Why We Love to Hate: The LeBron James Lesson
Miami's biggest loser isn't the first superstar to turn fans against him.
When the Miami Heat lost the NBA Championship, a sigh of relief went out in 49 states. You see, most of America learned to resent all things LeBron James in just one year's time. Did he run a dog fighting ring? Did he cheat on his wife with 20 different women? Did he take steroids? No, no, and results pending. Rather, he did something much worse in this country. He showed his ass without having the political credentials to get away with it.
For those of you who don't know the story, here's what happened....
LeBron James, who grew up in Ohio, was drafted by the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers and carried them on his shoulders to the NBA Finals. They lost. He then convinced ESPN to devote an hour of its programming to him making a decision on where to play next. The options were the Cavs, the Knicks, the Heat, and the Mets. It should be noted that the Mets welcome anyone, even athletes from different sports.
When athletes become stars, they become like John Madden or Dick Vitale. Fans either love them, or thank God for whoever invented the mute button.Here's where the public began to sour on James. He appeared overly narcissistic, believing that he needed an hour on TV to announce his decision. An hour to make a decision. If that idea caught on, ESPN would broadcast women in a shoe store. Ba-zing!
At the end of the hour, James announced, "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach." The people of Miami celebrated. The people of America were stunned. Not only because an athlete actually spoke in the first person, but because a man televised himself stabbing a whole city in the back. That's a stabbing even Ray Lewis can't deny witnessing.
I personally don't begrudge James for leaving Cleveland. The team refused to give him anything to work with. You wouldn't stay at your office job if they never replaced the slackers around you just because you grew up in the neighborhood, would you? Probably not. But you also wouldn't buy an hour on NBC to tell the world that you're taking your typing skills to Merrill Lynch.
But it didn't stop there. LeBron hopped a flight to Florida, on which we can only assume the airline made him check his ego. Days later, he and his cohorts Chris Bosh and Dwyane "Spellcheck" Wade held a preseason pep rally. They rose up on a stage, all rockstar-like, and crowned themselves world champs, all without ever having played a game. Wow. It was the sports equivalent of Anthony Weiner holding a press conference with a boner in his khakis. Maybe LeBron is shooting steroids into his cojones, because they're definitely bigger than most.
We have to keep in mind that LeBron is only human, and we're allowed to do and say stupid things. Just because he's a superstar athlete doesn't mean he should be expected to take his talents to sainthood. But we're sports fans, and by definition we're fickle and easy to upset. When athletes become stars, they become like John Madden or Dick Vitale. Fans either love them, or thank God for whoever invented the mute button.
LeBron is certainly not alone. There is a litany of athletes, both current and former, who successfully turned most people against them: Barry Bonds, Ben Roethlisberger, Tiger Woods, and a slew of quarterbacks who took a knee instead of trying to cover the spread.
Furthermore, there are a ton of others who people may have forgotten all about. For example...
- The "Agony of Defeat" guy. Remember the skier who tumbled during the intro to the Wide World of Sports? Where the hell did he go? What kind of example is that to set for the kids? You take a fall and then quit? Baby.
- Manny Pacquiao. Dude is a world champion boxer AND a congressman in the Philippines. That's not fair to Americans who want to see our leaders get in the ring. Either he should quit politics or Don King should arrange a Pelosi/Boehner cage match to settle healthcare.
- Patriots coach Bill Belichick. I can't possibly feel confident about the economy if the NFL's highest paid leader can't afford to wear more than a sweatshirt. Set a better example, Coach Hoodie!
- Whoever wrote and/or choreographed the Super Bowl Shuffle.
- Carl Lewis. His rendition of the National Anthem made Rosanne Barr sound like Sinatra.
- Hot dog eating champions Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi. Do you guys eat broccoli? Ever? If not, I put you on this list simply out of envy.
- Shaquille O'Neal. Not because you made Kazaam, although that's reason enough. Rather, nobody can understand what you're saying. When I put closed captioning on when you talk, my cable box explodes in a cacophony of question marks.
This list really is endless, but my laptop battery is low and Icky Woods just showed up with my pizza. I will follow this up with more, but for now, I'm taking my eating talents to the living room.