Monday, November 19, 2012

Ten Frames Ain't Worth Ten Games: Andrew Bynum's Knee'r-do-well Season

Here on Mount Drinkmore, a large portion of my posts are sports-based, especially regarding the local Philadelphia teams: the Flyers, Phillies, and Eagles. But I rarely have written about the 76ers, or basketball in general. The reason is simple: I am no longer much of a basketball fan, having lost most interest in the sport after the retirement of Larry Bird and the game’s descent into a me-oriented showcase, to the extent that basketball, for me, is an afterthought.

However, my friend, Julie, requested that I post more about basketball—specifically about the 76ers and their latest acquisition, Andrew Bynum (above, in red shirt, at end of 76ers bench).

Alas, the plain fact is that I don’t keep abreast of the NBA beyond bleary eyed tolerance of basketball scores while awaiting those of the major sports during morning editions of ESPN SportsCenter. So I don’t have a lot of topics from which to choose, particularly about the local hoops team.

However, Andrew Bynum—or rather his absence from the lineup due to a knee injury—does afford a posting opportunity…even if it’s not for what my friend might hope.

After seven seasons as a Los Angeles Laker, during which he won two world championships and earned a spot on the 2012 All-NBA Second Team, Bynum was traded to Philadelphia on August 10, 2012. Bynum has had a history of knee problems; in fact, since playing a full 82 games in 2006-07, he has missed 146 of 410 contests—nearly all due to knee injuries. Now, 10 games into the current season, Bynum has yet to take the court for Philadelphia, having been declared inactive due to a bone bruise and cartilage damage in his right knee.

Adding both insult and injury to injury, Bynum recently admitted to aggravating his other knee by, very foolishly, bowling, thus not only setting back his return to the court, but, as is now being reported, imperiling his entire season—making his night at the lanes an especially brainless act considering he’ll be a free agent after this season.

Apart from that regurgitation of Bynum’s troubles, as well as his recent assortment of peculiar hairstyles, I have little else on which I can expound on the matter…

…except to say that I have been to Bynum, Montana, a speck of a town straddling Route 89 northwest of Great Falls, sitting quietly in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Little more than a break in the monotonous grandeur of Montana’s rolling plains, Bynum (whose downtown you see here) boasts a handful of houses, a small elementary school, post office, general store, and a few shops—including a “dinosaur center,” where one can buy authentic fossils.

Now, normally, comparing the travails of a single individual to an entire community would result in specious deductions; however, with a population of a mere 31 adults (according to the 2010 U.S. Census), Bynum, Montana, clearly is small enough to draw comparison with Andrew Bynum without running into wild assumptions arising from statistical variance.

Although I futilely scoured the Internet for statistics on knee injuries in Bynum, Montana—or at least Teton County, in which Bynum resides—it can be safely assumed that at least 1 resident of Bynum has suffered a knee injury of some sort, especially when one considers that, according to that same 2010 U.S. Census, nearly half of Bynum’s population is 65 years of age or older. Abetted by the fact that Montana winters cover the town’s streets with an abundance of ice, Bynum is a patellar catastrophe waiting to happen.

Potentially compounding Bynum’s natural knee hazards—and posing a threat especially to Bynum residents already hobbled by knee woes—nearby Choteau features the Alley Cat bowling lanes. The only bowling alley in all of Teton County, you can bet Bynum residents flock the 14 miles to the Alley Cat because there is literally nothing to do in Bynum for recreation (unless residents possess unimaginable tolerance for browsing stegosaurus bones).

According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 40.0% of Montanans age 25 to 64 possess a college degree. That means that approximately 8 of Bynum’s 17 residents between the ages of 18 and 64 hold a college degree. Add a few from Bynum’s elderly population, and perhaps a dozen Bynum residents are college graduatesleaving 19 with, at most, a high school education.

Andrew Bynum entered the NBA draft straight out of high school, foregoing a college educationthus, again, he is directly comparable to the segment of Bynum’s population lacking higher education.

Needless to say, one of the first things one learns in college is the importance of knee safety. (Most credible institutions cover it in freshman orientation.) And it’s virtually impossible in the college environment not to gain an appreciation for the basic dangers of bowling on already-damaged legs. (Having taken a bowling class for 4 credits during my senior year, I can attest to this personally—or at least to what a cute tush my teammate Stephanie had.) Therefore, those who do not attend college—such as Andrew Bynum and more than half of Bynum’s citizenry—are highly prone not only to knee injury, but to self-induced worsening of pre-existing knee injury (see artist's depiction above of a Bynum, Montana, resident who did not go to college).

Again, locating statistics on bowling-related knee injuries in Bynum proved difficult, but if the Alley Cat’s close proximity to Teton Medical Center—less than a mile—is any indication, then we can be sure that Bynum residents are suffering bowling-induced knee trauma with almost-epidemic frequency. Furthermore, the Alley Cat’s automated message stating its address and hours of operation well illustrates that its employees are too busy tending to injured bowlers to answer the phone. 

The numbers don’t lie: extrapolations derived from the data being beyond question, it is clear that Andrew Bynum’s sorry saga of bilateral knee injuries acutely mirrors that of Bynum, Montana’s, residents. None of those unfortunate Montanans has ever returned to the NBA. Thus, we need only look to the good people of Bynum, Montana, for a prognosis on the career of Andrew Bynum—and vice versa.

It is my sincere hope that this bit of basketball ephemera served to enlighten Mount Drinkmore readers and satisfy Julie, who, most likely, closed her Web browser four paragraphs ago...

(Photo of Sixers game copyright Comcast; image of Peter Griffin copyright Fox.)