The LeBron Hate Machine has officially been cranked up to 10. Welcome to The Narrative, sir! Here’s how the next five years of your life are probably going to go. Most of the mob will hate you today, that is for certain. They’ll say you’re no Kobe, they’ll say you don’t have Nowitzki’s heart, they invoke the ever looming specter of MJ. They tell you you’ll never be as great as the ones that they remember. You’re not old school. You’re not committed enough. You’re arrogant. You called your own press conference. You left the folks in Cleveland high and dry. You think you are bigger than the game. You need to be taught a lesson.
This will go on for a little while. Then, you will win. The Narrative will shift. You’ve learned your lesson. You’ve been humbled. You went back to basics. You did things the right way. You overcame the odds. You have been redeemed. You are a champion.
Once you’ve seen the puppet show once or twice, the strings become remarkably annoying. We’ve done this dance so many times before. Remember when Kobe was an obnoxious, spoiled kid who didn’t know his place? Remember when Dirk was a soft-boiled choke artist? Heck, do you remember when Muhammad Ali was a dangerous, radical anti-American draft dodger? What did they do to rehabilitate their image? They won.
Redemption awaits anyone who can help his or her team score more points then the other team when the big spotlight is blaring. Redemption is a pretty easy formula. Time plus rings. Not exactly calculus. If you doubt the truth of what I’m saying, just watch the lovefest that is waiting just down the road if Tiger or Michael Vick get to the Promised Land. It makes you wonder what OJ could have done if he still had a good 40 time.
Maybe this time it will be different. LeBron has an opportunity to do something that has never been done. There is one trick left that they haven’t seen. They need to be introduced to the true Man in Flight. The Running Man. The person who finally takes the Narrative by the throat and squeezes. LeBron James can become the first Post-Rational Superstar.
At first, LeBron would have to follow some very well-travelled ground. He could start on the path that trailblazers like Dennis Rodman and Charles Barkley journeyed before him. He could become the zany, outspoken Bad Guy. The Heel. The difference between these guys and a Post-Rational Superstar is that they stopped there. They found their niche and they road it to the bank. What I am suggesting would be far more radical.
Next season LeBron starts the show by cursing at a few fans, hanging with some edgy celebs, coloring his hair blue, punching a reporter, whatever. Once the mob gets used to that, he flips the script. He becomes a highly pious, deeply caring man. Donates a year’s salary to charity. Gets photographed helping an old lady across the street. Donates a kidney. Whatever gets them to start loving him again. Then, when everyone is comfortable, he slams on the brakes! LeBron joins the Communist Party, starts quoting radical Islamic clerics, gets a backwards cross tattooed into his forehead, and becomes every red-blooded American sports fan’s worst nightmare.
Once there have been enough Bill O’Reilly interviews calling him a monster, he flips it again. Begs the forgiveness of the mob. Saves a child from a burning building. Donates the other kidney. Starts a mission in Peru that saves victims of toxic megacolon. Gets himself photographed with the Pope. Figures out a way to cut unemployment below 5 percent. Captures and kills an Al-Queda leader. Once they get comfortable with the New LeBron…..BAM! He joins the Church of Satan, projectile vomits on a referee and pour yaks blood over his head after each win. He keeps flipping and flipping and flipping until people want to get off the ride.
And here’s the best part, LeBron….No matter what you do, if you win, they will find it in their hearts to rationalize your actions. They don’t see you for your game or your stunning personality or your greed or your kind heart or your selfishness. They aren’t watching you at all; they are watching what you represent. Your biggest fans just love you because they want to be associated with your victories and your worst enemies just want to take some measure of credit for your defeat.
Turn the mirror on the mob. Let them see them see the carnival in all of its venal absurdity. Don’t let them rationalize you. Run The Narrative off of a cliff. When they say they’ve had enough, give them more. Make every icon equally worthless. Destroy any logical assumption that can be made about you or anyone who comes after you. Give them everything and nothing all at once. Confuse them to death. Leave nothing standing. The one thing a superstar can still provide the sports world with is an understanding of how insane its basic cultural assumptions and beliefs are. And the best part is, if you win, they’ll still love you.
