|Chris Andersen, Bird Man (Facebook)|
I want to write about the Birdman, Chris Andersen, that second string basketball player for the Miami Heat.
At first I was intrigued by his tattoos. Who wouldn't be? They are beautiful, rich, gorgeous color, fascinating shapes spatter his body -- what can be seen, that is, all the way up to his neck, down both arms, legs, can't see as those basketball shorts come all the way down to his knees.
And his hair. A Mohawk? And he sports this little wispy soul patch that stays or goes at a whim.
Then I saw him interviewed. His mellow manner and calm way of speaking made me forget about the tattoos. The guys on the sports talk show (including Charlie Barkley and that big guy, Shaquille O'Neil) were visibly charmed, for they did not know what to think. So at first (as I'm a novice at basketball), I was entranced by this man who would cover himself with tattoos so distracting they become almost a mask, though his face is untouched. He stands out, and yet he is invisible.
Then in game 5 of the playoffs, someone shoved the Birdman. He thought someone else did it and shoved back. A confrontation ensued. The Birdman did not back down. His testosterone was all over the place. In a split second, he was a warrior. He was benched, later fined, and banned from game 6, which the Heat lost. So I read a little about his background. Chris was early abandoned by his father and grew up rock-scrabble poor in rural Texas. Basketball was his entry to college, but he dropped out to play basketball professionally; he ended up playing for Chinese and Mexican D-teams until he was brought up to play at the A level for two teams, and then to the Miami Heat.
Birdman’s suspension reminds me of my soccer playing days when I was hit in the face with a soccer ball. As someone who wears glasses, I was instantly furious. I knew the other player had thrown the ball at me intentionally. I couldn't calm down. The ref ejected me, and my team had to play a person short. I couldn't even watch. But there is that moment in sports. You know the other person is going for the ball, and you want it. One of you will back down. That person won't be me. When my dear husband said he wasn't the marrying kind, I took that in, but even then, in that moment I knew, well, there's a goal.
The Birdman was back for Game 7 and the Heat won. I'm a fan of the Birdman. I know he has a dark side, but he's not the only one who wears a mask.