Sunday, 12 May 2019

A Literal Sports Analogy

If you know Marx, then you know the art of ownership is the outright theft of the lifeblood of the laborer. Such an owner may have captured enough shares of your consciousness to control much of your thought if you find that notion outright absurd. You are now empowered to dream of becoming one of them. A wealthy one. A creator of wealth. You can rise to that cusp, but can you overcome it?

One such dreamer might be an iconic athlete. Like anyone of his talent, he is loved and loathed — inexplicably loathed, I have to say, though in recognition of the source of the animosity. From the aesthetics of athletics perspective, one of such enormous talent which is widely opined as the pinnacle of the craft will naturally rub the wrong way the fan who doesn't like his style of play. Then, as if the art of entertainment were not enough, there's in turn the import of power and personality at play whereupon the person is granted a power in the consciousness of the fanatic, who then sees every action taken by this generational influence as odious and hears every word uttered by such a powerful personality as repellent.

On one level this is an absurd attitude to take. It's just sports. You can't ever really know the guy. How can you give something so trivial such meaning? And, of course, a common response is that the haters aren't the one giving the trivial figure the platform; they're just reacting to it.

Seen in this shade, sports are part of our culture and representative of our way of life and not coincidentally a synecdoche of how our lives are organized whether we choose to take part in that experience or not. No matter how blissfully unaware one is of the world of sports entertainment, it is one of many wheels driven by the engine that powers our automotive response.

Now mix the iconic athlete with what would seem to be his passive-aggressive tendencies and you can't help but see conspiring afoot as it relates to your favorite franchise. Or most loathed team, for whatever it's worth.


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If the central figure in this macro-spiel really is at once the key investment in the game on the court, let us not stop at a suggested passive-aggressive managerial move that would hedge in his favor by hiring a coach whose assistant would replace him because... well, just because that's what most pundits believe'd happened once before.

The journalist is hedging by not being so explicit, but the suggestion is there. I don't just wanna make explicit the pre-planned eventual firing of former Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, but would like to entertain the idea that a part of the plan is not just maybe to get lucky and succeed in the game of x's & o's but also to hire a coach that could lure the consciousness of Paul George to the Los Angeles Lakers, who were said to have owned enough of his emotional facilities that he had been destined to have been playing for them already.

You see, the former Indiana Pacers star made sports headlines two years ago by going public with his intention to leave the team that had drafted him and would have his Bird rights, with the ultimate desire to play for the team with real estate not too far from where he had grown up. His stated intention made it possible for the Pacers to trade him before he was free, so that they could own players for him in return. They traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was due to George's stated desire that the Lakers, and everyone else, assumed he'd be joining them once his contract with the Thunder had expired, which would leave him free to allow the Lakers to exploit his labor.

As a near lifelong Pacers fan who is of the ilk that knows no loyalty to a flagship and therefore nurtures no resentment towards players who skip town regardless of reason, I was tickled pink when Paul George decided after one season in Oklahoma City to sign a longterm contract with them. All the pundits were shocked in all caps. Unisono they pundited that he had been won over by a combination of an affinity for his ownership and a comradery with his teammate, Russell Westbrook. They made it a feelgood story.

My status as one whose Pacers fandom was in overactive mode during his time with the team feel that there was another factor involved, namely, the afore-to alluded basketball icon, in whose shadow he had more than casually competed. In between the time that George had made his desire to play for the Lakers clear and when that would have been a possibility, the icon, who had returned in glory to his own hometown team to help make them a champion, left his team a second time, this time in favor of his Los Angeles real estate.

I don't mean to suggest that Paul George is a King James hater. I do mean to suggest that the frustrating losses he suffered to his head-to-head competition in subsequent Eastern Conference Finals was enough to make him want to beat him rather than join him, even if that meant forgoing an opportunity to fulfill a formative dream and bask in the conscious reality of sporting the colors of his childhood heroes.

Fast forward to one season later. Is he happy with his decision to stay in Oklahoma with a then-to-fore unheard of triple-season triple-double icon who seems to have increased his poor shot selection the more he misses? The running narrative is no,  no would-be superstar player would be. He had decided to stay because of a potential he saw in a winning combination (where I'd say it was the potential to beat his rival out of getting to the finals for his third different owner). But the way the team has now lost is surely too frustrating to abide. Can even the projections of the punditry be correct twice in a while?

The Lakers had been so sure of George's joining them last season that Lakers icon Magic Johnson didn't even attempt to meet with him during his free agency period, which now officially represents one in a string of failures for the team (where I'd say it didn't matter, as George wasn't joining team James anyway).

Over the course of this past season, the running punditry has become that there aren't any free agent stars that want to join LeBron James because they don't want to play in his shadow, and although they did not mention Paul George in this context when he, to them, inexplicably, signed with Oklahoma City last summer, I believe that that has contributed to the forming of this general view.

So why not go so far as to suppose that the desperate Lakers have been colluding with the desperate James all along and are attempting to execute a coup by forging a trade for a player who might be ready to rethink his destiny now that his old coach is coaching his hometown team, reigniting the childhood dreams that had been extinguished by the very shadow he'd be asked to team up with?

Or maybe the pundited animosity between the icon LeBron and his ownership is truly such that the team is passive-aggressively trying to get him to want out of LA so bad that he'd acquiesce to a trade that would land them a malleable participant of lesser ambition of real estate, who'd fit better with what will prove to be a proven team concept, that along with the icon of purple & gold will amount to a return of hoops glory, Hollywood style, that they thought they'd be getting before they realized the King's consciousness had expanded beyond a mere franchise's fortunes — he aimed to perch himself upon the throne that had made it all happen?

I mean, that's what the punditry posits: He gets all of the credit for success but none of the blame for failure — this while they're blaming him for taking all the credit and shifting all of the blame elsewhere. He has on occasion gone so far as to deny their claims that he secretly coordinates everything, and there are plenty who write columns that have denied they ever suggested such a thing while claiming to have sources that have suggested such a thing.

It was said that LeBron James' decision revolutionized how NBA players view their free agent status in terms of how they can join together to take charge of their own destinies.  It has been written recently that one day in the not too distant future LeBron James may become the first player to become a billionaire owner of one of the league's franchises and that this has been a destiny he has set out to shape for some time now. The reigning King taking the reins of actual power? Easily enough to make one spew venomous vomit at the player but not the game?