Whether it was the NHL Final, the NBA Final or currently the World Cup Soccer, we have seen/are seeing athletes pushing themselves for that elusive prize they’ve trained countless hours/days/years for, and fans cheering and jeering – hoping against all hope for bragging rights.
Undoubtedly, mixed in with the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are those underlying storylines of player retribution and coach journey back to glory.
Sometimes the stories get a little odd. In San Antonio, the AT&T Center’s air conditioning malfunctioned during the Spurs’ 110-95 victory over the Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, and Miami forward LeBron James missed the last four minutes with leg cramps.
According to Ben Golliver’s ‘Spurs apologize for AT&T Center’s malfunctioning air conditioning during Game 1’ article, the temperature in the arena had exceeded 90 degrees. James asked out of the game multiple times and ultimately left for good with 3:59 remaining and the Heat trailing 94-92. After James’ departure, San Antonio finished the game on a 16-3 run to win the opener of the Finals rematch.
“[The heat] was significant. It was definitely a factor,” San Antonio big man Tim Duncan told ABC after the game. “I don’t know about what happened to LeBron, but all of us feeling the heat were dehydrated.”
“I think everybody got a little tired or a little dehydrated,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I’m sure that both teams are going to be happy that we have a couple of days before the next game and hopefully we can pay our bills.”
The Spurs confirmed the problem in a press statement. “An electrical failure for the power that runs the AC system in the AT&T Center has occurred,” the statement read. “We are continuing to work on resolving the problem. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
was certainly major. Golliver reports that James asked for a breather with 7:03 left in the third quarter, an unusually early time in the period for him to get a rest. Four-time MVP and Miami big man Chris Bosh both came out of the game at that point and sat on the bench with ice packs on the back of their necks. James returned at the 3:53 mark of the quarter.
LeBron requested another break with 7:31 to play in the fourth quarter and the Heat leading 86-84. San Antonio went on a 10-4 run over the next three minutes before James returned with Miami trailing 94-90. James immediately scored on a driving layup, but he pulled up when he landed, and had to be helped off the floor.
James’ toughness and intestinal fortitude were immediately questioned by fans, analysts and others. As is usually the case, many turned to social media to voice their feelings. Even Gatorade – rival to PowerAde, James’ endorsed drink of choice – got into the act, to the point that they ended up issuing an apology for their shots.
Ripping professional athletes is nothing knew and is certainly not restricted to Lebron. Recently, a headline in the Oklahoman labeled NBA MVP Kevin Durant as Mr. Unreliable. The Oklahoma City paper, the hometown paper of the Oklahoma Thunder, was soundly criticized and ended up issuing an apology.
According to ‘The Oklahoman apologizes for calling Thunder’s Kevin Durant ‘Mr. Unreliable’’, sports editor Mike Sherman admitted that that newspaper “failed” with its headline, which appeared in large letters above a photo of Durant surrounded by three members of the Grizzlies. The headline, Sherman said, was “overstated and unduly harsh,” and “left the impression that we were commenting on Durant’s season, career or even character. We were not. We were referring only to the Memphis series.”
Fact is, this does not just occur in the NBA. Professional athletes in every sport are routinely the brunt of fan and non-fan rage. And for the most part, if it affects them at all it probably motivates them to take “it” to another level.
Unfortunately, we are seeing this “living vicariously” manifest itself onto the courts, diamonds and fields. High schoolers and – yes – younger athletes hear and see behavior directed toward them that athlete’s like Tony Romo, Josh Hamilton and Alex Rodriquez would turn around and take note (and they’ve heard everything).
In my blog, Brent Coralli on When Parents Go Over The Line, I said we spend so much time preparing our girls to become conscientious, positive members of society, the least we can do – whether as a parent or coach – is act the same way.
Let’s extend that to fans as well. Whereas some may say that for professional athletes, the name-calling, and hijinks come with the territory, we are talking kids and young adults. What you may say to the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys who just threw another pick six, shouldn’t be in the same tone or language you say to a junior high second baseman who misses the cut-off throw from the right fielder.
While this may seem like a no-brainer, you would be surprised. When I was interviewed by KTVT-TV (CBS affiliate) for a story on ‘Banning the Word Bossy’, I told the reporter – at Sting we don’t have time for name calling or labels. Honestly, we really don’t put much thought to it. I’m very proud and humbled to say our girls do the right thing on and off the field and have the confidence and self-awareness within themselves to embrace and love who they are – – we know we cannot control what others say or do toward us.
One of the main reasons I got involved with Sting is because I wanted young girls to understand that you must believe in, and love yourself; that it is okay to be strong and reliant on yourself without having to rely on men or anyone else. As the father of two daughters (and a son) it was important that my daughters’ embrace that they can do anything they want to, if they set their mind to it.
It would be nice if we – as parents and fans – support that message…