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On the NBA: Hating greatness

Yes, it’s true, we swim in a sea of LeBron Hate. But I’m not convinced it’s toxic in any novel way. We’ve always had this. Social media, of course, grants some transparency to many of our uglier voices. But the hot spittle of the mediocre-feeling masses is nothing to sound the alarm about, disturbing racial undertones (which are sometimes overtones) notwithstanding.

Let’s be real: no sports fan likes a dynasty. Not unless it’s her own team that is one. The notion of Carmelo Anthony joining up with LeBron and his boys to form The Four Horsemen upsets America for a multitude of reasons, but the primary one is this: I want my team to win a championship, and this development makes that unlikely. I hate these men for squashing my surrogate warriors, for taking away my chance at sharing bounties of fifth-hand pride with my city.

Some select few are candid enough to state it this way. But most of the rest are unwilling to show us their pathetic sports-loving core—they instead imbue these mens’ moves with all kinds of moralistic yammering. It’s not right, it’s weak, it’s wrong, Michael would’ve, etcetera, etcetera ad nauseam.

We err when we hand validity to this rhetoric. I’m erring, right now, by paying it any heed. Anger is rarely useful, and it’s especially rubbish-laden when it cloaks itself as righteous ideological soldiering.

And the bottom line is that this is just sports. Basketball is allowed to absorb mean energy because it barely matters. It’s “fun”; it’s a matrix for the worst in us like video games are—the correlation between the violence in hollering voices aimed at TV screens and violence that matters is something even less than that between Halo 3 gunnings and Newtown massacres. There’s certainly troubling symbolism afoot in the public’s often emotionally shaky relationship with the games they pour their attention into. But let’s not get crazy with the armchair sniping of some dudes being dudes on a couch with a keyboard.

And smashing the angry LeBron-hating hoards is more akin to hating LeBron than loving him. It is its own bloody sport. Both parties in this unfortunate discourse are jumping into the NBA as a way of waging silly conceptual battles; of proving ourselves somehow superior. As someone with the ambition to be more a lover than a fighter, I say PAH to the defenders almost as much as I do the offenders. Let’s watch without hating the players or each other. Let’s respect the dumb wind everyone throws into this pastime. Let’s have ourselves an unpolitical ball, because where else can we do so?

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