Monday, June 13, 2011

Reaction to the Heat Loss

While I do not fall into the category of the devoted—the adoring fanatics—I was happy to hear of the results of this year’s NBA finals series. Had the Heat won, it would have been easy enough to avoid experiencing the celebration. No one is forced to watch such things. However, it is nice to know that presumptions are not fulfilled.

Presumptions like those of LeBron James and the Heat, who saw themselves as the best without having to earn the title. It wasn’t bad enough that they thought the season was a foregone conclusion; they expected to win all the championships remaining in their careers to hear them speak.

Or the presumptions of the self-proclaimed “experts”—the prophets and prognosticators of the sports world weren’t much better. They all declared outrageous futures for the Heat before a single game had been played. Even after the season had been played and the Heat had been exposed as mere humans, the experts qualified every statement they made about the team. King LeBron did not live up to their expectations, but they still refused to recognize the evidence. He would turn things around, because they had all declared him the best before he had actually won.

Still, the desire to witness pride taking a fall has reminded me of the uncomfortable parallels between current sports fandom in America, and the human tendency toward religious adoration and worship. People are created to worship, and even in denying God they find other things on which to direct this creaturely drive. Sport in the 21st Century has become uncannily close to old regional pagan deity worship. People converge together to adore their heroes. They wear the signs and symbols of their pantheon. They exercise faith that their objects of adoration will triumph. They project godlike qualities on the athletes they worship. It can all become a little too weird for comfort.

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