Congratulations to the Miami Heat for winning the NBA Championship. I say that disparagingly, with teeth fully clenched. This is the exact same way I felt when the New York Giants won Super Bowls in ’86, ’90, ’07, ’11 and the New York Yankees won the World Series the last seven times.
Is winning a league championship, by a mostly disliked franchise, good for the sport? There are two ways to look at this… (1) from the league’s financial perspective, and (2) from an overall “good for the spectator” viewpoint.
Financially, it is profitable for the league because it drives viewership. Television stations reap larger profits from advertising during highly rated sports programming. Most “hated” teams are from relatively large markets, like New York, Dallas and Miami, where critical mass is large enough to make lots of irritating noise. The amount of spectators who watch, hoping to see their sports nemesis go down in flames, is equally or more substantial. Choosing sides, in a rivalry, also drives increased merchandise sales, as fans satiate their need to demonstrate in full regalia.. Money has a trickle down effect, as owners and the league realize increased cash flow and profits from future ticket sales. When they earn more, they spend more. The all-encompassing sports universe includes thousands of peripheral vendors and merchants from ticket brokers to local businesses. When teams are winning, all is good with the world, and money speaks volumes.
Point two is more of a “fan’s goodwill” benefit, but also drives point one. The overall winning benefit of those teams loathed by the majority of fans, is a much more complex consideration. Intuitively, you would think that hated teams winning titles is bad from an attraction standpoint. We tend to tune out when disliked teams claim the ultimate prize. It’s bad enough being exposed to the obnoxious teams and fans ranting and raving for no good reason. To add insult to injury, we face the challenge of ignoring the round-the-clock sports coverage, and media barrage. Information flow on social media networks expands exposure exponentially, and complicates any self-imposed blackout.
But evil teams create good rivalries. The conflict between good and evil is one of the precepts dating back over 3000 years, and reinforced in our childhood stories.
Let’s get to the core of the matter. We don’t like teams that WIN TOO MUCH. If you look at Sports Illustrated list of “The 25 Most Hated Teams of All Time” you immediately notice that they are all winning teams. Here’s the Top Five:
1986 U of Miami Football and Jimmy Johnson’s three-ring circus.
1988-89 Detroit Pistons’ exasperating Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman & Bill Laimbeer.
1992 Dallas Cowboys with Jimmy Johnson and his self-promoting hoodlums.
1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers, the finesse-less, minimally skilled Broad Street Bullies.
1978 New York Yankees, featuring the George, Billy and Reggie saga.
The real disdain derives from their arrogant attitude and the perceived methodology in acquiring the necessary talent to reign supreme. These teams all have strong affinities for dysfunctional relationships with the media. And many a sports writer is happy to oblige.
I agree with SI.com’s Phil Taylor, who insists that he has no choice but to hate the Miami Heat. And he lays the blame squarely on LeBron James and his conspiring cohorts, who came to town with more fanfare than the WWE. My lasting impression of James will always be influenced by that ridiculous display of prime time hoopla around “The Decision”. It’s really a shame, because I could have liked LeBron under different circumstances, much the way I loved Julius Erving growing up as an impressionable adolescent. To me, Dr. J represented everything good about the game. He was gifted with athleticism, maintained a modest profile, and was relatively soft-spoken. His superior ability, and clutch play on the court, spoke volumes. He didn’t need to toot his own horn…others did it for him.
But LeBron seems to have deliberately (if not naively) set himself up for ridicule with his decision to leave his friendly hometown confines in Ohio for greener pastures in Miami. The headline should read, “Former Hometown Hero Wins One for the Bad Guys.”.
So LeBron, you just wanted to be with your new friends. But what about your old friends? The ones who stuck by you when things were tough. You still expect our unconditional love? What planet are you on?
Of all the mojito joints, in all the towns, in all the world you had to go to Miami; where transient and fair-weather fans are the norm, not the exception. These are not true fans of the game. They are opportunists. Band wagon jumpers. Sure, they love you today, but where were they in the early years? Probably mocking your Cavalier attitude!
At least you’ve accomplished one thing King James. You created the ultimate rivalry: Miami versus the rest of the NBA. For this we thank you.