(“A little bit of H-O-R-S-E”)
In 2001, Joumana Kidd called 911 to report that her husband, Jason, had hit her in the face (a recording is, of course, available online). Given Kidd’s much-publicized accusations, this week, that his wife abused him – “HONEY, I BEAT UP THE KIDD”; stay classy, New York Daily News – the call has taken on a distinct ambiguity.
“Look at me and look at you,” Joumana yells at Jason, while on the phone with an operator. “You’re right, they’re gonna believe you, Jay. They’re going to believe you. Yeah, I beat you up with a baseball bat, too.”
So what’s worse: to wrongly condemn someone for spousal abuse, or to disbelieve an abused wife? And is this any of our business in the first place?
Jason Kidd arrived at the bleak swamplands of Continental Airlines Arena five years ago and single-handedly rescued the New Jersey franchise from utter futility; for Nets fans — all twelve of us — he was like Moses, Jesus, and Gandalf rolled into one. Before Kidd joined the team (in a trade for Stephon Marbury, of all people), the Nets were a seemingly random collection of inept, half-hearted, and desperately unhappy players. Jon Spoelstra, who survived a stint as team president in the mid-90s, recently shared his fond reminiscences with the AP: “One year we had six guys in jail,” he said. “Not together, because that would have meant teamwork.”
Kidd changed everything. One of the best point guards in NBA history, his passes are among the most beautiful things you will ever see in professional sports; he’s an excellent defender, and plays to the individual strengths of each and every teammate. In his very first year, the Nets stunned everyone who had ever watched an NBA game by zipping into the 2002 NBA Finals. Sure, they were instantly crushed by the Lakers, the Arena was still only half-full, and no one in the New York media could be bothered to so much as sneeze at them; but hey – they were no longer a pathetic embarrassment. In fact, they were… well… good. For long-suffering Jersey fans, Jason Kidd was a hero.
Except for the slight matter of spousal abuse, that is. In January of 2001, while still with the Phoenix Suns, Kidd pled guilty to striking Joumana during a fight about — per the police report — eating a french fry off their son’s plate. It was a misdemeanor assault charge; he paid a fine and underwent anger-management therapy. The incident was mentioned infrequently thereafter, except by opposing fans — who, while hardly in good taste, may have had a point.
I never quite figured out what to do about this. How can you root for a guy who hit his wife? Is it even possible to watch the Nets without rooting for Jason Kidd? Is it morally acceptable to admire his play and ignore everything else? I did what most sports fans do when confronted with this kind of dilemma: I made myself forget all about it.
That seemed like the coward’s way out at the time, but it’s looking smarter every day. While it’s true that a player’s marriage is probably none of our business, it’s nearly impossible to watch or read any sort of sports coverage and remain blissfully ignorant; I worried that by refusing to make a moral judgment I was, in effect, making one anyway. But since it’s now clear that we’ll never know what the hell happened between Kidd and his wife, that may be the only sane option.
Does that mean I can continue to rewatch this shot from last week’s Bulls game on YouTube without feeling guilty?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 12, 2007