|I've heard wanting to win at all costs is a way of life, too, but I'll have to take LeBron's word for it. Maybe it has something to do with being a Yankees fan.|
The Decision, for its depraved lack of subtlety, is not without its valuable lessons. LeBron made a rather sick display, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert responded in kind, and every sports journalist in America (along with some ESPN employees) overreacted to both of them. All of the overreactions can teach us Cubs fans a thing or three about the dangers inherent in caring about sports.
Sport is, by definition, an exercise in amusement, so the waves of reactionary rage rippling through the sports world betray the concept of entertainment just a tad. For LeBron, basketball is his profession (as is inflating his image, and I don't mean that sarcastically; his image is his livelihood). I understand why this is important to him. Dan Gilbert stands to lose a lot of games and a lot of money, so I understand why he's angry along with the citizens of Cleveland who suffer the economic ramifications of LBJ's departure. The rest of the outrage feeds off moral indignation and jilted fanaticism. I ride on both bandwagons as much as the next guy, so I can't criticize too heavily except to say we should all probably just move on to the learning stage of this saga.
The first lesson, taught by Professor James, is that people who win don't befriend too many losers along the way. The New York Yankees and their fans don't care that you don't like them. Their goal is not to win friends but to win championships. If the public were to arrive at a consensus that the Yankees are fair, modest, and considerate of the desires of their small-market competitors, someone by the name of Steinbrenner would start firing people until that perception met it its untimely doom. Anyone who really wants to win at all costs will suffer a considerable amount of hatred and dismiss it happily as collateral damage.
An insatiable desire to win will make people do unpopular things. For those with power, talent, and foresight, acts of desperation usually correspond to strides of great progress (and the occasional embarrassing LeBronesque largesse). For the Cubs and their fans, desperation usually just leads to stupidity. We want the Cubs to win so badly, we're willing to believe it's possible. We'll offer up suggestions that, if followed, are sure to make it happen. We'll buy tickets and merchandise and electronic delivery systems that allow us to feed the Cubs' coffers in the hopes that our financial and emotional investments will lead to a championship that is all the more honorable and valuable because of its overwhelming unlikelihood.
When the miracle doesn't happen, we have a chance to learn the lesson taught in glorious Comic Sans by Dan Gilbert. He was angry. Langston Hughes told us what to expect when a dream is deferred, and in Gilbert's case, it exploded. It's not cause for intense analysis anymore than Z's dugout tirade was. He was angry. Angry people say and do stupid things sometimes. Whoa! Shocker! The lesson: don't put a whole lot of stock in what angry people say. And maybe try not to get so angry about a game.
When the Cubs lose, we tend to respond by saying ridiculously stupid things. Sometimes in defiance of the team, sometimes in their defense, but more often than not in stupidity. I don't want to begrudge people their murderous Cubs rants. They are what they are. I just want to make sure we understand that what they are is generally stupid. It's a way of life, not a way of genius.
The third and final lesson comes from all the fans and media members who feel the need to spout off about these events as though it's Churchill and Roosevelt in whose hands the state of the world rests. I don't expect people to stop discussing it, but do we have to take it all so seriously? The same goes for the Cubs. Obviously, I'm a Cubs blogger so I'm devoting an unnatural allotment of time and effort to this baseball team. It's a sickness, and I understand that. Save yourselves! But seriously, if I may be so bold, I suggest we enjoy this team for the amusement they provide and to walk away when it starts feeling like suffering. Maybe not a total break up, but a break nonetheless. Hey, look, it's three days off, right on time!
To sum up the LeBron thoughts, we have ambitious guy, angry guy, and analyst people, all of whom are primarily concerned with a bouncy ball and guys in shorts. I'm as guilty as anyone of caring too much about any of that. And all I've got to say is . . .