Athletes Behaving Badly
by Charles Lemos, Fri Jul 09, 2010 at 06:30:17 PM EDT
If you were to ask me to pick LeBron James out of a line up, I could not do it. I know who he is but to be frank I have no clue what he looks like. I suspect, however, if I were to look up the word "narcissist" in the dictionary, I might then find his picture. My knowledge of LeBron James is rather limited. I know he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, that he is considered a superstar, that he lacks a supporting cast in Cleveland and has thus failed to win an NBA championship even as his team won the most games during the 82 game NBA season. In reading today about the brou-ha-ha over his bolt to the Miami Heat, I learned that he also hails from Akron, Ohio. I'm still not even sure what position he plays. I'll take a stab and guess that given his size he is a power forward. And given occasional comments from the President, I'd say that Barack Obama is a fan and would have liked to have seen him in a Chicago Bulls uniform. I am not sure if they were in the bidding war though I understand the team I grew up rooting for the New York Knickerbockers were only because I read the New York Times daily. Other than LeBron James, I can name just two other current NBA players: Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol of the Lakers. My knowledge is that limited.
It's been a while since I stopped caring about professional athletes and their outsized egos driven by their outsized pay cheques. I have no clue what LeBron James will earn for his talents but it is a number wholly inconsistent with the best interests of society. Mind you, many owners of sport teams hardly paragons of civic virtue. Caught between these forces, I have largely given up watching sports. It's become all about the money and that's not something I am interested in.
When I lived in New York, I became a die hard Mets fan. I can remember going to Shea and have the whole experience not cost more than $5.00 for a subway ride, an upper deck seat, hot dog and soda. The last time I went to a baseball game here in San Francisco was in 2005 and that experience cost me $90.00 to take three friends to the game. The tickets were free, a perk from working at Goldman Sachs (the firm bought season tickets mainly to entertain clients but unused tickets were made available to employees). The money spent was solely for a programme, food and a beer apiece. Had I had to pay for the tickets, the outing would have run into the hundreds of dollars. Not something I am interested in doing nor something I think many American families are capable of doing anymore. I suspect that for most Americans, sports is another thing they now do from the sidelines of a bar or their home watching the event on television.
I personally find it shameful the way LeBron James decided to so publicly humiliate his entire fan base in the Greater Cleveland area toying with their emotions and hosting an hour long "it's all about me" show on ESPN to announce his decision. It was as if their investment, their undying loyalty did not matter.
A review of opinion courtesy of Lynn Zinger:
James, who just a few weeks ago was roundly considered a laudable, trouble-free superstar with otherworldly talent and a not-too-offensive ego, has been transformed into Exhibit A on why civilization is doomed.
ESPN, which just a few days ago was only suspected to have sold its soul to the devil of celebrity worship, needs tweezers to pick up the shards of its reputation. And James’s hand-picked interviewer Jim Gray? He needs an electron microscope.
And then there’s poor Cleveland, suddenly nostalgic for the days when it was known for a burning river. Sigh.
James’s fall from public honor, however, is the most riveting of the downward spirals. Even while acknowledging James’s right to pick a team like any free agent, writers like Ian Thomsen of SI.com were quick to explain why the “how,” not the “what,” sparked so much anger. The spectacle of staging his own hourlong show was too much, and using it to dump his hometown tipped public sentiment away from him. As J.A. Adande wrote on ESPN.com, the form of his exit came with extensive collateral damage. Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times said James left Cleveland like a spoiled child. To Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com, James gave up any last claim to greatness by making this all about him and no one else.
The scorn echoed far and wide. Even Dan Shanoff of The Sporting News, who gave James credit for risking his reputation to strive for a championship with the Heat, wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing blew up on him. Many more predicted James’s trio of stars would not win a championship, including Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com, who wrote that an overload of ego will capsize the Heat. Michael Rosenberg wrote on SI.com that even if James wins a championship with Miami, it would be diminished because he took a shortcut instead of taking on the challenge of having it built around him. It had a lot of people — Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com included — nostalgic for the days when Michael Jordan announced his blockbuster comeback in a one-sentence fax. In comparison, Ken Berger writes on CBSSports.com, James is just a paper King.
James' outsized ego aside, this past week saw former LSU quarterback and the first overall pick in 2007 draft for the Oakland Raiders JaMarcus Russell arrested in Mobile, Alabama for possession of a controlled substance - codeine syrup. While most of us use it as a cough suppressant, it is the main ingredient in what’s called “purple drank,” a slang term for “a recreational drug popular in the hip hop community in the southern United States” according to Wikipedia.
Then there's Ben Roethlisberger, the two time winner of a Super Bowl as the QB of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who has been suspended by the NFL for 4-6 games for violating the personal-conduct policy. A 20-year-old woman in Georgia accused him of sexual assault in March, though no charges were filed. Roethlisberger, while maintaining his innocence, apologized in June for what he said what "dumb" and "immature" behavior.
Or what to say about the antics of Tiger Woods, with whom I share an alma mater? Promiscuity is one thing but the way he treated Mindy Lawton, a pancake-house waitress from Orlando who says she was dumped by the world's premier golfer in 2007 for being caught on camera by the National Enquirer in April 2007. This after two years being told of his "unending love" for her. I've lost count the number of women now linked to Tiger but it was a lifestyle made possible by the insane riches heaped on him.
But the above is nothing compared to the story that is captivating Brazil this week. There are an all-star goal keeper, Bruno Fernandes, has been arrested for a murder that can only be described as barbaric. From The Guardian:
Police in Belo Horizonte, Brazil's third largest city, claimed that Bruno Fernandes, until recently captain and goalkeeper of Brazil's most popular club, Flamengo, plotted the killing of 25-year-old Eliza Samudio, who disappeared in June.
Edson Moreira, the homicide investigator in charge of the case, told reporters that while fans saw Fernandes as an "idol", the footballer was "a monster for what he did to this young lady".
"Bruno was there and he saw how the woman was completely broken," he said. "According to witnesses he accompanied Eliza to her sacrifice and to her death."
Samudio, a former model and actor, reportedly met Fernandes last year at a party and became pregnant during their first encounter. Police believe the 25-year-old player was infuriated by her decision to keep the child, who is now four months old, and claim that Samudio was lured from Rio de Janeiro to Belo Horizonte, around six hours away by car, where she was killed by a former policeman named as Marcos Aparecido dos Santos.
Before her disappearance on 4 June Samudio had approached police to report receiving threats from the goalkeeper, who was recently linked with a multi-million dollar transfer to AC Milan. "You don't know me and you don't know what I am capable of – I'm from the favela," he allegedly told her, according to a statement given to authorities in Rio and reproduced in the Brazilian press.
While police have yet to find Samudio's body, investigators say they are certain she is dead, having been beaten, bound and then strangled in the former policeman's home. Police claim parts of her body were fed to a rottweiler.
According to Moreira, Fernandes was present when Santos strangled the former model. Santos's lawyer last night said his client denied taking part in the killing.
"Shortly before dying, she said: 'I can't take being beaten any more'," Moreira claimed, adding that her alleged killer had replied: "You're not going to be beaten any more, you are going to die."
What else is there to say? Are there no heroes left?