Every four years we can count on several things in the world of sports. There is an Olympics, a World Cup, and LeBron James selects a new team to which he will bring his talents. In the wake of his selection come regurgitated arguments as to how good of a player he is, how terrible of a person he is, and how his legacy will be viewed in both aforementioned categories.
LeBron is unanimously hailed as the best player in basketball, yet people bash his legacy because he has not won enough or because when he chose to go to a team that would win he abandoned his team and whatever happened to loyalty!
We simultaneously are in love with and despise our sports icons. We rag on them when they haven’t won enough, stating those that have won more are better. But when a player like LeBron chooses to go to a winning environment we chastise him, declaring that he should have remained loyal to his city and his team.
We place our vague morals upon players because for some reason we think we deserve a say in what they should choose. As a fan we consider ourselves a part of the team and when a player disappoints by accepting more money elsewhere, we become angry at his or her disloyalty . How dare they go there, we would never abandon our team like that! Yet how many of us would reject a position that offered us more money and a better chance at being successful in our own lives?
It’s not like we even are consistent in our outrage. We are seemingly more willing to forgive players for committing crimes than we are to forgive a perceived betrayal. In fandom, crimes against humanity are lesser than crimes against our team.
Even in the world of the NCAA we expect our athletes to play for a love of the game, after all the reason we pay so much money to watch these games is for our love. We dish out and dish out money but expect our athletes to remain pure in their love of the game and our love of winning – a strange thrill for the fan that is somewhat inexplicable other than being a non-violent sort of us vs. them expression of victory to replace wars and make us feel good for literally doing nothing.
There is a false admiration and compassion for athletes dependent on stories that are shaped by various outlets. Our athletes are assets to large corporations, heroes for children, opium for masses of the middle-aged, and most importantly but least remembered – humans.
What if LeBron or whatever other player decides to go somewhere because that is what makes them most happy? What if we allowed for that? There is little compassion for professional athletes because they make millions of dollars (the best ones do anyway) yet why shouldn’t they try to capitalize during the prime of their careers? Surely the owners are doing the same to them and their careers only last for like ten years (and that’s better than average) while the rest of their lives will likely be spent referring back to their past glory days.
If a player leaves a team to go to a place that will win more or in order to make more money, they are not being selfish, they are being logical.
This isn’t a call to change any sort of larger system, really, I’m not calling you to love the athlete or anything ridiculous like that, I’m just saying at the maximum to be compassionate and at the minimum to not be stupid.