July 2010 - Posts
am going to begin this blog entry with a disclaimer. Yes, I am a fan of
the Miami Heat. Yes, I was born and raised
in Miami. Yes, although I
currently reside in Tampa, my sports allegiance – with the exception of
the Rays in the American
League – resides in South
Florida. I am an unapologetic Miami homer.
Now, with all that
having been said, is there
any more asinine and
ridiculous column than the one written by Phil Taylor at SI.com about
the Miami Heat? (see his full column here).
Taylor goes on to write,
with what I can only hope
is tongue-in-cheek disdain, about the new collaboration in South Florida
sports: Dwyane Wade, LeBron
James and Chris Bosh
joining forces in Miami. He talks about loving gifted players who chase
greatness, and thus this leads
him to hate the Heat?
Really? LeBron James making the choice to be a villain, making the
choice to take less money, and making
the choice to step out of
his back-to-back, two-time MVP spotlight in pursuit of multiple
championships is a bad thing?
this is a perfect example
of the complete hypocrisy that exists in the world of sports journalism
today. To be clear, I am
not a journalist nor do I
claim to be one. Still, I’ve been a sports fan and a student of sports
media long enough to be able
to speak about this matter
with a certain, weekend-warrior level of confidence.
our celebrity athletes to
be open and honest. We
chastise them as greedy when they leave championship caliber
organizations in pursuit of more money
(see former 49’er Ricky Watters, former Cowboy Larry Brown and former Buccaneer Dexter Jackson).
We hold them to higher moral standards than we do ourselves. Yet, when
LeBron James makes the gut-wrenching decision of
admitting he cannot, by
himself, achieve the level of greatness he seeks, when he reveals a
level of humility and vulnerability
that is rarely, if ever,
seen in an athlete of his stature, our first response is to vilify him.
Admittedly, the delivery
of the message was awful.
‘The Decision’, as aired by ESPN, was a nightmare, and the reception in
Miami, a party which was
indeed wretched and grossly
premature, was embarrassing. However, the court-jester messenger should
not take away from the
message; that being what
LeBron did in leaving Cleveland for less money, less spotlight and a ton
of hatred is unprecedented
in modern day sports.
of money, Mr. Taylor goes on his column to minimize the financial
sacrifice the Miami
Three have made in order to
play together. “I hate that we have become so accustomed to the
overwhelming greed of superstar
athletes that when the
Heat's threesome accepts roughly $110 million each when they could have
had closer to $120 million,
some people want to fit
them for angels' wings,” he writes. Let’s analyze that for a moment. Mr.
Taylor is suggesting – scoffing
really – that $10 million
dollars is nothing for these already wealthy, superstar athletes. When
you look at the $10 million
as a percentage of the
total contract (9%), things aren’t quite so clear. I have no idea of how
much Mr. Taylor earns yearly
as a writer for SI, but I
wonder if he would flippantly shrug and say “No big deal” if Sports
Illustrated asked him to take
a pay cut of 9%. That would
be the equivalent of going from a $100k salary to that of $91k. I am
hard pressed to find anyone
I know in my circle of
friends who would voluntarily take that type of pay decrease in pursuit
of a passion or dream. It’s
goes on to dismiss the idea that players coming together, collaborating
as friends and sacrificing
collectively in pursuit of
greatness, as something to be celebrated. “If the NBA turns into a
top-heavy league, I'll hate
the Heat even more for
starting the process.” What? Why doesn’t he instead direct that hate to
Danny Ainge, the general manager
of the Boston Celtics who
made key moves to obtain Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, establish the
modern day NBA model of the
‘Big Three’, and
subsequently win an NBA championship? Do you think Pat Riley would have
been inclined to aggressively dump
salary and clear cap space
in Miami had it not been for the precedent set by the Celtics?
Mr. Taylor indirectly
bashes D-Wade, LeBron and
Bosh for wanting to play together. My counter argument is this. With the
exception of Peter King,
why does anyone still read
Sports Illustrated? Steve Rushin is gone. Rick Reilly
is gone. Sports Illustrated as a media entity has slipped. Does Mr.
Taylor mean to suggest that if Rick Reilly were to call
him up and offer him the
opportunity to write columns for the pages of ESPN the Magazine, in
collaboration with Reilly and
Steve Rushin, he would turn
down the offer and cite the argument of pursuing greatness on his own?
