We have no right!

I have been waiting to weigh in on a topic that is near and dear to me. I’ve been wanting to say something, but I wanted it to be received well so I held my peace. Sometimes it’s good to let certain things settle a bit before saying something about it. I am an avid basketball fan – especially NBA basketball.

 I actually love all sporting events, but I think over the years I’ve changed. Games are great to watch. I’ve even had an occasional bet on a game. I guess I’m a fan of sports because of how well I know that sports has changed many lives – both good and bad. The potential for lives to be changed for the better is almost worth all corruption that happens.

Sports have been the way some folks learn about life. It has been the ticket for some to go to college, become millionaires and even turn lives around. Sports have allowed us to witness the God-given gifts of men and women who excel through various levels. To watch Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan play basketball or Venus and Serena Williams play tennis or Usain Bolt run or Michael Phelps swim – well, you get the picture. Sporting events bring sports fans a lot of joy.

Recently, LeBron James decided to jump into free agency and sign a multi-year contract with the Miami Heat.  The reaction from Cleveland was clearly over the top. Once the announcement was made, Cleveland Cavs fans burned their LeBron James jerseys in the street. I was in Westlake, Ohio a few days ago and they were selling shirts which called the superstar the “Lyin King” among other things. I had not seen this much hatred since the owner of the original Browns football team decided to move the team away from the city. Ugliness ensued and the fans were left without a professional football team for a while, but the city was able to retain the Browns name.

Because of our love for the games and the passion that goes with it, I have found Ohioans to be very loyal to their teams. There are people who cheer for Ohio State that never even went to college. This was a shock to me coming from Michigan. I mean, I love the Maize and Blue too, but I’m not going to get into a heated argument after a game. When I first came to Ohio, a Buckeye fan keyed my car after U of M beat OSU because my car sported a Michigan license plate. I thought these people were crazy. They’d ask me each Saturday who I was rooting for and I would always say, “the Broncos” after my alma mater WMU. I would tell them that the game didn’t matter to me and that I just hoped we see a really good game. Even members of my former congregation would express their likes or dislikes on Sunday morning as to who won or lost Saturday night.

My point here is this: As fans we have the right to cheer or boo; to have favorite athletes and choose whose jersey we will wear. But when we start wishing ill-will toward our fellow man or wanting to do bodily harm to an athlete, we have crossed the line.

Earlier this year, now former UT coach Lame Kiffen left the school for the head coaching job at USC. UT fans showed their displeasure by publicly threatening his family, harassing his children and making statements like they hope his plane crashes on the way to USC. One fan said online in a statement, “Everyone is so upset now about this, but we need to let it go, it is out of our hands. Lame Kiffen’s day will come, just like the good ol’ book(Bible) says you do a good thing and you shall be rewarded, but you do bad thing and you will not be rewarded. Look on the positive side, we will get a better coach and our team will be #1 this year!” This quote is mild except for the obvious lie told on the Bible here. The good ol’ book as this fan calls it never says anything about good work always yields good rewards and visa versa. I though TN was the heart of the Bible belt?

This problem is widespread and we need to get a handle on it. If a professional athlete chooses to leave your hometown and go with another team and a few days later you are still stewing about their decision and raising your blood pressure as a result – or if you are getting so angry as to have thoughts of harming the athlete, you need help.

LeBron James is gone, Cleveland! You were not robbed and he does not owe you a thing. He made a choice that he felt was in the best interest of his family. Be thankful for the time you had him for. Be glad that a world class athlete played for your favorite team and gave his all. Be thankful that you got to witness such a talent. And above all else, remember that it’s a business and no one has to get your permission to do anything. When it’s all said and done, those of us who love sports are just fans. No more, no less. And we need to start acting like fans.