Monday, July 12, 2010

LeBron's a Yankee fan...are they now similar?

(Submitted by Josh Carey)

I finally get it.

For as long as I've been able to self-identify with a sports team as a "fan", I have supported the New York Yankees. Growing up in Upstate New York in the 90s meant the team was everywhere. Restaurant promotions to television coverage - it was focused on the Yankees. When Derek Jeter showed up and joined "good guys" like Paul O'Neill and Don Mattngly (and later Tino Martinez), with a shutdown bullpen featuring the likes of John Wetteland and Mariano Rivera... it was impossible for me not to throw my support behind the Bronx Bombers.

I also grew to understand why much of the rest of the country hated my team. It was hard for me to empathize with, even if I understood. The Yankees spent more money on free agents, were the first to create a dedicated TV network, made Johnny Damon cut his hair... okay, I think Steinbrenner did us a favor on that one. But while I could understand the gripes, I could never fully grasp the hatred. The Yankees merely are in the biggest market in the world: It's not their fault they have the most money, and I'm glad, as a fa
n, they're spending it to improve the team. The 2009 World Championship was no less sweeter because it was anchored by CC Sabathia, Mark Teixiera, and Alex Rodriguez than the "home grown" 1998 title.

So I was never able to truly comprehend the hatred for the Yankees - until last night.

As "King" James sat elevated on his throne above the masses in a Connecticut gymnasium - engaging in a self-promotional, ego-stroking television "special" of his own making - and shoved the knife into the heart of Cleveland sports fans, I understood how someone could have such a venomous hatred for a sports figure.

I have experienced dislike for sports figures before, of course. To this day I believe Kobe Bryant to be a rapist and will never be able to root for him on the court as a result. Sean Avery is a goon who has no business being in a hockey rink. I will never forgive Eli Manning for his refusal to play for San Diego and was willing to root for the "evil" Patriots in 2008 rather than see him receive a Super Bowl ring.

But none of those compare to the burning, seething hated I have to see LeBron James not just lose, but be humiliated. I want to see him utterly destroyed on the basketball court, humiliated, and forced to hang his head in shame. I would have been mostly indifferent if LeBron had simply announced a press conference, said he was leaving the Cavs for the Heat, and thanked the fans of Cleveland for their support over the last seven years.

Instead, LeBron chose to engage in a self-serving promotional orgy where he told Cavalier fans they should be grateful for everything he has given them and he has no desire to have to put up 30 every night to win.

Michael Jordan would go out trying to score 40 with the flu if the stakes were high enough. We know this because he did it. That is the mark of a great player. LeBron has shown he's not willing to work even half that hard for a championship. Were this the case, LeBron would have taken opportunities in Chicago or New York where he could combined with solid supporting casts to compete for a title. Instead, he will do everything he can to play second fiddle to Dewayne Wade.

And as with anything in life, I can forgive if you try and fail. I can not forgive refusing to even try. And for that not only do I think LeBron and company will fail, but I actively hope he will. I will tune in to Heat games next season - despite previously having almost no interest in the NBA regular season - not to see two of the best three players in the league and perhaps two of the best twenty of all time, but to see LeBron James fail. Every success will be greeted by a boo.
Every failure with a cheer. Today, I am more a fan of the Cavs than I ever was when James was on the team.

And thus I understand how the Yankees can be so despised. While I still disagree with the institution of hating "the Yankees" (the team's management is merely playing by the rules established for all teams), I can understand how someone can hate Alex Rodriguez for always chasing the money and using performance-enhancing drugs to get where he is. And I can understand wanting to tune in every single night to see if he loses and is humiliated. Because with any luck, that very thing will happen to LeBron James.

The King is dead. All that's left is a shell of a man who refuses to strive for greatness.

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