Despite a couple of good swings, the Miami Herald's Dan Le Batard pretty much failed to connect with reality in his column last Sunday, a 1,000 word humble-brag tricked out as a nostalgia job.
The basic thesis here moans that the Heat's 2012-13 season is a lot less "fun" now that the entire sporting world isn't actively rooting against Miami. Le Batard argues that Heat hate -- particularly all that bile flowing at LeBron for his unceremonious "decision" to leave Cleveland -- has a pre-championship* vintage. With all that negativity now on leave, the stakes seem lower. Not to mention:
All the loud critics have dispersed like cockroaches when the lights come on, leaving you no one to fumigate with your rage and defiance. All of a sudden, Charles Barkley won't shut up about how LeBron James is the greatest basketball player in the world, right up there with Michael Jordan. It is confusing. After throwing things at him outside the arena, are you supposed to like him now? You could cast a net over America without ensnaring a single LeBron critic now, although Skip Bayless might jump into that net voluntarily just to say that he did.
But don't worry, Dan. Plenty of people still hate the Heat.
I still hate the Heat.
Everyone back in my hometown, Cleveland, Ohio -- or as wise men back in the 216 call it, "the city Paris aspires to be" -- still hate on the Heat.
Oklahoma City? Pretty sure they're nursing some Heat hate.
Boston? Even more than last year.
That's not to say other teams and their fans aren't deserving of some flak. Le Batard is on solid footing when he says the Knicks faithful are hard to stomach this season due to their "unearned arrogance."
Then again, it's a headscratcher how Le Batard can drop a line like that without setting his internal irony meeter screaming, seeing how the Big Three were true pioneers in the "unearned arrogance" department. That is, until, as the columnist points out, the Heat won one particular game, thus cementing a championship*.
What Le Batard's column really shows is how the view from the press box is wildly different from the one in the bleacher seats.
Just because SportsCenter isn't gargling endless coverage on the-Heat-as-villains thing doesn't mean the average Joe NBA fan has somehow worked through his animus. If anything, the Heat's image as the league's showboating, money-grubbing, corporate D-bags has only settled into the accepted typecasting.
And that's what happens. Throughout their careers, NBA players eventually are shrink-wrapped inside a particular image. It sticks, no matter how hard you try to shake it. Kobe is a fucking psycho who just had Mike Brown's face tattooed on the bottom of his foot, right next to Shaq and Smush Parker. Dwight Howard is that guy from the eighth grade, always trying to be funny but instead leaving everybody feeling sad.
And LeBron? He's the insanely talented yet soulless and empty vessel, just waiting for whatever corporate sales pitch Nike or IMG wants to pour into him next, a guy with so little self-awareness as to allow himself to be featured in a national ad campaign in a barber shop... a barber shop... this being a guy with a hairline that's disappearing faster than Native American territory in Oklahoma around the invention of the repeating rifle.
See? Plenty of people still hate on the Heat.
* What, this? Oh, that's the asterisk to remind everyone that the 2011-12 National Basketball Association season was 16 games shorter than the standard, normal, legitimate, codified, regular season.