America’s False Sports Narratives

Roy Ayers – Everybody Loves The Sunshine

For the first time years I actively paid attention to the NBA’s playoffs. (Even if they took what seems like three months to end.) To me the NBA has been serving the public the same ham and cheese sandwich with a cup of grape drink for years and we’ve been devouring it with a smile. This year’s playoffs were just compelling to me so I kept track of what was what and who was who.

One of the reasons for me actually using my limited amount of give a damn is that I tuned out all non-game coverage of the playoffs. Any chatter that happened between the games was either ignored or just muted. I’ve realized that the sports media doesn’t know much about what’s going on when the clock isn’t running. The coverage usually consisted of short-sighted conjectured based on what they just saw, e.g. Kevin Durant is the best player in the league now, the Heat are just overmatched by the Celtics, and Westbrook turned in the worst point guard performance in playoff history.[1]

All of the coverage was instant, baseless, and overly emotional. 48 hours later different stories were being told, often 180 degrees from what the same people had previously said. What’s the reason? Well we’ve got air time to fill so the legions of talking heads employed by ESPN, Yahoo Sports, and others start typing and jaw-jacking to keep the ADHD driven interest of the American public. Somewhere in a production meeting reporters and commentators were being briefed on what false narratives to serve the public until the next time the whistle blows.

The thing is false narratives aren’t new. These started way before LeBron and everyone who took the court in the NBA Finals was born. (Well maybe not Juwon Howard.) Many have firmly, implanted themselves into the fabric of American sports lore but that end of the day they are just myths. Things sports fans use to prove that their guy is better than the other guys’ guy.

Here are a few for you to chew on:

Clutch – It’s just a small, probably empty purse carried by your think she’s cute girl-friend or a pedal that’s between the brake and gas pedals in five-speeds. You always’ hear stories about certain players being “clutch” in the world of sports meaning. It supposedly means that they can get it done when the games on the line. The problem is that in the world of sports the definition of “clutch” is so malleable that most of the people who use it can’t nail down what it actually means. [2] Jeter is clutch but A-Rod and LeBron aren’t clutch at all. Y’all get the picture. It’s just idle chatter amounting to nothing.

Just about Everything about Tim Tebow– Tim Tebow is one of the best college football players that I’ve ever watched. Gee-golly, Aw shucks Timmy brought it while at Florida but we need to make some things clear. The false narratives surrounding Tebow are polarizing- on one end he’s the ultimate underdog and on the other he’s Superman in cleats. Neither story is quite true. In the commercial for some sports supplement that probably doesn’t work unless you have all day to work out Tebow talks about being considered and underdog all his life and being told that he couldn’t play quarterback in college. I find this odd considering every SEC school was tripping over one another to sign up Timmy. On the Superman end of the story a narrative stating that Timmy led Florida to two BCS Championships. This isn’t the case either. During his freshman year (2006) Timmy Rah- Rah was not the starting quarterback for the Gators. He was a second stringer who did third down and two point conversions while Chris Leak did the heavy lifting. In 2007, Tebow was in fact a beast. I can’t knock him for that. (Well I could but it would just be baseless.) Tim Tebow’s NFL career is entirely another story. It’s all a false narrative.

Joe Namath’s Hall of Fame career – How can you not like Joseph Willie Namath? Dudes’ swagger would put just about every modern-day athlete’s to shame. His personality was much bigger than his game was. He was good but I wouldn’t dare call him great. Joe Willie led the Jets to a victory in Super Bowl III and was heralded for it but oddly enough he didn’t even score during the game. It’s funny that he’s a Hall of Famer but Ken Stabler isn’t.[3] (Just compare Joe Willie’s stats with the Snake’s.)

The Reasons most people “hate” LeBron James – Yes, the Decision was just about the doucheiest thing ever although it raised a lot of money for the Boys & Girls Club which catered to children of many of the people of Northeastern Ohio who know hate his guts. There are a string of false narratives attached to LeBron James but some are just glaring. He’s often cited for turning his back on his hometown. Seriously, folks have a glass of cranberry juice and eat a bran muffin. The mid-West fancies itself blue-collar and LeBron did what every worker in America wishes they could do – Take their talent and skill to a place of their choosing while they are still young and before your employer gives you the boot. (And they will give you the boot when things go badly. Just ask Detroit.)  We all update our LinkedIn, Monster, and other professional job search web sites for the same reason. The fact that he took a pay cut to move is seldom mentioned. Honestly, people leave Ohio all of the time. South Carolina’s population has grown in the last ten years due to an influx of Ohioans.[4] My guess it’s the weather. (Everybody Loves the Sunshine right?)

The next false narrative with LBJ is the comparisons to Kobe Bryant and thusly to Michael Jordan. Neither of these cats are Michael Jordan. Kobe is however the closest thing I’ve seen to Mike. LeBron on the other hand is more like Magic or Oscar Robertson. He’s large, fleet of foot, and extremely intelligent on the court. It’s like comparing Michael Jackson to Prince. They both are in the same field but don’t have the same game.

