Chris Bosh and some of his teammates were caught crying after two losses last week. What does that tell us about ourselves?
I’ve finally figured it all out. I know what’s wrong with professional sports.
It’s not the owners. It’s not the players. It’s not the rules. And it’s not the commissioners. No, they’re fine. Overpaid, definitely corrupt, and greedy? Yes, but they are what they are. They know what they want.
The real problem? Us.
It’s great being a fan, isn’t it? We can complain about players not trying. We can criticize inept general managers. We can hate useless owners. We can vilify terrible referees. And the best part? No one’s holding us accountable. We can write, yell, scream, and sing whatever we want—to a respectful, non-criminal degree—and nothing happens to us. We reserve the right to be complete morons—myself included.
But guess what? We have no idea what we want.
It’s a great time not to be a fan of the Miami Heat.
They’ve been losing every game that matters in the best way. They’re blowing leads and choking in the final seconds.
They’re 5-13 in games decided by five points or less. In the past two weeks they’ve blown leads to the Knicks, Magic, and Bulls—looking absolutely hapless in the waning seconds when one of their two and a half superstars was supposed to take over. More embarrassing, on the season, they’re one for 18 shooting when down by three points or less, with less than 10 seconds left.
For all the pyrotechnics, smoke, and dancing of the summer, the past few weeks have been gratifying for everyone outside of Miami. The ultimate schadenfreude.
Over the summer, LeBron suggested his new team might win eight titles. It’s that Easy Bake championship approach that irked so many of us. Now, it’s pretty clear that won’t happen. Despite being in third place in the East, thus far, it’s been an embarrassing season for Miami.
But for more than just crunch-time failure and the big losses.
Then, on Sunday, Miami coach Erik Spolestra told the media, after a last-second loss to the Bulls, that his team was shaken up, and a few guys were crying in the locker room.
Next to lumberjacks, cowboys, tequila spokesmen, and Old Spice models, we expect our athletes to be the manliest of manly men. They combine extreme athleticism with competition. Winning (no, stop it) and strength? What’s a more manly combination than that?
So, when we see one of the better players in the NBA shedding a tear after a regular-season game or hear about a team sobbing behind closed doors, we don’t know what to do.
Crying is weak. Athletes are strong. Numbers … don’t … compute.
The default response seems to be complete insanity.
It makes no sense; don’t try think about it. Don’t try to reconcile anything. Don’t try to relate. If we can’t comprehend it, it shouldn’t happen. And if it shouldn’t happen, it needs to be criticized. That’s just how it works.
As TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz wrote:
A conversation takes a certain course, one we can watch unfold instantly as our Twitter feeds and Google Readers unfurl opinion after opinion. And this discussion quickly became about manhood: What are you doing, revealing your emotions after you’ve failed at a task? This ain’t Little League! How can you possibly be so fragile after a regular-season loss?
The more machismo worked its way into the bloodstream of the discourse, the more unsettling it became. The tone of the debate seemed adolescent, and even primitive.
NBA players have taken their shots. As you’d expect, all the washed-up ESPN talking heads have yelled their nonsense into the cameras, too. Jason Whitlock even wrote a column where he tried to figure out which players were crying (His answer: LeBron and Mike Miller).
Chris Bosh had to answer a question after Sunday’s game, saying that he wasn’t crying. The fact that an adult human has to own up to or deny a few post-game tears is ridiculous, isn’t it? Sure, I guess it’s your journalistic duty to ask the question, but really?
We’ve bashed Spolestra for outing his players, but why? Guys were crying in the locker room. They were feeling it after another crushing loss. He relayed that to the media. There shouldn’t be a problem with him saying that a few of his players were crying, but, obviously, there is. He’s giving us info we clearly want, and, for that, he is a moron
The reactions here contradict everything we say we want from sports. We want transparency, and we want our players to care as much as we think we do.
We criticize Spolestra for outing his crying players, but then we whine about the lack of transparency with professional teams.
We complain that our athletes don’t care enough about winning. We crush Jay Cutler when he gets knocked out of a playoff game, and he stands there, stone-faced, seemingly emotionless. The guy just doesn’t care! You can see it!
Yet, guys are crying—over a regular season game, no less—and we think they’re a bunch of wusses. So they care too much? Is that it?
The response of calling out and questioning a player’s masculinity because he cries isn’t all that surprising. It’s not right, but that’s just where our sporting culture is right now. So, Spolestra (who has embarrassingly backtracked) should’ve expected this when he let that sobbing cat out of the bag.
Yes, he should’ve expected it, but he shouldn’t have to expect it.
For whatever reason, the guys on the Heat care about basketball. They really, genuinely do. They lose games, and they show real, human emotions. For once, we have actually proof that the games matter to some players. And that’s pretty freaking cool.
Unfortunately, that’s not what we want. Or is it?
I don’t know.
—Photo AP/Lynne Sladky