Our society has an incredibly forgiving nature toward celebrities in general. I mean, this might be the only place in the world where you can buy a briefcase of blow, drop a couple hundred thousand dollars on hookers, then talk about your desire to start a porn family - and actually become a bigger sensation than when you were just the worlds best compensation TV star. We do realize that behavior like that should be consternation worthy... right?
And hey, sometimes we eventually get it right. Take Kanye West for example. In the pantheon of self-aggrandizing assholes, he's got to rank in the Top-10. Now here's the thing, before he stormed the stage, ripped the Grammy award out of Taylor Swift's hands, and then ripped her in front of millions of people on live TV - he was already a massive asshole. He had demonstrated this numerous times with his commentary. Yet we not only let it slide, we loved him for it - until he lambasted Swift. Don't ask me why.
How about Ben Rothlisberger? Now, I'm not saying he's raped anyone - and I generally despise the notion of holding someone accountable for a legal issue without proof - but though we've seen no fire, there's an awful lot of smoke. Yet we pretty openly embrace him. Indeed in the leadup to this years superbowl, the talk of his off-the-field conduct was nearly non-existent. I can understand that coming from the NFL - they have a product to promote after all - but since when did we, the rest of the thinking population, become so oblivious/naive?
Don't like me pulling out the name of an innocent man? I can understand that, heck, I don't particularly like doing it myself. We could go with Karl Malone. Most probably don't realize it, but he fathered the first of his many illegitimate kids while he was still in college. With a 13 year old girl. You know what we usually do with adults who have sex with 13 year olds? We throw them in prison where they get gang rapped by larger inmates. Then when they get released we make them register as sex offenders and limit their housing options to the point where they're forced to live under a bridge. Then we fine them for living under that bridge. That's what we do with them. Except in Malone's case. In his case we throw hundreds of millions of dollars at him and sweep it all under the rug. You know, because that makes sense.
Or we could go with Chad
But when LeBron did his TV show, aptly named, "The Decision," a nation immediately became enraged. I can understand the hurt and anger from Cleveland fans of course. After all, we're talking about their hometown player, the anointed savior who would lead them from the title-less hell that long-suffering city has suffered under, leaving. And to make that announcement as part of what amounted to a publicity stunt? Shameless.
Of course, for the non-Ohio segment of the rest of the nation, it should've been shameless in a boneheaded way. Not in a, "you killed my dog," kind of way (speaking of pariahs more beloved than LeBron...). It should've been considered shameless in the way that Ochocinco's actions are shameless (IE: dumb and entertaining). Instead it seems that the entire nation has turned on someone who might have more raw talent than any player in recent memory. Maybe even more than Jordan (not an ideal character himself).
Someone who, outside of that one really idiotic decision, has a nearly unblemished track record of doing and saying all the right things. A byproduct of living an existence that since age 17 has been highly scripted by the PR experts he has entrusted to maintain his image. Yet one action has made him the scorn of not only the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio, but most of the country. How did we get to this point, and perhaps more importantly, why?
I'm certainly no expert here, but the one parallel I'm able to draw is to Tiger Woods. He's the only other person I can remember who has borne the brunt of the media's fury to such an overwhelming degree. The only other person society for some reason simply cannot seem to forgive. The only other former mega-star I can think of who is now so despised.
Usually when a celebrity does something that drives media and social angst, there is anger followed by pity/comedy. People start to wonder, "where did it all go wrong?" or turn the situation into a punchline (See: Sheen, Charlie / Lohan, Lindsay). Or both. Hell, we've had Presidents lie under oath, cheat on their wives, and commit all other manner of salacious act, like potentially send the nation to war under false pretenses resulting in the deaths of thousands. Yet as long as they're on, "our side of the aisle," we forgive them. Heck, we'll make the excuses for them.
In the cases of Woods and James, that's not true. And it's not like we can sit here and legitimately claim that their actions stand out as decidedly egregious. Tiger cheated - and so have about 75% of men in the country (probably more). LeBron partook in an idiotic self-publicity stunt - which for me equates to a Friday night at the bar in which I start random drunken conversations at about 20 decibels more than necessary and potentially lose my pants.
But at what point do we just freaking drop it?
It's not like either of them did anything that terribly bad to most of us. I can understand the hurt of Tiger's wife and the State of Ohio. But unless you're somehow directly connected to either of those things, it's time to drop it. It just is. These guys didn't rape anyone. They didn't kill anyone. They aren't refusing to acknowledge the child of the 13 year old girl they screwed as a grown men... Hell, they haven't even committed a litany of minor offenses.
They made a bad decision. Woopty freakin' doo. I've got nothing against refusing to see them as idols. We never should've in the first place. But...
- If you're a Minnesota fan who can forgive Kirby Puckett, you should have no problems forgiving LeBron.
- If you're a Chiacgo fan who can forgive Jordan, you should have no problems forgiving LeBron.
- If you're a Detroit fan who can forgive The Fab Five, you should have no problems forgiving LeBron.
- If you're a Kansas City fan who can forgive... well... whoever it is that's done something wrong down there - then you should have no problems forgiving LeBron.
I know it can be fun having someone to hate, but it's probably time to get over it. There are way better ways to direct your rage. You could start by directing it at something, anything really, that actually matters.
That is unless you're a Cleveland fan. In which case, feel free to hate for as long as you need to. But hopefully tonight's win acted as some minor form of catharsis.
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.