I was in the car today listening to the Jim Rome Show when he did an interview with author Buzz Bissinger. I found the interview interesting because, although I had not read the book "Shooting Star" about LeBron James, I had read "Friday Night Lights" and loved the movie. Mr. Bissinger brought some interesting thoughts to the table regarding LeBron and his recent struggles. He said he thought that RACE played into the hatred that LBJ was getting and, more shockingly, Jim Rome AGREED with him!
My first reaction was to pick up the phone and call the show. I called the show once before and was lucky enough to get on-air to talk about the Cleveland Browns leaving town to go to Baltimore and become the Ravens. To know me is to know how passionate I am on that topic. For me to call a nationally syndicated sports talk show is much harder than just picking up the phone and calling the guys at WKNR. I have to really feel something strong about the topic at hand. For only the second time in five years of listening to Rome, I was reaching for the phone.
But timing is everything and I wasn't in a good place to make the call. I was actually on the Ohio Turnpike with my dad headed to Akron to visit my daughters. Rebecca is getting ready for her 3rd year and AnnMarie is going to be a freshman in the fall. Fear the ROO! They are renting a house in Cuyahoga Falls (translation - my hubby and I are renting the house but it's way cheaper than dorms). I was taking a few things to them and my dad wanted to see where they were living. Going 70 miles per hour on the turnpike wasn't the right time for me to be on the phone. So, I listened to more of the interview and tried to calm down a bit.
Jim and Buzz were comparing the hatred that LeBron received to that of, say, Jason Kidd who has been accused of abusing his wife, or Michael Vick who was convicted and served time for cruelty to animals as a result of killing/torturing dogs in a dog fighting club. They seemed to think that what LBJ did to Cleveland was no where near as bad as what Kidd allegedly did to his wife or what Vick did to those dogs, and yet people hate LBJ far beyond what they feel about those two guys. And then the comment was made that race was part of the hatred. Obviously just a small part, but part of it just the same. Are you kidding me? I just got more and more upset. To think that these two intelligent men were going to take us back to the 1960's and say the world hated LeBron, in part, because he was black.
Let's be straight on one thing: sports fans are shallow. I know I am and if you are honest, you know you are too. A multitude of sins can be forgiven if you lead your team to victory. Just ask Ben Roethlesberger or Ray Lewis. For our own varying reasons, we all want our sports teams to win, to be champions, so we are willing to forgive and forget many things if a key player is necessary to the team's success. Michael Vick is the perfect example of this. While the Philadelphia expected picketing, boycotts, and loud complaints from their fans when they took a chance on Vick after his release from prison, that all stopped when he humbly apologized for his actions and then took the field and won games.
Do we hate him because he grew up in this area and came to the Cleveland Cavaliers promising to win us a championship and didnt? Yep. Do we hate him because he basked in the glory we gave him, jumped up on the pedestal we created and named himself the King, the Chosen One, and won nothing? Yep. Do we hate him for the "summer of LeBron," the way he flirted with other teams right in front of us, wouldn't commit to us, and then broke up with us on national TV? Yep. Do we hate him because he is black? NO.
I spent most of the day being very angry about this accusation. I was waiting to put pen to paper (so to speak) until I had cooled down and could think coherently. I spent the evening playing with my three-month-old grandson. And the anger left me, to be replaced with saddness.
People, it's 2011. Are we still playing the race card? Don't get me wrong, I know that racism exists and that there are still far too many places where people don't get an equal shot at jobs or education or car loans or whatever. But I thought things were changing. I thought we were at a point where intelligent people could have discussions about legitimate reasons to dislike someone without their race being a factor. I thought my grandson would grow up in a world where racism was a thing of the past. I am truly sad today that it looks like his generation, High School Graduates of 2030, will still be judged by some based on skin color. I am sad that his being half-Chilean will be held against him.
I have always believed that ending things like racism start at home; that if I raised my kids right, and they in turn raised my grandkids right, we could get rid of racism. Today I was reminded that it will always be there - that there will always be someone with a national voice to remind us that we are different like it's a bad thing, instead of celebrating and embracing our diversity. And in the end, I am just very, very sad.