Sports? On a travel writing blog? Yes, because half the reason I started a blog was so I could rant about whatever topic has most recently moved my spirit. Besides, just wait for the end of the post, when I sneakingly (absurdly?) link my LeBron James opinion back to travel writing. Don’t skip ahead and spoil the surprise.
First, I need to disclose I’m from Miami, but since James joined the Heat, which I should also disclose have always been my favorite sports team (I grew up in the glory days of Alonzo and Timmy Hardaway), I’ve been reluctant to get behind him. Of course I was excited when he came to Miami, but I cringed at how he did it. When they fell apart in the finals last year, I was sad, but somehow a little relieved. Losing a championship meant they burned off their bad karma, and they didn’t deserve to win anyway based on how they played in the most important games of their lives.
This season I’ve been watching much more of their games. They’ve had a little time to come together as a team, and I love the additions they made, especially Shane Battier. Pretty much everyone’s playing great.
Somehow though, I’ve still been a little reluctant with James. Obviously, he’s an absolute joy to watch, and my Dad and I have had tons of fun together catching practically all the games this season. Despite that, I can’t help wonder if he’ll leave Miami the same way he left Cleveland. And as much as it seems he’s matured, why does he still say absurd things about possibly returning to Cleveland (even if he were secretly planning that), among other things? Can’t he see how badly he damages his recovering image and how much needless distress he causes people when he talks like that? Can’t he be just a little more careful with what he says?
But I see James differently now, and it’s largely because of the insight of an old high school friend of mine I recently met with for lunch. He told me how he considers ESPN the worst journalistic institution in the US because they essentially make and then report on their own stories. Example #1 is of course “The Decision,” which was something they totally set up, and then mercilessly used as an opportunity to trash him.
And by trashing him, they were also cashing in on him. Ratings soared. Everyone profitted from his missteps. It’s in every sports journalist’s best interest for LeBron to continue saying outrageous things and then not winning a title. They have more to comment on, more opportunity to make money for themselves by bad-mouthing him. The closer he comes without sealing it, the better.
Frankly, the whole thing kind of disgusts me. It disgusts me much more, in fact, than the naive arrogance of a young man who became very famous very quickly. Those people owe so much of their livelihoods to James. If sports journalism were the world, James would be Atlas.
So, in my view, by being the overdog, the absolute best player in the world today, and possibly ever, James has become in at least some sense the underdog. Nearly everyone wants him to fail, and to keep failing. Realizing that has made me respect him more. I want him to overcome and quiet the critics, who were all too quick to turn on him when it suited them. So when I begin my travels again, I look forward to proclaiming myself a huge LeBron fan.
Besides, a big part of the success of many of the most popular travel writers is having unpopular opinions. Just think of VS Naipaul and the absurd things he said last year about female writers.
So I’m definitely a huge LeBron fan. We’ll start with that.