At least two factors came into play last week, as the entire universe paid rapt attention to the comings and goings of a 25-year-old basketball player, who happens to be pretty talented at his sport. First was, as I’ve often said, the media’s default position, which is “EXCESS.” Second, we were reminded that the term “fan” comes from the word “fanatic.”
If there has ever been more excessive media coverage of an event involving one person, I don’t know what it was. Regionally, we’ve seen excessive coverage of Brett Favre’s retiring-unretiring-indecision; but that was nothing compared to the full-on print, electronic, and online media coverage of LeBron James’ decision about where he was going to play basketball next year.
After the live “announcement” show watched by millions on ESPN, the fanatics were quick to react in both Miami and Cleveland. As joy reigned in Miami, the owner of the Cleveland NBA franchise issued a rant the next morning, calling his former superstar names, and promising the Cavs would win an NBA championship before James did. Cleveland fans called James a traitor and coward.
I’ll freely and enthusiastically admit I’m a fan of the Packers and Brewers. I grew up going to games at Lambeau Field during the glory years. Even though the Braves moved to Atlanta, I didn’t hate them or think they were traitors. I went to the ’57 and ’58 World Series games in Milwaukee with my dad, my uncle, and my grandpa, and had to learn that few things are “forever”, and that major league baseball is essentially a business. Things change.
I still love the Bucks. Going to the MECCA in the early 70’s to watch Kareem play has created fond memories. But, Kareem moved west, and the Bucks moved on.
LeBron James grew up in Ohio and played the first part of his professional career there. So it was a bit harder on the Cavs fans when he decided it was time to make a move he thinks will get him a championship ring. Once the Cavs fans loved him; now many of them hate him. It makes no sense. Disappointed, yes; hate – why?
A handful of players on the Brewers have real Wisconsin ties. A handful of players on the Packers have real Wisconsin ties. And I don’t think any of the Bucks players do. Yet we somehow feel a connection to them, because they wear the uniform of “our” team. And we may feel a bit more closely connected to those players who are from Wisconsin or went to school here or have family here.
Will “King James” get an NBA Championship ring now? If that’s what he really wants, more power to him. No matter what uniform he wears, he’s a pretty talented player. That’s probably not going to change. It’s still going to be entertaining to watch SportsCenter’s highlights of James.
And don’t think for one minute that when his skills diminish, he’ll be traded or benched. And don’t think for one minute that wouldn’t have been his fate in Cleveland.