Somewhat Sympathetic for Grayson Allen | WYPR

Somewhat Sympathetic for Grayson Allen

Dec 26, 2016

Maybe it’s the spirit of the holiday, all that “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” stuff that has gotten to me.

Maybe it’s too much Southern Comfort vanilla spice egg nog, though it’s the kind without the whiskey.

Whatever it is, I find myself actually feeling a little compassion for a Duke University men’s basketball player.

In the aftermath of an indefinite suspension and the scorn and ridicule of the entire sporting nation, I feel sorry – somewhat -- for Grayson Allen.

Allen is the junior that you saw trip an opponent during the first half of a game against Elon last week.

You then saw Allen have a meltdown on the Duke bench, the likes of which you haven’t seen since you told your three-year-old that the toy he or she wanted so desperately was going to stay on the store shelves.

In this age of immediate Internet trolling and instant sports radio condemnation, Allen became such a universal villain that by the end of the week, things went 180 degrees towards making him a sympathetic figure.

Now, before things get too far out of hand in that regard, we’d all be wrong to make Grayson Allen a martyr. He deserves a good share of this condemnation.

Allen’s tripping of Elon’s Steve Santa Ana was not accidental, nor was it the first time he’s stuck out his leg to impede, or possibly injure an opponent.

Last February, Allen nailed Louisville’s Ray Spalding and Xavier Rathan-Mayes of Florida State, drawing no sanction from either his coach, Mike Krzyzewski or the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Immediately following last Wednesday’s game, Krzyzewski wasn’t feeling a need to punish Allen for this infraction.

Said Krzyzewski after the Elon game “I handle things the way I handle them. And I think I’ve handled this correctly, and I will continue to handle it correctly, and I don’t need to satisfy what other people think I should do."

Though Krzyzewski said Thursday morning after announcing the suspension that he hadn’t seen the most recent tripping or the temper tantrum as they happened in real time, his comments after the game were the dictionary definition of tone-deaf.

More than one person has accurately noted that if Krzyzewski, the West Point graduate, two-time Olympic gold medal winning coach and five-time NCAA championship architect, had performed his duty 10 months ago, Allen might not have been a repeat offender.

Indeed, Krzyzewski has fancied himself as such a molder of men, such a moral authority that people outside of the Duke axis are quick to seize upon the moments when he missed the beam in his eye to point to the mote in others.

So much of the derision that has fallen on Allen is about imagery. The 6-foot-5 guard is the latest in a series of Duke players from Christian Laettner to Bobby Hurley to J.J. Redick to become the most hated player in college basketball.

They all looked like privileged, spoiled kids who got away with murder and beat you on top of it.

We’ll see if this is the moment where Grayson Allen learns to keep his feet to himself and if Mike Krzyzewski becomes a little less sanctimonious.

If either of those happen, it would be a Christmas miracle indeed.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

You can reach Milton via e-mail with your questions and comments at sportsatlarge@gmail.com. Twitter: @sportsatlarge