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The Saga Of NBA Player Jordan Bell Reminds Us That Pranks Are Good


Several years ago, my middle daughter, then about five years old, and I were at home getting ready to go out for the day. I was in the shower, and the doorbell rang. I yelled her name and she didn’t respond. I went barreling out of the shower, dripping wet, and continued to call her name. Still silence.

I got to the living room, and she was sitting on the couch. “Did someone ring the doorbell?” “I did. I just wanted to scare you.”

There are a few components to a quality prank. It can’t cause long-term suffering, but it has to cause momentary terror. Expressed scientifically, it’s something like “nearly causes a heart attack, but doesn’t cause PTSD.” Given that criteria, her prank was definitely quality.

Golden State Warriors player Jordan Bell, on the other hand, was recently suspended for one game for pranking assistant coach Mike Brown. But he didn’t even cause the coach to rush out of the shower in horror. No, Bell did something much, much worse. He apparently charged a $15 candle to the coach’s hotel room as part of an ongoing prank in which players charged small items to each other’s rooms.

As a result of pranking Brown, Bell lost $9,505 in pay, which may not have caused Bell to almost have a heart attack, and is unlikely to have sent him on the road to PTSD, but definitely caused more long-term suffering than the coach would have been subject to had he merely laughed at the prank, lit the candle, and enjoyed its soothing aroma. That’ll learn him about participating in one of America’s richest traditions.

Care for a Cup of Saltwater Tea, Governor?

It all started back before we became the United States. On December 16, 1773, a group of colonists gathered on the decks of the Dartmouth, one of British East India Tea Company’s ships, and dumped its freight into the Boston Harbor. While not everyone was amused, it certainly caused no long-term suffering and helped foment team spirit amongst the colonists ahead of their successful run at claiming the championship title in the American Revolution.

Given the Warriors have been dominant in the NBA for the past few years and that the team has a rich tradition of players pranking one another, one would think this historical lesson wouldn’t be lost on its leaders. Alas, it was, hence the suspension. Let’s just hope that the suspension doesn’t destroy the player’s predilection for pranking one another, nor cause long-term harm to America’s predilection for pranks.

Not that pranks are limited to the United States. Peoples the world over celebrate pranking one another. There’s even an entire holiday dedicated to pranking people. Its history isn’t exactly clear, although we can all agree on the date of the holiday, but there’s just something magical about being punked, having your heart pounding in your chest, and lumbering around the house nearly naked and dripping wet. As such, we persevere.

Heart-stopping Terror and Laughter Bind Us Together

Such perseverance binds us together, as the terror melts into a shared moment of joyous laughter. That laughter may occur in the form of teasing a coach for ordering scented candles to his hotel room or in the laughter I enjoyed with my youngest daughter a few weeks ago. We arrived at the playground, and the middle daughter and I bounded out of the car. The youngest stayed inside the car sobbing, tears streaming down her face.

I opened the door, and she bellowed, “You forgot me!” “Honey, you know how to open doors.” “You. Forgot. Me!” I scooped her up, and she buried her teary face in my chest, continuing to sob. Then the tears gave way to guffaws. She looked up at me, smiling, and said, “I got you.” Then we went on to claim the underdog title on the swing set.

Golden State should embrace that ethos, especially as Bell’s prank didn’t even come close to Darth Vader death threats, Brazilian elevator apparitions, or Japanese trap doors. By comparison, Bell’s shenanigans were downright anodyne and something that should have been laughed off. But apparently if there’s one thing a true warrior can’t handle, it’s aromatherapy.

We Can Still Be the Champions

Despite this setback, the Warriors are sitting atop the Western Conference. They did win the game against the Memphis Grizzlies for which Bell was suspended, but lost their following game against Minnesota Timberwolves. (Bell was active for that game, but did not play. Maybe the coaches should have lit that candle, relaxed, and put him on the court.)

This isn’t just about Golden State and Bell, though. This is about what we stand for as a nation, about whether we’ve gotten so soft that we need to replace our benches—both courtside and park—with fainting couches. As the expression says: as goes the NBA, so goes the nation.

If there’s one thing we need at the moment, it’s to relax, maybe light some candles, scare the bejesus out of one another, and then share a moment of laughter. It’s the foundation upon which our founding fathers helped build this great land and all the championship titles we’ve since claimed as a nation.

It’s about another bell—one that rang out when the Declaration of Independence was first read and we began the playoff run in our quest to claim freedom, sovereignty, and self-determination for our great land. For if we eschew all that is right and good about pranks, we shall have forgotten everything we have learned until this point and forever quiet an iconic symbol of that championship run. And if the Taco Liberty Bell is forever quieted, then so too shall we be quieted.

Godspeed and God bless. Also, I know you just got all lathered up and have conditioner in your hair, but there’s someone at your front door. You better go check on that.