I've been a pretty casual sports fan most of my life, though NFL football is my main sports passion now. I got drawn back into the NBA this playoff season for the first time since the Jordan-Bird-Magic days primarily because of the drama surrounding LeBron James and his arrogant, oblivious treatment of fans and my feeling that he was a symbol of all that was wrong with sports and our modern culture.
It's hard to believe now, but when I went back to college to get my degree in the mid-1990s, my goal was to enter sportscasting or a sports-related media field. But the advent of ESPN, the cancerous me-firstism of idiots like Chris Berman, and the adoration of announcer hair gel and blustery opinion over what was actually happening on the court or field quickly repelled me.
Now here I was driven back into a "love of the game" solely because of hate. I hated LeBron James, and I cheered for his Miami Heat to lose. His life of pampered ease, his lack of loyalty, his attempting to take the easy way to a championship instead of shouldering the burden to lift a lesser team to the trophy all seemed reasons to root against him. After his team's failure in the championship series, and his poor, gutless performance, he sat in his post-game conference and chided all of us haters because we had to get up on Monday and go back to our regular, mundane lives while he went to his mansion and a summer of jet-setting celebrity ease.
And my hatred turned to sorrow. Because I realized my hate was just another form of what he was engaging in--a lack of humility and a certainty of what the universe should look like. I didn't want him to win the easy way. Now it will be hard. If he can win now, it will be because he took a deep examination of his life and the sycophants he surrounded himself with, the buffers from the reality we "normal" people face every day. Yet we all know of failure, and overcoming tough odds, and how victory is sweeter when it's tempered on the forge of hardship and sacrifice. If he can do that, I'd love to watch, and even cheer for him.
Sports may not have a lot to do with writing, but today I am incredibly grateful for my own blessings. A hillbilly nerd sitting at his keyboard can live out his dream--but failure was pretty common for many years. Rejection, bad decisions, and pure bad timing and luck all kept a goal out of my reach, even though I had enough ego and hubris to sustain me when success was elusive--there was always someone else to blame. But I never doubted. At least, never enough to stop writing. I somehow figured it would all work out, and either way, I wouldn't know what else to do.
Failure is not only always an option, it's the default setting. Today I celebrate faith, love, and possibility, so why not rise above wishing failure on someone else? Winning inside your own heart is better than winning any championship, trophy, or prize.