Snack on Coarsened Paint
My day is a carcass, but I wanted to get two thoughts out there. First, the LeBron James issue. It's all over the smart internet today, I'm guessing because of this Think Progress post. While I dealt with the basics a week ago, I do have a slightly more nuanced two cents on the subject.
I'm sure this will come as a crotchety disappointment to some, but I expect no less of professional athletes. Sure, it's news when Josh Howard or Etan Thomas speaks out on an issue; that doesn't mean that every inaction on an athlete's part is newsworthy. Especially not among superstars, who don't really interact with the outside world in the same way the rest of us do--theirs is highly mediated, filtered, and prioritized. If LeBron were indeed an outlier (among players of his caliber, who are the only ones this would be noticed with), and sports culture as a whole was riding a tide of awareness and politicization, this would be worth harping on. I don't see, though, how James embodying the status quo is cause for alarm. Sports is not the early Soviet Union; the vanguard of entertainment has no necessary correlation with the vanguard of social thought. That Shaun Penn is a fine, daring actor really does nothing to make me think he's a worthy agitator for liberalism.
Here's where the water starts to shed: "anti-genocide" is not a subjective stance in the same that "pro-Obama" would be. A stand like "anti-genocide" requires only moral clarity and is hard to dispute, while "pro-Obama" would be more slippery and require some degree of commitment. If the distinction between the two is being blurred here, though, I don't think it's fair to blame LeBron. Fat people in poor neighborhoods shouldn't eat so much fast food, but McDonald's is the real enemy. It's not on LeBron that sports culture has been drained of its political valence, or that to him anything involving world affairs is kryptonite. It's Nike, the league, coaches, the sponsors, and other players who keep these issues out of athletes' field of vision. Expecting LeBron to grasp and reverse a symptom is some 2003 draft night level hyperbole.
Oh, and a note to my fellow liberals: even when young black men get rich off of sports, they are still young black men. Same goes for when they fuck with dogfighting. I know that they've let you down a lot since the Civil Rights Movement, but try and mind your rhetoric of bodies, thugs, and stupidity a little.
Also, I noticed a few commenters wanting to hear some thoughts on the lottery as something in itself, not just the preamble to this draft class taking form. To you, I give: the lottery is beautiful exactly because it throws the whole world into upheaval in a single night. Of course two franchises saved for good, and two more lowering themselves into a suicidal depths of regret, is going to reach an audience in a way Spurs/Jazz never could. A more "fair" system would render justice, and a more rational one might eliminate the threat of tankers. But only with this current, rapturously imperfect design do we get an evening practically hard-wired for some kind of melodrama.