Sorry, Sports Fans: LeBron James Is Telling the Truth ... a Truth I Told 16 Years Ago
LeBron James wasn't wrong with his post-game comments about fans who rooted against him and the Miami Heat in their NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks. He may have been talking from a position of wealth and privilege, not to mention spite, but he wasn't wrong. Not nearly.
Here's what he said about all of those anti-Heat, anti-LeBron James fans:
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 ... 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.
His words startled me when I read them. Not because they seemed spiteful but because they echoed, almost exactly, something I wrote 16 years ago.
In May 1995 I was at the Kingdome when Ken Griffey, Jr., our young superstar, flew into the right-centerfield wall and fractured his wrist making a great catch against the Baltimore Orioles. He would be on the Disabled List for three months, maybe more. We were worried in Seattle. I was worried. So I wrote an Op-Ed for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Junior, which began with the following:
I returned to baseball four years ago with what I thought was an adult attitude about the game. No matter if my team won or lost I kept things in perspective. Randy Johnson strikes out fifteen guys, I'm still working the same job. Edgar Martinez injures his ankle, I've still got the same problems, the same goals, the same friends, the same enemies. Nothing about my life has changed except this or that vicarious victory or defeat.
James' comments, which echo my own, angered sports fans and columnists around the country. Jason Reid of The Washington Post wrote that “James put his foot in his mouth again ... essentially saying his approach wouldn’t change and all the people who rooted against him were stuck with their depressing little lives.” Abram Lufrano of Bleacher Reporter wrotes that James was essentially saying the following: “I am LeBron James and I have a better life than all of you losers.” James even had to walk back his comments from these interpretations. He had to say he wasn't talking from a position of superiority.
Who knows? But it doesn't surprise me that James' comments caused such a furor. He was not only telling the truth, he was digging past the cliches and the rhetoric and the lies to articulate the central truth of modern sports. The lie that covers up this truth, though—that it somehow matters to us if the Mavs win, or, to me, if the Yankees lose—is what allows him to live the way he does. In the end, I thought it rather brave of him to bring it up at all.
LeBron (left , a professional athlete) got in trouble for the same remarks that I (right, a sports fan) wrote 16 years ago.