Seriously, any national
sports writer who has less Twitter followers than I do (and I’m a nobody) is not going to achieve greatness on his own.
we get to the point where Phil
Taylor starts to make some
sense. He describes Miami as a city full of front-runner loving,
bandwagon jumping, hype-engulfing
fans. Mr. Taylor, tell me
something I don’t know. Have you BEEN to Miami? That city redefines
vanity. The only thing shallower
than water in a puddle is
the general approach to sports fandom in South Florida. Much in the same
way men on South Beach
pay a gross amount of
attention to women with cinnamon tans and implants, all the while
ignoring women who tend to not be
surgically enhanced, Miami
fans will love a team when it’s winning and not give that same team the
time of day when it’s losing.
That’s Miami. If you don’t
have the bling, the glitz and the glamour, don’t bother. LeBron, DWade
and Chrish Bosh ARE the
bling, the glitz and the
glamour. Of course all Heat fans are going to be infatuated with that.
It’s what we do best.
Taylor, I know I was rough
on you with my blog. For that I apologize. Still, hate the Miami Heat
all you want because I am
going to love, love, love
reading what you have to say next summer when the ‘Three My-Egos’ (as
you put it) are celebrating
their first NBA title.
Perhaps it's the unavoidable need to entertain the pessimistic voice in my
head. Perhaps it's the Friday morning hangover following the single-most
celebrated free agency acquisition in the history of the NBA. Perhaps it was the
5 pints of beer I consumed while feverishly watching 'The Decision' on ESPN.
Whatever the reason, I find myself hurling back to earth following the high of
LeBron James deciding to play for the Miami Heat.
I am a Heat fan. I am a fan of all teams from South Florida. Although I
reside in Tampa (Go Rays), my sports heart will always be tied to the 3-0-5 and
the franchises that call Miami home.
The euphoria with which the news of LeBron James' decision was received in
South Florida is understandable. The idea of a super-trio of basketball stars
sharing the court at the American Airlines Arena, three friends, all Olympic
gold medalists, paving the road toward more championship hardware. It is Miami's
own dream team. The question, however, is simple. Can Dwyane Wade, LeBron James
and Chris Bosh avoid the slippery slope that can quickly devolve this dream
scenario into a nightmare for Pat Riley?
This has nothing to do with ego. What these three professional athletes have
done is unprecedented. They have left money on the table – millions of dollars
in salary – for the opportunity to win championships. Not just one title.
Multiple titles. And that is where the intricate planning of Pat Riley, a plan
he set in motion over two years ago, can all come unraveled.
From here on forward, the expectations are simply ridiculous. Anything short
of an NBA title will be viewed as a failure. Anything short of multiple titles
will be viewed as a failure. There's no argument these three players, all of
whom are in their prime, are capable of delivering two or maybe three NBA
championships to South Florida. Still, what happens if they don't?
The situation staring the Miami Three in the face is akin to the joke by
comedian Eddie Izzard: Cake or death? There is no middle ground. There is no
acceptable level of accomplishment that does not culminate with obtaining a
ring. LeBron has reached the NBA Finals on his own. Chris Bosh has experience
early playoff exits in Toronto. Yes, Wade has a ring, but it's a title marred in
some circles by the questionable officiating of the 2006 finals and the 'Stern
hates Cuban' conspiracy theorists.
In a culture where winning is everything, Pat Riley and his Heat are in a
no-win situation. If they deliver one title, it will be celebrated but
diminished by the expectation of the ones still to come. If they don't win
titles at all, then this will all be regarded as a colossal failure and the
media backlash will be more insufferable than it already is. Their only option
is to win a slew of titles over the next five years. Only then will everyone be
able to look back on this Heat team with positive praise.
Compounding the problem is the fact Miami invented the concept of
'fair-weather' fans. With all due respect to the handful of loyalists that are
at every game, Miami is a city driven by trends and what's hot. Marlins pitcher
Josh Johnson may very well go on to win the NL Cy Young award this year, but no
one will hear about it because for the next eight months there will be no topic
hotter than the Heat. Even the Dolphins will take a backseat to the NBA this
fall, with only an improbable Super Bowl run being the one thing that would
avert our attention from the Heat's Triple Threat.
Miami fans are analogous to the guy at the bar buying drinks for the hot girl
only to leave her standing all alone so as to pursue the other hot girl that
just walked in. Can you say 1996 Florida Panthers? We're fickle. We're
impatient. We want to be seen courtside, but we attend games only when it's
convenient to us, and only if the team is winning. Yet this is what we wanted.
This is what we hoped for. We wanted to be the landing spot for the most coveted
free agents in the league. We wanted to be the center of the NBA universe. Now
that we're there, let's just hope the old adage isn't true. Be careful what you