At the moment, I am enthusiastically watching the Heat-Lakers game. But a few minutes ago, I paused and said to myself, “why the hell are you watching the Heat-Lakers game?” It was a valid question. And it reminded me of a recent piece by Joe Posnanski, who is just about the greatest sports writer alive.
Before this season, I would explain my relationship with the NBA as something I tried when I was younger, I am glad I experienced it, but it’s in the past and I probably wouldn’t go down that road again. Kind of like a threesome in college. I would argue how the NBA sucks compared to NCAA basketball; it is an individual, every-man-for-himself type of sport, as opposed to a true team playing solely for pride. I would add in that the only time I watch the NBA is to see my friends from Duke play. While I have always been impressed with the skill level in the NBA, it just wasn’t for me. Or so I thought.
And then this season happened. I am sure that part of my apathy had to do with the fact that the Knicks were a disaster for the past decade. It is hard to care about your team, or care as much about your team, when they have no shot at making the playoffs. It is especially hard to care when they are run by the maniacal, destructive Isaiah Thomas. He, in part, made me despise the NBA. But now that the Knicks are good again, I am totally back on board. Like a fucking superfan. I have been almost as loyal to them this season, in terms of game watching, as I am to the Yankees. This has totally blown my mind. So, yes, I am a hypocrite; I apparently heart the NBA.
Pondering this further, I came to the realization that it is not the Knicks that turned me into a superfan. They simply took me from like second base to around third. While I went into this season curious about Amar’e, I really didn’t care. I was not running home from work to catch the start of Knicks’ games. It was not until the Knicks actually seemed decent and fun to watch that I, you know, began to watch. That said, from the very start of the season, I was racing home to watch NBA games - just not the Knicks. I could not wait to see Lebron James fail miserably, to the point that I have actively followed the Miami Heat all season only to see if they will self-destruct. I have never loved the NBA as much as I do right now.
Joe Posnanski recently wrote a piece about this very subject. You should read the whole thing, because it is awesome. Entitled “The Joy of Rooting Against LeBron,” he explains why it is so much fun to hate the Heat – and he does it much more eloquently than I am doing now. He also mentions a new book coming out about Lebron, called The Whore of Akron, by Scott Raab. I think the Whore of Akron is just about the best nickname ever. Regardless, like Joe Pos, I have been genuinely motivated by Lebron and his Heat; he single-handedly morphed me into a rabid pro-basketball fan. And it got me thinking. Because there is only one other person who has changed my life out of the sheer disgust he inspired – and that is George W. Bush.
In late 2002, when I was a sophomore at Duke, I started paying attention. It was definitely a product of my environment - and especially a public policy class I was in at the time, called “Women as Leaders,” taught by the incredible Dr. Betsy Alden. Until that point, I had considered myself a Republican; I was even registered as one. I blame my mother for that. Nevertheless, around that time, I began to really care about…I don’t know the right word, but we will go with…the underdog. I became passionate about women’s rights, child rights, minority rights, all of those wonderful liberal causes that were significantly restricted under the Bush regime. I listened to our President create words and give people nicknames and ignore so many problems that were going on in our own country, as we went to war with two others. It infuriated me. It left me disgusted. I cared. All of a sudden, out of no where, I was a passionate Democrat, infatuated with the news. I still am today.
Whether you agree with my political views is really not the issue. My point is only that George W. Bush was so incredibly polarizing, and he angered such a large number of seemingly random groups to the point that he united them. And Lebron James has done the same thing. Lebron has made me care. He has made me sympathetic towards the city of Cleveland, when I used to regard it as nothing more than a punch line. He makes me not only hope for Miami to lose, but to be humiliated – sort of like how I feel about Republicans and congressional races. He has even made me fall in love again with my Knickerbockers.
Lebron and Dubya. Good god, both men completely changed my life. Both men have the same command over the English language, and neither fully grasps just how deeply people despise them. I cannot even explain why I detest Lebron like I do, at least not in a succinct way like I can with President Bush the Second. All I can say is that I thought “The Decision” was disgusting. But when it comes down to it, my disgust for Lebron makes me race home from work to watch NBA games on a regular basis. Like tonight. Which still just blows my mind. Because all of a sudden, I love the NBA. And I really need to thank The Whore of Akron for that.