Monday, December 7, 2009

Dancing With The Stars

After Friday night's match between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls, a fair share of media attention was diverted from the final result (Cleveland won) to an off-the-court incident: Chicago's Joakim Noah apparently felt disrespected by Lebron James' dancing to the sweet music of victory, and called him a bitch. A minor incident such as an athlete dancing - not murder, not theft, not even sticking a tongue out at a child spectator - stirred up a media controversy, adding to a list of events that transpired over the past year, and have each helped in portraying Lebron as an arrogant ass. I will now make an honest attempt to ignore my utter disbelief that anyone would find this newsworthy, if only to say this.

So - Freaking - What?

I mean, seriously? Dancing? We're getting pissed off at dancing? You know who dances? Dancers. Are dancers arrogant? Are dancers disrespectful? When was the last time you read a headline about dancers? And among those single-digit-numbered events, how many times did the aforementioned headline make you think "Wow, I really care about what happened over there, tell me more!"

But fine. Let's assume for a second that dancing isn't nice. Let's say that celebrating victories in basketball is a matter to be confined to high-fives only, excluding the occasional chest bump. Not only that, but let's all agree that dancing in front/in proximity to a defeated opponent is arrogant, and that said dancer is obviously a self absorbed prick.

Are you seriously surprised about it?

Lebron James makes millions of dollars a year, just to play basketball. In addition, he probably makes even more money by graciously allowing various companies to print his name over their products. Every time he comes to work at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, he may or may not notice himself covering nearby building(s). He was featured on a magazine as a high schooler. He was dubbed "The Chosen One" and "The King" as a teenager. Hell, the whole New York tri-state area has been obsessing on the sheer possibility of him maybe - or maybe not - moving there in the summer of 2010. That talk has been around since 2007. And now you're complaining that he's self absorbed? How could he not be self absorbed?! He's just trying to focus on what the rest of the world is!

This is not Lebron's problem. This goes way deeper. Every single sports fan - every, f-ing, single, one - wishes they had the physical abilities to have a sports career. Anyone who denies so is a liar. I've been playing basketball since I was 4. I believed I could be an NBA player until I was 12. I am 5'8, and whiter than snow. You can guess how that played out.

But since so many people wish to do what they love for a living - and so little actually do - us less talented ones hitch on for the ride. We find ourselves in those who made it. "Wow, look at Chris Paul! He's almost as short as me! I like that dude!" And since we look up at these people, we wish with all our might that they be look-upable (you're damn right I just made up a word for my angry tirade).

But sometimes - more often than not - they just aren't. Maybe because they were born as assholes - you know who you are - and maybe because they grew up in an environment that just didn't enable them to grow as such. Doesn't matter. Not the point. The point is that some athletes are good people, and some are not. But very few, if at all, are worthy of the adulation we shower them with. Most of us feel under pressure when asked to speak at a family dinner. These people perform in front of millions on a nightly basis - get paid ungraspable amounts to do so - see their names on peoples coats, shirts, shorts, socks, shoes, underwear, hats, wristbands, headbands, and whateverbands - open the paper/news every morning just to see themselves there - and retire at an age when most of us are just getting started, not before being immortalized by memories, history books, jerseys with their names and numbers hanging in arenas, and sometimes even life sized statues. Put yourself in that position. You wouldn't think ever-so-slightly higher of yourself?

Charles Barkley once half-complained, half-explained that he is no role model. Whether he wanted to or not, he was speaking on behalf of the entire athletic community. He is, and they are, not role models. If they were, maybe they would have been teachers, or world leaders, or dead. Doesn't matter. They are not good at setting examples, they are good at being athletes. And as such, we should stop idolizing them, only to declare them dead whenever they do wrong (ahem, Tiger Woods), but accept them for what they are - very, very good athletes, and human beings nonetheless. And if we can't do that, at least lets not waste our time covering pointless things instead of actually watching the beautiful world of sports.

And just so it'd be clear: If I was the best basketball player on the planet, I would be dancing too. And I'd be damned if hurting Joakim Noah's feelings stopped me.


  1. How did this generate 0 comments? HOW?! I totally disagree with you, lol. Either way, this deserves some sort of response. I'll respond in full when I have more time. I just popped in and this was a good read, but I got your response...soon!

  2. It was a good write as well. I await your response

  3. Random aside: "...he probably makes even more money by graciously allowing various companies to print his name over their products." How is it GRACIOUS when he gets millions for that? LOL, if anything, you have it backwords, Noam.

    I'm confused about your thesis, because I do not see a direct link between dancing, which disrespects the opponent, and Charles Barkley's comments/Tiger Woods' sexual escapades. I think there is a leap in logic somewhere in there. I would not equate the two, but I will discuss each as a separate issue.

    I think there is an unwritten code in most sports. When people do not follow them, other teams get pissed off. LeBron's dancing was one of them. So was the 2007 Patriots running up the score on every opponent that gave them the opportunity. So is shooting the ball before time expires even though you've already secured a victory in the NBA. It's the same thing. There is no rule against it, it's just frowned upon. To me, LeBron's dancing is that, to a lesser degree. Joakim had a right to be angry, because he, too, has an ego. The school of thought that I find hard to argue with would say something like, "If you don't want him to dance, don't give him the chance." Btw, that wasn't supposed to rhyme, originally. Did you happen to catch Kevin McHale on Pardon the Interruption shortly after? He mentioned that he would have incurred a fine and potential ejection if someone was dancing against him. That's old school. If I'm playing basketball, nobody's going to disrespect me like that and get away with it. I don't care if it's LeBron or the Pope. I never had a problem with him not shaking hands after he lost to Orlando. I did have a problem with him not speaking to the media. Ditto.

    As for Barkley's argument, I think that if you talked to him now, he might have flipped the script a little bit. Now, I'm largely libertarian when it comes to issues like these. I do not like forcing my beliefs on anyone. I think you're right when you mention that athletes are just professional sports players that do their job. If only it were that simple. They have rights, and they're human. With those rights, however, come social responsibilities. Every American citizen has social responsibilities. Just read Mary Ann Glendon's "Rights Talk" or listen to Dennis Prager. Athletes are in the public eye, so they have to be more careful. They're used to playing games, and to be successful, they have to PLAY THE GAME, if you know what I am saying. Regardless of if I agree with the rules that are setup the way they are, I agree that they have responsibilities. There are my two cents. Take from them what you will.