Now that the 2011 NBA finals, where favored Miami lost to Dallas, is sports history, a second moment is warranted for a column written by Dave Zirin in the Toronto Star that necessitated second and third reads.
Zirin was described by the Star as “author of Bad Sports: How They Are Ruining the Games We Love.”
Zirin contends that much-quoted and vilified Miami Heat star Lebron James at his season-ending press conference actually gave us a great insight into today’s athlete and ourselves as sports fans.
James was trashed for saying, “All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”
James was charged with being everything from flippant to arrogant to spoiled.
Zirin thought otherwise, saying, “How can we deny the truth that many of us look to sports as a distraction from the trials and tribulations of our own lives” that we find too unbearable and incomprehensible?
Zirin found no fault with sports being an evening of escape, but “There is something wrong with seeing athletes as avenues for our aggression when the real culprits exist outside the arena.”
Zirin has a point worth reflection. Not only do we anoint athletes of today with wreaths of glory based on their athletic performance while knowing nothing of who they are, we also can’t wait for the athlete to fall from the podium we have so conveniently sat him or her on.
In short, sports are entirely out of whack in terms of the praise rendered and the spears hurled.
James’ comments set open the flood gates of vilification because he dared state the reality of today’s sports world.
He IS in another world of riches and fame that the rest of us will never enter. He WILL go on to do exactly what he wants to do because he can buy his way into tomorrow, acting exactly as he pleases.
For this, sports fans do both anoint and vilify the athletes at the same time. We are praising the money and the lifestyle we can never have, but have a sense there is more to life than this, but most can’t find it.
So, we cheat ourselves by placing sports on a podium it does not deserve, refusing to see it as a diversion, a game, that once done is truly done and instead try to live vicariously through our teams and athletes.
When confronted with that fact, as James did, accidentally or otherwise, we rise up in righteous anger.
Better we listen to the words.