Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Never-Ending Hypocrisy of Sports Fans

Can't Beat Em, Join Em'.
About a week ago my brother Zeph and I were discussing our thoughts on the NBA's pending free agency period. During the colorful conversation we mostly lamented the fact that our beloved Lakers didn't have a chance at any marquee superstar on the market. When the discussion shifted to Kevin Durant it was brief. Zeph pointed out something I wholeheartedly agreed with. "What does he do?", I pondered. "He stays. As I see it, he needs to be loved. He doesn't want people to hate him. He's too mentally fragile to handle the criticism of leaving like LeBron. He's never going to leave because he's too weak to leave." His words more or less. I agreed that Durant, from what one could reasonably surmise from such a far distance, DID care about being loved. He seemed overly sensitive.

Some may remember an OKC paper openly and fairly questioning Durant's performance as a clutch player after a horrid playoff game a few years back. Something every paper does in every other major city does to its star player in any sport after they have a bad game But Durant didn't like it. In fact, he was livid. The OKC front office rushed to defend Durant, putting out a statement critical of the article. Teammates lashed out at the reporter during the next media session and even Durant's mother offered a dissenting opinion. The pushback was so great from the team, the fans, and Durant's camp, that the paper actually issued an apology. So yeah. I agreed. Kevin Durant was mentally weak when it came to handling criticism, be it warranted or not.

Cut to yesterday and as I see it Durant made the ONE choice, that while it yields the best chance of professional success, it also carries the most criticism. And as I see it was the HARDER of all the choices he could have made. If he stays in OKC, nothing changes. They run it back because after all they were only one win from the Finals. He goes to the Spurs, he's seen as the true heir to Duncan and their final piece. The Celtics, he's seen as the first true transcendent superstar to pick Boston in free agency, teaming with Al Horford as a rival to combat Cleveland's stranglehold on the Eastern conference. Miami, he seen as having been lured by the great Pat Riley as the Heat pulled another horseshoe out of its tanned, sun spotted ass, and Durant offers a true challenge for LeBron in LeBron's old stomping grounds no less. But he picked Golden State.

On the surface the move look like what amounts to the United States increasing its already bloated defense spending. By all estimations the Warriors have amassed the most in their prime top level talent in league history. Four of the league's 12 best players, and all three of its greatest shooters are on ONE TEAM. Fuck! And you know what, I think they're going to be amazing. All those open jumpers Harrison Barnes misses, Durant doesn't. It's a team and culture that truly thrives off of teamwork and ball movement. Which is what made their final possession of the season so maddening. It didn't look anything like Golden State. A hobbled Steph Curry going iso, struggling to try to get past the flat footed Kevin Love to put up a hopeless jumper. Next season they may not win 73, but we would all agree even with 60-65 wins that team will be better than last season.

The New Normal
Yesterday Zeph and I talked. He expressed like many of you disappointment in Durant's decision. Called him and this whole generation of players "weak pussies." To which I say when it's not your team, yes it sucks. The Cavs fans hated LBJ and the Heatles. Not just because James was leaving them. In part it was the idea of three superstars teaming up to achieve the only goal of the sport; win a championship! How dare them! This is pussy shit Cleveland said...Until James went home and used the same formula, two all-stars (James and Love) joining an already entrenched franchise player (Irving) to take the Cavs to two straight Finals and one title. Super teams didn't seem to bother Gilbert and Cavs fans these pass two seasons.

Even Zeph doesn't mind it. He just doesn't remember he doesn't. In 2011 for one day, the Lakers acquired Chris Paul. On the roster they had Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. By all accounts they planned on using their remaining first round pick along with Bynum to lure a still very much in his prime Dwight Howard from Orlando. Bryant. CP3. Howard. Pau. Let me day dream a second.... Okay I'm back to the real world which is a hellscape where Paul is on the Clippers, Kobe and Pau are gone, and the Lakers suck.

But that day, I didn't hear any noise from Zeph about players being pussies for teaming up. It felt good to think LA was doing what Miami was doing at the time. Stacking the deck and giving themselves the best chance to win. But when it's LBJ and the Cavs, or the Heat, and now Durant and the Warriors it's unfair. The talk is MJ wouldn't do this. Magic and Bird wouldn't do this. Well they wouldn't because they couldn't move so freely. It's akin to Black people today trying to convince me, or rather themselves, if they were alive in 1820 they wouldn't conform to slavery. We are all nothing but products of our time and the work of the generations before us. Durant has seen players before him slaving away (excuse the term) on shit teams year after year with no title to show for it. He didn't want to be that guy.

73 wins are not, THIS is a better team than the 2016 Warriors.

Zeph said he'll never watch the NBA again. Which knowing him, he actually won't. Zeph's nothing if not a man of his word. But others are saying the same thing, but you will. You'll watch. Because sports is the world's great reality show. Nothing is promised or scripted. If so, the 73 win juggernaut would be the champion. Games still need to be played. And as we've seen, anything is possible.

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