Before I was the walking, talking encyclopedia of sports etiquette that I pretend to be in front of my sons and the rest of their pee wee baseball teammates, I was a young boy with a few thing to learn about sportsmanship. For a time early on in my fleeting sports career my frustration over my own lack of skill or teasing from my older brother (whom I have yet to beat in a one on one basketball game and at this point doubt I ever will) would leave me wanting to stomp my feet and scream at the top of my lungs that I swore off playing whatever sport I was currently participating in for good.
It took time before the greater lesson of sports sunk in through my thick skull. Only after experiencing both losing and winning (but mostly losing) repeatedly was I able to do either with grace. Eventually, I realized it was about playing the game and challenging oneself to become better each time, not just about winning. Over time, I came to be able to hold my head high based not on my performance but solely on how well I handled defeat or victory (but mostly defeat).
No matter whom it was I lost to or how badly I lost, I never held any ill will toward my opponent. It was all, “Good game,” and, “Good luck,” on my part then I would retire to the solitude of my locker room or dugout before cursing and breaking things. Even as a spectator I try never to talk badly about or wish bad things on an opposing team. When my team loses, I generally root for the team that defeated us so that I can claim we were beaten by the best. If my team is out of contention, I will pick a team I like for a certain reason and root for them, but, as a rule, not against any specific team because I dislike them.
At least that’s how I used to feel until Lebron James went to the Miami Heat. Correction: until Lebron James made such a shameless spectacle of the fact that he chose to grace the Miami Heat with his presence.
Suddenly, I found myself not caring who won as long as it was not the Heat. I wished for Lebron’s fourth quarter disappearing acts to continue indefinitely. I wanted him to fail continuously and play for many years without ever winning a championship. I wanted his career to plummet carelessly into the belly of the sarlacc in the pit of Carkoon and die a long, painful death. It’s what I thought he deserved for being so incredibly cocky and self-important.
He hasn’t done much of anything to change my mind. After his ultimate defeat last season, he spoke of how he still had the pleasure of being himself when he woke up each day (the sort of self affirmation I would admire in someone if it didn’t seem there was a big fat, “You all suck!” behind his words). In an interview at the beginning of this season, he commented that it was a shame that everyone would remember that the Miami Heat lost the 2011 NBA championship and not that the Dallas Mavericks won it (which could not be further from the truth…they always remember the champions before the also-rans).
Despite my confidence that my hatred is well placed, I still am uneasy with rooting for one particular team to lose. I feel that maybe it is this sore loser mentality of mine that led to the injury to Derrick Rose (put the blame on me Bulls fans).
Thus, it is with great conviction that I will no longer boo the Heat. I have decided today that I am now the newest, biggest fan of the Indiana Pacers because I like how they ____________________ (once I come up with a reason other than the fact that they are currently playing the Heat, I will fill it in here).