The dictionary.com definitions of “taunt” including the following: as a verb, “to reproach in a sarcastic, insulting, or jeering manner; mock” and “to provoke by taunts; twit”; as a noun, “an insulting gibe or sarcasm; scornful reproach or challenge.”
Note that the definition does not include: “to make eye contact.” Unfortunately, Yahoo sportswriter Graham Watson’s dictionary apparently does. Even though all Mississippi Valley State guard Kevin Burwell did after making a three-point shot was look over at President Obama and (according to the broadcasters, not Watson) make eye contact for what could hardly have been more than a half-second, Watson turned it into a “taunt,” and even seemed to pin the blame for MVSU’s loss on Burwell:
Mississippi Valley State guard Kevin Burwell learned a hard lesson Tuesday night that taunting the leader of the free world brings nothing but trouble.
Early in the second half of the Devils’ “first four” game against Western Kentucky, Burwell dribbled to the corner where President Barack Obama and his guest, British Prime Minister David Cameron, were taking in the game and jacked up a 3-pointer. When the shot found the bottom of the net, Burwell turned to the president and taunted him.
Not a smart move with Secret Service hovering, but Burwell was responding to Obama’s halftime comment that both teams were “shooting terribly.” To Obama’s credit, the two teams had combined to shoot 24 percent for the first half.
So how does Watson know for certain that Burwell even knew what the President said during the half? Is watching TV a newly-incorporated part of the halftime strategy and pep talk routine in college basketball?
At the Yahoo link’s video, you’ll see that the announcers didn’t see a “taunt.” Specifically, after making the shot, the announcer (how he can be so sure of this I’ll never know) says: “And he looks over at the President, and says ‘How do you like that?’” (I don’t think Burwell actually said anything.)
During the replay, the game’s color commentator, employing less than perfect grammar, said: “Take a look at Burwell knocking down this three, and going eye contact for President Obama.”
CBS Sports has what must be a more accurate characterization:
Twice during Tuesday’s game, PG Kevin Burwell gestured happily toward President Barrack Obama in the front row. “We were just trying to put on a show for him,” Burwell said. “At the same time, we was just up for this game. In the heat of the moment, I just pointed at him a couple times. That’s it.”
The dictionary definition of “taunt” also doesn’t include “pointing at someone,” Mr. Watson.
For a guy who is supposed to know something about and practice diplomacy, Obama’s characterization of the two teams’ first-half shooting as “terrible” leaves quite a bit to be desired — and if a different president had said it, that might well be the big story coming out of all of this. He could easily have said something more polite along the lines of “Well, their shots are having a tough time finding the net.” If anything, he was the guy who was out of bounds — not the player who looked over at him for a mere instant.
Getting back to Watson’s waste of bandwidth:
However, what Burwell didn’t know at the time was that simple taunt would kick off a MVSU downward spiral than no one could have ever predicted. Even though Mississippi Valley State jumped out to a 16-point lead, Western Kentucky whittled away at it in the final five minutes and ultimately won the game 59-58.
After Burwell made that fateful shot, he scored four points, but had three turnovers, a missed layup and three missed 3-pointers, including one with three seconds remaining that would have won the game.
… Not saying the president had anything to do with this cosmic karma, but you have to wonder. He is, after all, the most powerful man in the world.
So “powerful” that a sportswriter feels he has to run to his defense when someone makes eye contact with or points at him.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.