PETER K: Woods, James Certainly Not Worthy of Hate
By Peter Kerasotis // June 16, 2012
PETER KERASOTIS – MY TAKE
What are you feeling right now? What emotions are coursing through your veins? What thoughts are firing your synapses?
Two names, but I’m guessing there’s one common reaction.
And it isn’t good.
This past Thursday, those two names, who are only the two biggest names in their respective sports, took the big stage and commanded the spotlight.
Tiger Woods shot an opening-round 69 at the U.S. Open to place him in second, just three shots off the lead.
Later that same day, LeBron James scored 32 points in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, practically placing the Miami Heat on his shoulders and leading them to a much-needed victory against the precocious and persistent Oklahoma City Thunder.
On that one day, the two greatest athletes in their sport turned in two great pressure-packed performances. And yet, from coast to coast, you could practically hear the collective sound of teeth-gnashing.
Instead of appreciation, there was alienation.
Instead of fascination, there was frustration.
Instead of celebration, there was consternation.
Look, I get why so many people don’t like Tiger and LeBron.
Yet, at the same time, I don’t get it.
At some point, we need to let go of who the artist is and how we feel about him and instead just marvel at the painting.
After all, what we’re witnessing doesn’t pass before our eyeballs very often.
I’m not suggesting you root for either Tiger or LeBron – or both. What I am suggesting is that they are two athletes who are defining their generations in their individual sports. Heck, in Tiger’s case, when he places his putter in his bag for good, he just might be the greatest we’ve seen, and ever will see.
Do we need to hate these guys?
Would a little appreciation, if not admiration, kill us?
Instead, the pendulum is completely swung in the other direction. Whenever either one of these guys gets close to winning, the hate is palpable.
Just a few weeks ago, my buddy Mike Bianchi wrote a column in the Orlando Sentinel, the title of which was: HATE For Heat Is No. 1 Reason To Watch NBA Playoffs.
Is that really the No. 1 reason to watch the NBA playoffs?
How about we watch because it’s the greatest show above earth, with the greatest player in the game now performing in the NBA Finals?
Don’t look now, but LeBron is putting up a postseason for the ages. He’s had five straight games with 30-plus points, and in eight of his last nine games he’s had 30-plus points.
He sure looks like he’s en route to his historic 15th major title, and he’s only 36, perhaps catching his second wind.
Let’s backtrack here. Let’s go all the way back prior to the revelation of Tiger’s adulterous lifestyle. If you don’t care for him since that and because of that – fine. I’ve been standing in that long line of critics, too. But prior to that, what wasn’t to like?
Yeah, he’s cocky. But all the great ones are. It’s just that some hide it better.
Yeah, he occasionally acts petulant and punkish on the golf course. But let’s not forget that no other golfer has a camera on them 24/7 like he does. This just in: other golfers curse and throw clubs, too. That’s not to excuse Tiger. It’s just to point out that when someone else gives into anger or frustration, it doesn’t get heavy rotation on ESPN SportsCenter.
Yeah, he’s often aloof with fans. But nobody in that sport has more people clamoring for his attention than he does. It gets old, it wears on him and it’s the ones who get snubbed who get the attention; not the ones Tiger signs autographs for or aids through his foundation.
Other than that, Tiger’s always been accommodating with the media, respectful in taking his hat off and shaking his playing partner’s hand after rounds, plays injured, is an intensely hard worker who is dedicated to his craft and most of the times he’s a good ambassador for his sport.
Is he flawed? Most certainly. But nobody in the last quarter century has created masterpieces with a set of golf clubs like Tiger Woods has.
Now let’s backtrack with LeBron James prior to two offseasons ago, when he left Cleveland via free agency for Miami. Before that, what was not to like? He represented his team, his sport and his home state admirably. He lifted the Cleveland Cavaliers from perennial punching bags to an NBA power. You never heard of him getting in trouble off the court or being a punk on it.
And since then? Well, he left Cleveland for Miami. Big deal. I frankly don’t know many people who wouldn’t. So he handled his departure clumsily. So what. Who of us hasn’t had the wrong words come out of our mouths and regretted it? Thankfully, when we did, none of us had a live camera on us and millions of people watching. So he wanted to go somewhere that gave him a chance to be more successful in his profession. Is that so wrong? Who of us hasn’t ever taken a better job opportunity? And remember, when LeBron went to Miami, he took less money than he could’ve made had he stayed in Cleveland.
Meanwhile, all LeBron has done since he’s gone to Miami is played hard, played unselfishly, toiled tirelessly at his craft and shown a passion for excellence. He’s humble in news conferences, intelligent and accommodating.
When I talked to him last December for a New York Times piece, he didn’t know who I was or which newspaper I was representing. Yet he took the time to give, providing thoughtful, if not introspective, answers.
He’s not a bad guy. He’s just made a few faux pas. He’s also, clearly, gotten some bad PR advice.
Not a big sin.
Certainly not worthy of hate.
But he has the wrath and the worst wishes of most of the country in these NBA Finals, just as Tiger does in this U.S. Open.
Both, though, have their pens poised to inscribe their names in the history books.
Tiger Woods could have his fourth U.S. Open title tomorrow, and LeBron James his first NBA championship by the end of the month.
They are the two greatest athletes in their sport, performing big on the biggest of stages.
Enough already with the gnashing of teeth.