When Andrew Bynum laid the wood late in the L.A. Lakers' Game 4 on Sunday, he thought he was being tough, that he was refusing to go down quietly. The Lakers were trailing the Dallas Mavericks by 20, just minutes away from a shocking and embarrassing sweep. J.J. Barea slalomed down the lane -- as he had done so many times in the series -- and Bynum met him in the air ... with a vicious forearm shiver to the chest, one that left the diminutive Puerto Rican careening back to the hardwood.
Bynum thought he was being tough by getting himself ejected, by going down swinging (literally). But, of course, that was the least tough thing Bynum could have done. That was, as Tim Thomas would say, "fugazy."
This is the seedy underbelly of the endless Chris Bosh jokes. We criticize and belittle Bosh for being soft, for being the opposite of tough, thus reinforcing the idea that toughness-in-show is an important thing to have. But toughness-in-show is Bynum's stupid hit, or Kevin Garnett's wackadoodle antics, or Brian Cardinal's tone-deaf screen on Patty Mills in Round 1. Toughness-in-show isn't toughness at all. It's fake.
It isn't our fault Andrew Bynum is a fool. But by chastising players who admit they get rattled by brilliantly invective fans, or who cry after a brutal loss, we reiterate that we demand testosterone-riddled toughness from our athletes. When we call Pau Gasol names and wish he'd man up, we beg him to throw a few 'bows and get nasty. Bynum got nasty. He threw a 'bow. And it was stupid and wrong.
Players need to figure out the difference between legitimate toughness -- resolve, dedication to hard work, fighting to succeed -- and fugazy. But we can help by holding the right players accountable for the right deficiencies. We aren't doing a very good job right now.