DAN STEINBERG WASHINGTONPOST.COM/D.C. SPORTS BOG

If Wizards' Young Is Happy, He Shows It

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

LAS VEGAS

Last week, Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said that Nick Young needs to smile less. Michael Jordan, he pointed out, wasn't known for his happy-go-lucky good cheer. It was an irresistible topic, because Young smiles more than Jack Nicholson's Joker, and because his earnest response to the criticism was delivered with a five-alarm smile.

"I feel like I'm serious," Young argued, "I just happen to smile all the time."

Word of his alleged excessive happiness, of course, trickled back to his parents, Mae and Charles. Now, I've heard of plenty of parents who wished their children acted happier (Hi, Mom and Dad!), but you don't often hear of parents who wish their children frowned more. The Youngs are no exception, so I asked them about Washington's second Smiley-gate of this sports year.

"But that's what we do," Charles said.

"How can you change someone when he's born with that?" Mae asked.

In fact, the Youngs said, Nick was born with a little tooth in the front of his mouth, which sort of turned his infant face into a smile. His dad said Nick has smiled his whole life, but his mom brought up the family's tragedies, including the death of Nick's older brother, Charles Jr., in a drive-by shooting.

"You've got to remember, a smile is just a frown turned upside down," Charles said.

"We joke and jive about our pain," Mae said. "We joke and jive about a lot of things. We make fun of it after we went through the process. Okay, that's how we deal with it. That's how we move on."

"If you don't laugh, you'll go crazy," Charles said.

"That's not happiness," Mae said. "That's just a cover up for not wanting [people] to get into your world. That is not a real smile. Look at me, I'm doing this," she said with a fake grin, "but [people] don't know what's behind it."


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