Something written about sports columns on ESPN’s Grantland caught my eye this week. I try to fight the stigma that I work in an antiquated industry, in newspaper, that my job is in fact one of an old-fashioned, dying breed. Depressing stuff just talking about it.
It’s not easy. I like the Internet, it’s a real helpful monster. I don’t want to not be friends with it, and I want the Internet to like me, which is surprising considering Al Gore.
Writing sports columns is such a wide-reaching and undefined animal that sometimes readers don’t recognize the intent of a piece. Other times they identify with the writing and its effort really registers. While others, they pass over without even reading.
“This is what columnists do,” writes Grantland staffer Bryan Curtis. “They make sense of what makes little sense. And if they fall on their faces, they try again next week.”
After last week, let’s peel my face off the ground, out from under an Internet commenting thread, and try again. I’m sorry Crossfit, I did not mean to offend. I carry no strong opinions about what you guys do. You’re all in great shape for a reason: Crossfit is a definite physical feat. Bad timing on my part contributed to what I hope can be viewed as a misunderstanding.
Opinions are like donkeys. Everyone has one, but no one wants a donkey running around in the house.
Wait, that’s not how it goes.
Dave Smith, a New York Times columnist from 1971-2007 once wrote: “When you’re a sports reporter, people think you want to be an athlete. I didn’t want to be Joe DiMaggio. I wanted to be Red Smith,” (longtime New York Times columnist).
Goosfraba, Wooosaaa. *massages earlobes*
LeBron James and Tim Tebow aren’t compared enough. So let’s do that.
The two polarizing sports figures who, for some reason, rouse confusingly bipolar reactions from sports fans. People want to hate LeBron and they try so very hard to love Tebow when their athletic achievements would suggest the opposite.
Tebow is an afterthought of a quarterback; Danny Wuerffel without a throwing arm, the good angel on Ryan Leaf’s shoulder who Leaf never listened to.
Sometimes I wonder if the Tebow debate is good for sports as that little reminder that there are good people out there who will withstand countless criticisms and hold up their beliefs. Other times, like almost all of the time in a day, I think Tim Tebow doesn’t matter at all to football.
There are several reasons I think the Patriots picked him up, each as obnoxious as the next. My favorite, supported by the KGB conspiracy-theory-mongering in the news this week, is that Bill Belichick wants to start filming teams illegally again and Spygate 2.0 will involve Tebow as the ultimate ruse, eating up all the media time and allowing boxing sweater Belicheck to get away with NSA-level surveillance.
Maybe Tom Brady is tired of all the male model attention. Maybe Tim Tebow. Who knows.
Then there’s LeBron. For the sake of my effort here let’s call him lovable LeBron. Just say it out loud to yourself. Go ahead, say it. I need you in the right mindset.
Stop hating, just for a minute.
Sure, he could take some lessons in humility. So could a lot of pro athletes.
His despised ego is only matched by the fuel fans’ hate is given by the non-stories in the media. His principal basketball battle is not the other team, or even the ostrich-like tendencies of Chris Bosh, but his own basketball specters. What are those? Well, they’re a group of people and a sports network he can’t fairly fastbreak hammer-dunk over.
Their names are ESPN, Michael Jordan, and Bill Russell. Tell me that LeBron is or is not the greatest all-around offensive player and I’ll tell you to stop saying nonsensical things to me. The “greatest of all-time debate” is an air-time filler trick used by the likes of the Worldwide Leader that carries little credibility. There’s no way to compare the lackadaisical wind sprint-deserving poor defensive era of today’s game to the eras of Jordan and Russell. It’s just a different game.
Sure, players still foul hard come playoff time, but the regular season is something of a wintertime ice show where players glide around, careful not to run into each other, exaggerating contact as if they were in fact slipping on ice.
We’re getting off track here.
Let’s say you told a guy that you pulled out of a 30-year cryogenic state, for overused analogy’s sake, and you told him about on-the-field Tim Tebow and on-the-court LeBron James, the players without all the outside distractions. Assuming this person is sports-minded, they’ll probably wonder why you’re even telling them about a quarterback who threw for 36 yards all last year.
It’s really unfortunate that we even have to write about Tebow — we could be using this column space to solve football’s concussion problem or talk about Troy Tulowizki’s sadly fragile, beautiful shortstop’s body — but Tebow is relevant again because we see the impending hell of his media mania foretold in the early storylines of the 2013 NFL season.
LeBron James just won his second NBA title, and was unstoppably dominant in doing so. People don’t and won’t like LeBron, even if he wins five, or six, or seven, championships because he was a cocky boob about “The Decision.”
Get over it.
The guy makes a no-defense NBA fun to watch, and he deserves praise for his performance that has two-years full of on-court accomplishments to quash stories of his puffy-chested entourage, his drop bottles of champagne from the club ceiling parties, and anything else that shouldn’t matter when I’m watching a basketball game.
Stories written and broadcast that aren’t sports stories change athletes into “sports figures.” Remember Manti T’eo?
As I’ve said before, all this can be cleared up if you stop listening to people like me (journalists), and just watch the damn game.
Brad Estes is the Sheridan Press sports editor. His column runs every Saturday.