“The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying.”
-TS Eliot from Ash Wednesday
Recently, a terrible feeling has been crawling up the base of my spine. It awakens me in the middle of the night, it hounds me when I am driving home from work, it swims in and out of my mind every time I consider this cursed blog. I think I had this thought in my mind even before I started blogging, but over the last month its light buzz has grown to a deafening roar. This feeling is in the pit of my stomach and the recesses of my mind all at once. It is a voice that talks to me while I write and a spirit that haunts me when I do not. Nothing makes it grow quiet. It is omnipresent. It is a simple idea, but if you follow it to its logical extreme it is as dangerous as a nuclear bomb. The question is this…Is there that is really worth writing?
It seems a rather harmless line of questioning. That is how it starts. The point of writing is to create something. I hope to create something new. Have all the worthwhile thoughts already been had? Has someone else already put down all the truths and mysteries of life on paper? With the Internet, you can find access to nearly every idea that has been conceived of. Most of us concern ourselves with whether LeBron is better than Kobe or who is married to who and who is getting a divorce or who wore what on the red carpet or who embarrassed themselves in front of the world. If you want to dig deeper you can find recipes for how to prepare ox tail, the history of Buddhism, better and more in depth formulas to calculate the value of third basemen or the performance of treasury bonds, or the lost works of some 19th century poet you came across at three in the morning on some insomnia driven information binge. But to what end? Is it just more and more stuff to fill our minds with?
Maybe I shouldn’t concern myself with creating something original. After all, what is the point of originality? Am I simply trying to justify my existence by conning myself into the belief that I am so special and unique that I can think a thought that the rest of the 6 billion of us could not come up with? Am I so narcissistic that I think I am capable of an idea that has never been here before?
Maybe the point is to appreciate the experience of writing. Maybe the whole thing is about letting my synapses fire and my fingers pound away at some keyboard. To what end? I do it again and again. Words appear. More words appear. Then more. More. They mean something, but who really knows what? They dance in patterns. I already have forgotten most of what I’ve written. I could look back. To what end?
Why bother sending this nonsense out to the world? Looking for fellow travelers on the good ship Earth as we spiral towards our own personal oblivion. To what end? Am I simply standing in front of the Grand Canyon shouting at the top of my own lungs in the hopes of hearing an echo? And then what?
Maybe my words will help ease the pain of human suffering. A noble goal but when you look at what we are up against, it hardly seems possible. A dying heap of flesh and consciousness trapped in a fading world that is saturated with mountains of disconnected ideas adding up to nothing in particular is going to be helped by some random guy typing random words on a computer screen? Really? I haven’t watched enough Frank Capra to buy it. It is a pleasant delusion, but a delusion nonetheless. Maybe the goal is to delude others into forgetting their troubles. They will remember them soon enough or, worse, they will enjoy the delusion so much they will forget what is happening to them and the ones around them. Apathy or sadness. Ignorance or constant horror. To what end?
If I could write something that could teach people how to live forever or convincingly show them that their actions are connected to something greater then maybe I would be writing something worth reading. But I am not that good of a writer and I doubt I will ever be. I wonder if anyone is. Existential dread is what it is and I can’t write it away for myself or anyone else. Can writing change the truth of what we are? I simply don’t believe that. And even if it could…to what end?
Maybe all of the thoughts have been thunk and all of the dreams have been dreamt and we are simply recycling the same old nonsense in slightly different packages again and again and again. Over and over. The paint job changes but it’s still the same old world. Meet the new boss same as the old boss.
This isn’t my MacArthur speech to the troops blog. I plan to keep doing this again and again for no apparent reason. It is a complete waste of time. It has no value and is utterly and completely useless. I enjoy writing more times than I don’t. I like hearing how my words hit people. I am deeply curious as to how my innermost thoughts are perceived by strangers. I guess that is something, but it will fade after a while. These are simply words on a page and they don’t mean anything. Nothing lasting or real or forever or genuine will ever come out of my mind or my hands. They are shapes, they are colors contrasted with the background, they are a speck in the eye of history. They are words. Their lifespan is about as long as it takes to get to the next sentence.