The last narrative involving Glo James’ baby is the idea of creating a “super team”. Obviously, people who use the super team narrative know nothing of the history of the NBA. (Do you fools watch the NBA or do you just skim past it?) The league has been around for 66 years and two teams have half of the titles. You cannot root for the Lakers or Celtics (Or the Dream Team for that matter) and criticize what the Heat did with a straight face. At various times when he was being double-teamed Kareem could pass to Magic, James Worthy, Byron Scott, or Bob McAdoo while Bird could give the rock to Dennis Johnson, Kevin McHale, or Robert Parish. I guess it’s just a problem when the players collude and not when the suits do it?

Did I miss any glaring false sports narratives? Am I right or wrong about these? When the clock stops and the players go do what they do when they aren’t entertaining us what narratives remain that you think are utter bull? Tell me what I missed.

Vaya con Dios!

[1] Really!?!? Obviously, y’all didn’t watch Charlie Ward play point.

[2] “I know what it is when I see.” No sir, you don’t know jack. You’re just talking.

[3] I’m a Raider fan so I may be biased. Both of these guys did play for Alabama, my college squad so I may not be biased at all… Oh yeah… Roll Damn Tide!

[4] Not trying to libel Ohio there are a few dope things from there. 1. Halle Berry 2. The O’Jays 3. The Black Keys 4. General William T. Sherman 5. The Wright Brothers.


16 responses to “America’s False Sports Narratives

  1. good points.

    esp about Teeb & LBJ. altho, i think LBJ’s situation is a bit more complex than him leaving his “hometown” to go somewhere else. he caught a lot of heat long before the Heat about not being his self-entitled “King”. nonetheless, all the hate and bad mouthing is tiring to witness. i dont like him, but i dont sit around wasting my time expressing it or even acknowledging it.

    • Yes, young Timothy and LBJ’s stories are different. It almost seems like Tebow isn’t even comfortable with that bull at times. Bron choosing the royal moniker did not help though. I wonder how they’ll both be view a few years from now.

  2. The Only Real Outcast

    Good read Keith. Mark Cuban took Stephen A. and Skip Bayless to task about over emotional sports media this morning…anyway, all of these sports myths are fandom, sensationalism, overgeneralizing, whatever you want to call it. All of it is based on one moment (see: Namath, Joe) or marketing/ESPN overhype (see: Tebow, Tim).
    Spot on comparison between Prince and Michael. That comparison cannot be made. Every generation has their Jordan, incomparable to the previous Jordan…LBJ is the “current” Jordan (but I agree Kobe is the closest to the original)
    Okay on to a sports myth: the one where rings = greatness. Yeah it is definately a plus, but there are a few guys who are considered great players who didn’t get the chip and you know why? ’cause they played for a TEAM! And to win a title you need good to great players on it. This is why every championship team is a superteam.
    Before I close, Cleaveland…get over it guys. He left a crappy job for a better one. You’re wasting your hate. that is all.

    • Wow! Cuban, Stephen A. Smith, and Skip all in the same conversation… I’m sorry I missed that. I agree with Cuban though. It’s just something to maintain interest in between the action. I happens in politics all of the time. I’ll argue the Mike Vick was initially overhyped too.

      Rings equating to greatness is obsurd too. I thought about that while I was writing but didn’t go with it. I still say Elway and Peyton are better quarterbacks than Montana and Brady.

      Cleveland needs to chill. They are starting to sound like Philly.

  3. Mark Cuban got into Skip Bayless’ situation real nice and tidy like…it was much appreciated.

    And regarding the ring-thirst, every time I used to hear people rag on LBJ on not having a ring, it made me think about how women are chided for not being engaged/married/swollen with children. “you aren’t a real woman unless you got that ring/pick out invitations/wiped baby poop”. Just my 2 cents 🙂

    • I watch Cuban snack on Stephen A and Skippy on thoutube. It needed to be said.

      That’s actually a great analogy. It’s as if you don’t have the right to speak (with or without the conch) if you are ringless/childless/notmarried in many of those conversations.

  4. The Killer Instinct is another one. To say that players don’t want to beat each other by as many points as possible is crazy!! Some players may like to rub it in a little more than others, but all professional atheletes are sharks in the water. Even Tim “Gentle Rasta” Duncan wants to bury his oppenents.

  5. Pingback: Being a Better Black.. | A Girl Called Nick

  6. 1. Lol at juwan slander.
    2. My dislike for lbj was his self-annointment before he came into the league. I hate youth that don’t respect their elders and getting a chosen one tatt left me unimpressed. Kudos to him for finally getting his ring, but that’s about it. Then again – I stopped watching nba when Boston won their ring in 2008.

    The only other narrative that comes to mind is the David vs Goliath thing. Ie: NYG. They have a huge fan base, tons of money, a coach probably going to the hall – but always play like they are some small town team. GB is the only actual small town team and they won two years ago!!!

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