly forays into the land of the giants. Now remember, most footballers describe being almost unable to move the day after a game; and slowly regain their mobility over the week until the next game. They also describe the patent unfairness of “short weeks” (Thursday night game, or the Sunday after a Monday night game) where they lack sufficient recovery time. And there goes our “normal-sized” hero into the lion’s den night after night.
They flag and suspend for helmet-to-helmet contact. There are automatic ejections for throwing at the batter’s head. Even in fighting hockey there are penalties and suspensions for egregious hits. Yet Rondo seems the target of more “take-downs” than any basketball player in memory; and I don’t remember a single ejection (was Wade’s take-down resulting in Rondo’s elbow dislocation even called a foul?) The energy, drive, and competitive spirit of the Celtics start with Rajon Rondo. Perhaps his nickname should be Timex, for he indeed takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Certainly we should be most thankful for his indomitable constitution.
Boston, and all points beyond