When David Harrison fell from his mother's womb all those years ago, a referee's whistle blew.
"I was born with two fouls on me,'' Harrison, an Indiana Pacers center, said with a smile. It has reached the point with Harrison that some of the league's officials have come to feel sorry for him -- which is a little bit like the tiger feeling regret about Roy. Before Sunday's home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Conseco Fieldhouse, Harrison was doing his pregame stretching when official Monty McCutchen strolled nearby. He turned to Harrison and cracked, "That's a walk.''
At least it wasn't a foul.
Here's a mind-bending statistic for you: Harrison averages more than 13 fouls per 48 minutes. He fouls out twice a game every game. And gets another foul for good measure.
It's something Harrison can laugh about for a number of reasons:
First, he owns a sharp intellect and is completely self-aware of his temperamental shortcomings. He knows his Achilles' heel resides in his cerebral cortex, having taken the additional step of speaking to a local psychiatrist about his low frustration threshold.
Second, he knows he has no other choice but to roll with the punches and grow, both physically and emotionally, beyond the boundaries that have limited his career.
The big man can play, and you saw again Sunday that when his head is on straight and his game is flowing, he's a very useful power player. He fouled out after 24 minutes, 11 seconds -- right on target for his 48-minute average -- but gave the Pacers 11 points, seven rebounds and a snarling presence in the paint at both ends of the floor.
And yet, the Pacers did not re-up his contract before this season, and for good reason. He has had a hard time staying healthy. He has been inconsistent. And most of all, that temper.
"My first couple of years, I played with fear of the officials,'' Harrison said. "Like I was playing against a person and the call. Now, I've just stopped caring. If they're going to call it, they're going to call it. When I fight them, all I do is lose points for our team. Games like this one (a 111-106 loss to Cleveland), one point might mean a lot.''
On this occasion, Harrison didn't give away any of the points that spelled the Pacers' doom, and you could hardly blame him for holding onto the rim, unwittingly negating a Jeff Foster follow that would have given Indiana a 104-103 lead.
"I got pushed from behind,'' Harrison said. "If I don't hold on there, I die.''
The points were given away in other areas.
They were given away when coach Jim O'Brien went way too long with an unproductive and heavy-legged Troy Murphy. After Murphy was replaced, the Pacers went on a 26-6 run, only to be beaten down the stretch by LeBron James and themselves.
They were given away when O'Brien had Jamaal Tinsley shoot the technical free throw after a defensive three seconds call when two other Pacers on the floor, Marquis Daniels and Danny Granger, had better free throw numbers. O'Brien said he wanted to reward Tinsley for the way he was playing. Next time, just send him roses instead. Tinsley, by the way, missed.
Then there were the late defensive breakdowns that had O'Brien steaming. Twice down the stretch of a tight game, King James found an open 3-point shooter in the opposite corner or the wing.
If there was something good to take from this game, besides maybe Daniels' 25 points, it was Harrison's performance. He scored in double figures for the third time in four games and fourth time this year. In 24 games last year, Harrison went beyond 10 points once.
He has not turned the corner or completely shed his hard-earned reputation as a party guy and a serial fouler. But he's trying. Really.
"When I'm under duress, I go to my instinct, which is to be aggressive,'' he said.
He continued, "You've got to play as hard as you can and let the emotions come later. I've got plenty of other hours in the day to be sad or angry.''
There have been times this season when Harrison has reverted to past form, but O'Brien has held him accountable, even sitting him in the second half of a game against Denver. That's the way Harrison wants it.
"I feel really good about how David is playing and the way he is dealing with any issues that maybe in the past caused him to lose his temper,'' O'Brien said. ". . . I'm proud of where he is and where he's going to grow to.''
Some habits, though, are hard to break. As Harrison dressed after the game and spoke to your local correspondent, he was whistled for pontificating. Some guys can't catch a break.