On Saturday, L.A. Times columnist and Around the Horn regular Bill Plaschke asked NBA fans, “How dare you? How dare you hate the Miami Heat?” The guy who regularly makes Woody Paige look intelligent shook his ham fist at the heavens and pondered for 1,000 words why sports fans could hate the Heat, and what LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have done to deserve the scorn and ire of the majority of fans not living in Miami (or pretending they live there, for that matter). And even though Plaschke’s argument makes very little sense, uses poor franchise comparisons and contradicts itself, I thought the idea of this “hate” issue should finally be addressed.
Since “The Decision” aired on ESPN and from the day that James, Wade and Bosh were introduced in some sort of nightclub/man orgy celebration in Miami, it’s been a case of us and them. Us – the anti-Miami, the fans of so-called fairness, balance and order, those of us who despised the grandstanding and boasting before the season even began – against the idea that two superstars and Bosh could do something unprecedented to establish a dynasty and people should just be expected to love the Heat for that. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
To preface this argument and rant, there is plenty of hate in the world, and so much of it is misguided, ignorant and all-around despicable. To advocate any kind of hate is a slippery argument because it endorses the idea that we should dislike someone so much for a differing opinion, or in this case an opposing loyalty. However, unlike vitriol-inducing topics like politics and religion, sports are simple. At least they should be. I don’t like your team and you don’t like mine, but at the end of the day it’s just a sport and we’ve all got lives to get back to when they’re over. James touched on that after last night’s game, and he’s right.
That’s the main point that Plaschke, Dan Le Batard and other columnists miss when they preach to us that we’re not allowed to hate the Heat for no reason. I am allowed to hate the Miami Heat. You are allowed to hate the Miami Heat. Your father, mother, brother, sister, cousin, neighbor, dog, bird, imaginary friend – they are all allowed to hate the Miami Heat. We don’t ever have to justify it to anyone because that is our right as sports fans, so long as we recognize the distinction between where sports end and reality begins.
With that said, I’m offering a Declaration of Hate to put an end to this frivolous, troll-baiting idea once and for all. We hate one side because we love another, and when three grown men claim to be the best in the league join together and vow to win title after title, there will be hate, and there is not a thing that any player, coach, analyst or columnist can say to change that.
The Basic Right to Hate
As the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Lakers, among others, have shown us, success breeds contempt. For the Yankees, it’s the idea that an owner can spend whatever he wants to win a championship while fans of small market teams are forced to live on a prayer. The Lakers more recently provided an example of the idea that a star’s personal behavior (Someone please direct Plaschke’s attention to the summer of 2003 for his Lakers argument) could turn an entire league’s fans against that franchise.
At some point Wade, James and Bosh had to have realized that the fans of the other 29 NBA teams were not going to like them very much for their decision to team up. After all, the greatest source of a sports fan’s hate is that it’s not his team winning. Heat fans will point out that fans of other teams would take James in a heartbeat. Of course we would, we’re not morons. But that’s hypothetical, and this is reality. In reality, we hate the Miami Heat because our teams didn’t do what they did.
And for most people that is the only reason they should ever need when someone asks why they hate. Other than “Because I do”, of course.
Screw Your Star Player(s)
Even if you think that it’s been long enough since “The Decision” aired and that people should forget it, some people won’t. Namely, fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers won’t and they don’t have to. While most of us know that the blame can be spread a long way in James leaving Cleveland – specifically to owner Dan Gilbert – some Cavs fans will simply never forgive James. NBA fans with no tie to Cleveland other than they’ve watched the Cavs play may never forgive James because no free agency announcement has ever been handled so poorly, with James and Maverick Carter using the Boys and Girls Club as a shield and ultimately playing the race card.
Aside from the Decision, though, perhaps no other athlete in the modern era has been held under a microscope as much as James. Hell, Alex Rodriguez is the highest paid player in baseball, was busted for using steroids and lying about it, and he was forgiven in a matter of months. James, on the other hand, is dominant and exciting to watch play, but he just seems to mishandle every major thing that he does or says. He’s constantly digging himself a hole without ever stopping to say, “I’m only human.” It’s that expectation that we should adore him while he’s given us very little to adore that makes us hate him.
What goes for James in this discussion also goes for any other superstar face of a franchise. If fans don’t like the main man, they’re not going to like the team. James and the Heat, Bryant and the Lakers, Rodriguez and the Yankees, Tom Brady and the Patriots – they’re all hated by so many people, for various reasons obviously, but only one ultimately matters. We hate what we can’t have, and we hate what we don’t get.