Monday, June 6, 2011
How the Miami Heat Have Redefined Sports Hate
Sports hate has always been around. The Miami Heat, however have redefined hatred. They have helped fan hate evolve, elevated it, and have made hate as fashionable as fan passion.
In the process, they have redefined sports arguments. Those at ESPN and the sports radio hosts who love the Heat give endless statistics and attempt counter-arguments based on facts to demonstrate that rooting against the Heat is a choice based on stupidity. However, what the pundits don't realize is that hate is an emotion and emotions often get in the way of facts. There are plenty of reasons to be fans of the Yankees, but Red Sox fans don't want to hear them.
Emotions, fans have been told, have no place in how anyone should feel about the Heat. Everyone must love LeBron James and the rest of the Heatles. They are too good to not love and there are thousands of reasons to believe in the Heat. One by one, national media have given arguments that hating the Heat is not an option and not as fun anymore.
Hating the Heat all season is pointless fans have been told, unless you are in Cleveland. Fans in Cleveland, however, have been told they are reaching their statute of limitations in the hate they are allotted. After all, the Heat have reached the championship, which means they are good and if they occasionally do something that triggers a little bit of anger in fans, it should be forgiven.
The Heat, however, are the gift that keeps on giving, as Dwyane Wade gave Heat haters the pose in front of the Dallas bench, which inspired the Mavericks to a comeback win in Game 2, while LeBron James followed up the pose with the cross-court celebration with Wade.
Fan hatred is part of what fuels sports. The great rivalries are dependent on hatred, as Notre Dame and USC football fans can attest. Some of the greatest teams have used hatred to fuel championship runs like the love-them-or-hate-them Yankees or Duke Blue Devil basketball team.
Hatred in sports is for the most part one-dimensional. A team is so good that everyone hates them because their team never has a chance to win a championship like Notre Dame football used to be hated. A team was arrogant and celebrated early and often like the Miami (FL) Hurricanes and Florida State Seminole football team. A team can be hated because it buys championships like the Yankees.
The list of reasons to hate a team or player is virtually unlimited, but usually fans who hate teams are mostly united in their reason for their hatred. The Miami Heat have gone several steps beyond normal fan hatred. They have given fans different reasons to hate them all year and have given sports a new way to debate hate.
It is possible to take any reason a sports team is generally hated and apply it to the Heat. Want to hate a player because he left a city and with his departure the franchise has fallen mightily and the fans feel betrayed? LeBron James is the answer.
Want to hate a team because they have found a way to buy a championship by bringing in the best available talent? The Heat signed Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh in what was probably the biggest offseason free agent bonanza in sports history. The Yankees must be smiling and trying to figure out how they can make a bigger splash.
Want to hate a team because of their arrogance? The Heat have named themselves the "Heatles," celebrated championships in the offseason, boasted they would win multiple championships, and talked after the Celtics series like they won the championship.
The Chicago Bears celebrated a championship before winning one with the Super Bowl Shuffle, but in a lovable hokey way. The Heat's celebration had higher production values then the actual championship celebration the NBA puts on.
Want to hate a team because they are a bunch of crybabies? According to their coach, the Heat literally cried after a loss during the regular season, but then again maybe they didn't, he told us later. The Heat not only cried, but also acted like babies when they denied they cried. Soccer players who flop and scream at the top of the lungs when they trip on a blade of grass must be proud.
Want to hate a team because they play in a city that is more fun than the average city, and more glamorous? The Heat aren't playing in the plains, they are in Miami. Even Lakers and Knicks fans can be jealous.
Want to hate a player because he didn't believe the city he was in could give him sufficient fame, so he left it? Or someone who shunned his hometown team while alleging they were an option so he could be closer to his family? Chris Bosh's leaving Toronto and Dwyane Wade's flirtation with Chicago will help fuel that hate. Want to hate a coach who with little to no resume inherited a championship team? Erik Spoelstra will fulfill that need.
A new reason to hate the Heat, however, is all of the people who are now citing statistics about how good the Heat are and how fans need to dial down the hatred. Great teams are hated. It is part of sports and part of being great. The Heat seem so desperate to be liked and some in sports seem so desperate to make fans give up their hate that it just looks bad for everyone involved and further ignites the hate.
The Heat have also given rise to NBA generational hate.
Football has this type of hate as retired players say hitting was harder in the good old days when clothesline tackles were legal. Baseball has made generational hate a cottage industry, saying it "was just a game" in the good old days.
Basketball never really had generational hate because the basketball timeline, according to NBA Commissioner David Stern and ESPN, started with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and the superstar era. The NBA moves from superstar era to superstar era.
Bird and Magic handed off to Michael Jordan, who handed off to Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant, who were handing off to James and Wade as Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose wait in the wings. Bill Russell and those who played before Bird and Magic are rarely talked about or talked to by national media.
Charles Barkley and players from his generation claim they never would have changed teams or joined forces with other superstars to win a championship in the prime of their careers. But recently, the Celtics combined Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce to make the "Big Three," but no one hated them. Retired players did not rail against them. The Heat combined three of the NBA's premier players and in the process have given us the divide the NBA needed in terms of generations.
There is hope that kinder personalities like Kevin Durant will restore superstar inspired generational hand-off, but the proverbial cat is out of the bag.
The Heat have inspired the current group of NBA players to want to join forces and now many are saying it is up to the NBA collective bargaining agreement to address competitive balance in the league. The league, we are being told ,cannot survive if players join forces like they did in Miami. What will Portland or New Orleans do? The NBA will become like baseball where the Yankees dominate and small markets will become obsolete.
The Heat can be hated for many many reasons now, and someday soon they will win a championship. At that point, they will enjoy the hatred heaped on them as they have a true championship celebration.