Let’s face it. We are a nation of haters.
That’s right. If it’s not happening to us, for us, by us, or for our favorite player or team, we hate it.
Rarely can we see past our hate and appreciate the achievements of others. It could be natural. It could be psychological. Who knows?
The fact remains, it’s there. And we can’t deny it.
Such is the case with America’s relationship with two of our most famous athletes: LeBron James and Tom Brady.
Both have been called the best to play their respective sports. Both possess skills from another planet.
Both are pretty nice guys, too.
Regardless of these facts, few would argue that the two of them are among the most hated athletes in America. Outside of the metropolitan areas they play in, few people are pulling for these guys on a regular basis.
I am, admittedly, a LeBron hater. I don’t know why. I know it has nothing to do with the fact that he is the best at what he does, because at the same time, I am a fan of Tom Brady.
Let me rephrase that. I would break a bottle over your head in defense of Tom Brady’s honor in an argument.
I’ve been mulling it over for quite some time now, trying to figure out what our problem is. I believe I’ve concluded that it boils down to jealousy.
Think about it. What is it they do that is so different from what you would do if you had the same ability and money? Would you build a $12 million house if you could afford it? Would you quit your job for a better situation and better coworkers in a tropical paradise if you could? Would you marry a supermodel and take vacations to Brazil?
I know I would.
Let’s think about the paths both James and Brady took to get where they are now.
James was crowned by ESPN and other media outfits as the king of the sport while he was in high school. Alone, albeit temporarily, he made the Cleveland Cavaliers relevant again. He had Cleveland, a city that doesn’t win anything, on the cover of newspapers and magazines nationwide. Unlike countless athletes in the past, he had lived up to the hype. Like most great athletes, his fans equaled his haters.
Then it happened.
The Decision. It changed everything. One hour-long infomercial about LeBron and what path his career would take changed America’s view of him. We said he was selling out, throwing in the towel and admitting defeat, all before a national audience.
But was he really? Or was he doing what all of us have tried or should be trying to do in our lives? Wasn’t he trying to improve his situation?
He finished out his contract. He had no further obligations to the Cavaliers or the city of Cleveland. He did his job. Like the rest of us often do, he went to where the grass appeared to be greener.
In a sport all too often criticized for a lack of team play, he organized a miniature dream team, in hopes of winning the ultimate team award. The same country that rooted on the original 1992 Dream Team turned against him, myself included.
Did The Decision come off as arrogant? Perhaps. Let’s think about it, though. How many of you have tweeted or updated your Facebook status to tell the world about a new car, job, girlfriend, child or hamburger joint? We all have. LeBron just used a bigger stage. You would have, too, if you had the resources.
Then we have Tom Brady. The ultimate underdog. He got a shot to play at Michigan on the back of a home video his high school coach filmed and sent to the Big Ten school.
Once at Ann Arbor, he was buried on the depth chart. For the next three years, he clawed his way to the top, only to be pushed aside when Michigan signed Drew Henson, a kid whom ESPN and other media outlets had nicknamed “The Phenom.”
After all of this, when Michigan needed big wins most, it was Brady who came through. He played his biggest games on the biggest stages with the poise of a pro.
You all know the story of how he was passed over for the better part of six rounds of the NFL draft, including by the Patriots. You all know how he got his shot as a starter on a mediocre New England team when Drew Bledsoe got injured. And we all know what happened after that.
Like James, Brady made a forgotten franchise the envy of an entire sport. His hard work and meticulous style, fueled by a permanent chip on his shoulder, made him the best in the game.
Even after his team was accused of cheating and his success appeared to be tainted, he would lead them to a perfect regular season, falling, as you all know, to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Much has been made of how Brady and the Patriots haven’t won anything since ‘Spy-gate.” Super Bowls, no. But they’ve played in two and been the winningest team in the NFL since it broke. And you still hate him.
You hate him for his non-sports related magazine covers. You hate him for his hair. You hate him for dancing on vacation. OK.
Don’t hate him for lobbying officials to make calls. Everyone does it. Don’t hate him for being the NFL’s golden boy. Someone has to do it. From Namath to Montana, there has always been one.
The bottom line for both LeBron and Brady is that they are hated because they have what all of us want: Money, Success, Fame, Power, Attention.
These guys have it all. They worked for it all. That’s what this country is about, and its too bad most of us let our jealousy get in the way of appreciating that. Myself included.
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