- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

To borrow from Al Pacino’s courtroom tirade in “And Justice for All,” O.J. Mayo is out of order, referee Mike Lazo is out of order, all of Huntington, W.Va., is out of order, the whole system is out of order.

To recap the controversy, Mayo, a leading prep star who has signed with USC, resorted to a bad-man pose after making a steal and completing the sequence with a thunderous dunk in a game Friday night.

After the ball conveniently bounced into his waiting hands, Mayo strutted to the foul line to draw the first of two technical fouls from Lazo.

Mayo proceeded to hold a stare down with a player from the opposition, which led to jawing from members of both teams and resulted in Mayo’s second technical foul and expulsion from the game.

Mayo sought out Lazo at this point, apparently thinking he deserved an explanation.

As Mayo neared Lazo, a minimal amount of contact was made, something along the order of a nudge in a grocery aisle.

This nearly imperceptible bump sent Lazo, arms flailing, careening to the floor, as if he were channeling Manu Ginobili.

After the game, Mayo did what any self-respecting NBA prospect would do in the face of a two-game suspension. He sought out a lawyer to fight the ruling of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.

His attorney made an incredibly persuasive argument to Cabell County Circuit Judge Dan O’Hanlon.

As the attorney said, “We feel O.J. certainly didn’t do anything intentional. If there was contact, it was inadvertent or may have been accidentally initiated by the referee himself.”

The judge accepted the compelling logic and granted Mayo a temporary restraining order yesterday, which allowed the misunderstood player to hurry down to Durham, N.C., where his nationally ranked team was scheduled to play a nationally ranked team from Lakewood, Calif., last night.

It is a good thing Mayo is not in the NBA.

Stu Jackson, the NBA’s jury and judge, would have suspended Mayo, and that would have been the end of the discussion, no different from Kobe Bryant receiving a one-game suspension yesterday.

In case you missed it, Bryant unleashed his inner jerk after Ginobili blocked his shot near the end of regulation Sunday. Bryant, accidentally on purpose, gave Ginobili the back of his hand after the block, which sent Ginobili tumbling to the floor.

Mayo undoubtedly was mimicking all too many NBA players who act as if they have cured cancer, saved the whale and fed the hungry after dunking the ball.

This is a common routine of LeBron James, the Nike-made deity who is able to contort his face in a variety of ways after converting a dunk shot.

Mayo is young and can be forgiven his rush to celebrate the self.

That is not to say the weak-kneed judge should have granted him temporary absolution.

Even unintentional and inadvertent mistakes are supposed to have consequences.

Mayo’s attorney has a profound reason to be an enabler.

He also serves as an assistant coach on Mayo’s high school team.

As for the referee, he either has a chip on his shoulder or a serious inner-ear infection.

In either case, he should find another line of part-time work, perhaps as a clown who performs pratfalls at children’s birthday parties.

But this is the system, flawed as it is.

We indulge the young and gifted.

We resort to euphemisms and wishy-washy characterizations in their defense.

Mayo had a number of instances to gather himself and accept the technical fouls of the referee, unfair though they may have seemed.

Mayo surely had no need to walk near the referee.

Did he somehow think, in the heat of the moment, the two were about to engage in a highly reasoned and productive discussion?

Instead, Mayo elected to be a clich, a very bad man who was straining to be noticed.

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