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A Real Game Face

By Dave Bruning

The phrase “game face” is one of the most overused and hard to explain phrases in the world of sports. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have heard an announcer talk about a player or team having their game face on while thinking to myself, “what the hell is he talking about?”

The best way I can describe a game face is taking an approach to a game or moment with a level of seriousness or commitment that did not previously exist. With this in mind, Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl certainly has his “game face” on as he begins his second battle with cancer. Karl has been diagnosed with neck and throat cancer. He is also a survivor of a previous bout of prostate cancer in 2005. Karl’s son, Coby, is also cancer survivor.

Karl recently went public with his latest battle and he brought his game face as he shared the news. Flanked by his team and other members of the Nuggets organization, Karl wrestled with his emotions while trying to stay upbeat.

"My desire is to do whatever I can to stay with my team throughout the treatment that I have to go through," Karl said. "Basically, my belief is this is a championship team and I want to do anything and everything I can to help them continue in their quest that we all want."

Karl will begin an intensive six-week treatment program of radiation and chemotherapy. He is expected to miss several games and practices during the course of his treatment. Karl’s assistant coaches will guide the Nuggets in his absence.

Cancer also touched the Nuggets in 2008. Brazilian forward Nene was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had a tumor surgically removed from his right testicle and missed the majority of the 2008 season. Nene has since returned to health and is an integral part of a very talented Denver team with aspirations of an NBA title. The Nuggets are currently second in the Western Conference. Ironically, there is some sentiment around the league that coach Karl’s battle with cancer may help the enigmatic Nuggets find their game face in pursuit of the NBA title.

Karl is still trying to come to grips with his latest cancer battle.

"I don't care if it's a curable one or uncurable. There's no guaranteed contracts in this gig. Doctors are very confident, but mutations of cells come in different forms. We'll just give it the best shot that we have."

There is a great video of former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight trying to explain a game face. Knight contorts his face in a variety of ridiculous mannerisms and gestures. After about 30 seconds he stops and says he has never seen a game face. Knight’s point was he had never seen a game face and did not know what one looked like. As elusive as it may be to describe a game face, I think George Karl has one and it will serve him well as he stares down cancer.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. Here's to a speedy recovery for George and a deep playoff run for the Nuggs. In the back of my head I also feel the need to bad mouth Bobby Knight but I think this stems from a hatred for all things Indiana since the Alford/Smart moments. (I even hated the movie Hoosiers)