Welcome to a scorching New York Wednesday, my Puddlers. Although, it seems like the entire country is suffering from the heat. You already know how I feel about it: bring it on, bring on the madness, bring on the homicide and score it to this song.
Speaking of the Heat—well I won't go into yet another collapse by Miami last night. The Heat's penchant for playing better when their backs are up against the wall is getting extremely infuriating and hopefully it doesn't cost them the series. In any case, this NBA Finals is shaping up to be an extremely memorable one, which is fresh on the heels of last year's excellent seven game series between the Lakers and the Celtics. All good things for the NBA.
While we are on the topic, Alex Theoharides is here today in his regular slot to weigh in on hating the Miami Heat and why its good to generally hate different players in sports. I'll leave it to Mr. Theoharides from here.
On Sports Villains or How Lebron James’s Decision Made the NBA Finals Interesting Again.
Look, as a sport’s fan I can’t stand the Miami Heat. It’s in my fan DNA to dislike them - even prior to their current run of amateurish exhibitionism. Back when the New York Knicks were coached by Jeff Van Gundy and still played de-fence, the Heat were their last great rival. Their games were epic slugfests, filled with flagrant fouls, bench clearing brawls and suspensions. When I think of the Heat, I still think first of Tim Hardaway’s lickity-split crossover, PJ Brown tossing Charlie Ward over his shoulders, and Van Gundy hanging on to Alonzo Mourning’s ankles like a bratty toddler who didn’t want his father to leave for work (otherwise known as my favorite NBA highlight … ever). Those Miami Heat were easy to hate (anyone else find it interesting that Heat and hate have the same 4 letters? no? just me? great.) because they played an ugly brand of basketball. However, I always had a begrudging respect for them. The Heat of old weren’t sports’ villains, but simply grisly veterans willing to knock someone down if it meant they could advance to the next round of the playoffs. The Knicks were no different, perhaps even worse, and collectively the two teams so ruined the aesthetic of the NBA game that Commander, excuse me, Commissioner Stern had to institute sweeping rule changes into the league.
This Miami Heat team is different. Lebron and Wade play beautiful, sometimes breathtaking basketball. They defend, they attack the rim, they go after offensive rebounds, they make highlight play after highlight play … in short they play basketball exactly how it should be played. Still I hate them. I hate the way they came together. I hate the way they celebrate every good run as if they just won an A.A.U championship. And I hate how easy the game comes to them. Look, I admire the Heat, but I don’t respect them. I love watching them play basketball, but I don’t like the way they turned the NBA into a league in which superstars can just decide they only want to play with each other. I hate the Heat, I hate the Heat, I … I can’t stop watching the Heat.
Villains are great for sports. They give otherwise neutral sports fans a clear understanding of who they should root for, and, more importantly, who they should root against. Sports are more entertaining when fans have a vested interest, however insignificant, in the outcome. Some of my greatest childhood memories are of watching my favorite villain, Michael Jordan, repeatedly defeat every single fragging (yes, as in Battle Star Galactica) team in the NBA year after year, with that same damn wagging of his tongue. However, not all sport’s villains come in the same shape and size. Some, like Jordan, are all villains because of their greatness. They are only villains to those who root against them. Others, well, how about, in keeping with Dictator Domino, I just make a list. (Please note the high total of Knicks and Yankees, aka, my attempt to not play favorites)
The Michael Jordan Division
True superstars, whose talent renders the outcome of games entirely too predictable; true superstars who break the hearts of sports fans year after year with their on field exploits, their perfect shots, or throws, or catches.
Yes, as in Wayne Gretzky, the great one, who I loved to watch, but who millions secretly detest because he, like everyone else in this list, was a pretty boy, who always seemed to get all the calls, all the stats, and yes many of the wins.
Ty Cobb Division
Truly unlikable sonsofbitches, loved only by their team’s most ardent fans, and disliked by teammates and foes alike, who seemed to care more about their stats then they did about their teams performances
The Bill Romanowski Division
Hardworking, needle-some, whiny players, who made up for either their lack of age or talent, by barking at opponents, cheating at every good opportunity, and generally acting like Class A boors.
Kevin Garnett (circa 2008 -2011)
The Orel Hershiser Division
Goody two shoes players, who somehow always seemed keen on reminding you of exactly how great they were, in a way, somewhat reminiscent of that kid we all had in math class, who not only got the answer first, but then preceded to spend five minutes telling you all about how he got the answer first. We get it Oral, you were a great pitcher, yes, you won all those games in the playoffs, yes, yes you were great. Just shove it already! It doesn’t help that these fine folk have a cruel tendency to end up as sports broadcasters.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar
J.J. Reddick (Duke version)
Christian Laettner (Duke version)
Basically any Duke player besides Grant Hill
The Manny Ramirez Division
Just Manny being Manny.