Friday, July 9, 2010

How the Game (and the Fan) is Played

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a sports fan.  But for all the completely unwarranted hoopla surrounding Lebron James' decision to play for the Miami Heat, I think the phenomenon speaks to important cultural landmarks, ergo I feel somewhat urged to comment.


...tonight, it felt like everyone involved — LeBron, ESPN, Bing, the University of Phoenix, Stuart Scott, the man who once chastised fans for having the audacity to boo, Jim freaking Gray — treated the millions of people watching like stupid, mindless consumers, empty lemmings ready to follow Sport into the abyss. Here, here are the Boys & Girls Club props. Here, here is your search engine. Here, here is your online college, Here, here is your Athletic Hero. Eat. Eat. Consume. You like it. You love it. You'll always come back for more.
 If we (meaning: Americans) are not mindless consumers of athletics, how else would you describe the state of professional gamesmanship?  The days of kids being plucked from obscurity in some midwest baseball farm team and making the newsreels are over.  We live in the age of instant information.  Love him or hate him -- and I'm really as neutral as you can get -- LeBron James understands that.

That leads me to wonder if the same people complaining about the "hype" are the jerks that complain about LeBron and others "making too much money."  To them I say:  Suck it up.  If you've ever sat down in front of a TV to watch a Cleveland Cavaliers game on cable, that's all it takes to contribute to these guys' salaries.  You can watch commercials; you don't have to buy tickets to see a game live in order to be plunking down your hard-earned cash.  The advertisers are happy to be the middle-men.

So you feel like you got suckered?  We're all getting suckered.  Don't like the hype?  It's always about hype.  LeBron James was just a little more honest this time, and I think he made us confront some uncomfortable truths about ourselves.  As much as I wish it were otherwise, I won't count on our culture to change anytime soon.

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