There's been a long-standing argument about whether a person's behaviour/actions is dictated by nature, what they're born with, or nurture, the environment they're in. There are arguments and "proof" in support of both, but I've always thought it was odd that it's always posed as an either/or proposition. Oh, sure, they give lip service to how the other side has some effect but it eventually boils down to one side being in total control.
I think I've come to the conclusion that it really is a balance between the two, but in the sense that nature controls what you're capable of doing whereas nurture can control what you actually do. I think people are wired with the possibility of doing a certain variety of things, but what gets developed and what gets released is dependent upon what their environment encourages and trains and frowns upon.
Some people will use the excuse that "that wasn't me" when they do something totally against their character. Nope, don't buy it. I think there are some things people are totally incapable of doing, no matter the situation or circumstance. There may, however, be the littlest inclination for something, and given the right cultivation or happenstance, that inclination shows itself. So it might only be a fraction of a part of someone's personality, perhaps one that has never seen the light of day, but it's in them nonetheless.
I think the control that nurture has over our nature manifests itself constantly in our everyday lives. We generally have modifications in our behaviour depending on what we're doing at the time - we adjust ourselves if we're at work or at the movies or with our parents or at a concert. We exhibit the behaviours in each of those situations that have been fostered, but that's not to say that we exhibit only the behaviours that are encouraged in a particular environment. Sometimes, an aspect that's natural in one setting can be so developed that it breaks through in an environment where it's not natural, and the unexpected reaction in that case may or may not curb any such breakthrough in the future. For instance, whereas my blurting out "PAINTED?" to a certain group of friends will dissolve them into peals of laughter, my doing the same thing to another group of friends or at work will simply elicit glazed-over stares. The second reaction would probably teach me not to blurt that word out to the second group of people again because it didn't have the reaction I was looking for. Or, because I'm a freak of nature, I might just keep doing it for oddness value.
So why did this analysis arise? It stems from a story that I heard about yesterday that made me think of other related issues. And the big story that caused this elaborate pondering? Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals in the NBA between the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Hornets.
I used to be a big NBA fan, but in the past several years, I haven't been paying that much attention. Even with the Los Angeles Lakers doing well this year and still being in the playoffs, I've not been watching their games, mostly just interested enough to find out the score after the game is over. I'm barely paying attention to the other playoffs and most of what I hear is simply in passing on the news or when I'm listening to ESPN.com streaming. That's how I found out about this story.
The San Antonio Spurs were in a must-win situation in game six. Losing meant their season was over. Winning meant they'd force a tie-breaking game seven. San Antonio did in fact win, but there's some speculation that the outcome of the game could have changed had the Hornets' David West not been forced to leave the game early in the fourth quarter because of an injury. He had played game five with back pain, and the injury was aggravated when he was fouled hard by the Spurs' Robert Horry. Some people say it was a legitimate foul, but many more are calling it a cheap shot because Horry blindsided West. (OK, this would help if I could describe the exact foul but while I understood what was described to me, I can't begin to repeat that now.)
It was hard for me to listen to Horry being bashed for this foul, and I remembered hearing similar comments about him last year, when he had made a similarly cheap-shot move against another guy with a bad back. That's not to say that anyone with a bad back is off-limits to hard play. But there's a difference between hard play and "accidentally" stomping on someone's fractured foot.
I remember Robert Horry from his time with the Lakers in the late 90s and early 2000s. He was a great player, clutch guy, classy. He was a part of the 3-peat when the Lakers won the NBA championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002. So I had a hard time reconciling what I was hearing about Robert Horry now. The Robert Horry that I remembered would never have done what the current Robert Horry has done this year and last. So how did he go from being the player I remembered to being the player he is now? The only thing I can come up with is that such behaviour would not have been tolerated with the Lakers. They don't play cheap to win. That might mean they lose, but to me, better to lose than to win at the expense of playing dirty. It disappoints me to think that he was capable of this kind of behaviour all the time, but it just never manifested itself while he was a Laker, but he apparently feels comfortable to behave that way now, and he's not even playing for the Pistons!
The last time I had this sort of confusion was when it came to Vlade Divac. I remembered him with the Lakers as being a good guy. And then I kept hearing about him with the Sacramento Kings, and he had turned into a crybaby, faking fouls enough that he was nicknamed "Floppy" by a lot of people. I found this page and I *love* it. Pay particular attention to entries 2 and 3, especially the examples in italics. And at the time, I had the same "but he never did anything like that with the Lakers" ponderings, and I could not reconcile that kind of play with being on the Lakers. But that's because again, that kind of behaviour would never have been tolerated by the Lakers.
The other instance of this sort of behaviour that comes to mind for me is Terrell Owens ("TO"), formerly of the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, currently of the Dallas Cowboys. TO had a history of mouthing off about his teammates and causing dissension on the team, and the Cowboys were looked at askance for taking him on, though the Cowboys also have a history of having and taking in troubled players (Pacman Jones, anyone?). When TO first arrived at the Cowboys, his rep didn't change that much as he butted heads with then-head coach Bill Parcells. Parcells' departure from the Cowboys was largely attributed to his on-going friction with TO. Since the arrivals of new Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips and quarterback Tony Romo, TO is making fewer headlines with his mouth. In his case, it wasn't just the change of venue that caused the seeming change in him, but rather, the change in personnel.
Yeah, I think it's kind of weird too that a basketball playoff game led me down this path.