Love Is Not A Problem
I live for watching LeBron James play on the road. Not because so-and-so's girlfriend might decide to talk shit to a basketball demi-god ("Aeneas is a bitch!"), but for that one shock and awe moment when the crowd gives in. Invariably, James does something on the floor—could be a dunk, or a pass, or particularly vicious block—that elicits oohs and ahhs from the hostile crowd. Part of this has to do with Bron being Bron; anyone who can watch him nonchalantly is an idiot. But it's also a matter of that one play that signals the breaking point, where all that homer resolve falls away and you get a chorus of rosy-cheeked kids.
There are a few variations on this throughout the league—trust me, I've been gathering the data for months. You hear it for Kobe, but there it's mixed with groans and grunts. Hard to tell if the crowd's amazed despite themselves, or amazed at just how shitty Kobe can make opponents feel. Amare also takes the collective breath away, but with him it's almost comically visceral, like the whole arena just got kicked in the gut. With LeBron, though, you can really feel the ambivalence fall away, as thousands of people drop the act and admit they're in the presence of greatness.
Now, I realize that this is something every honest ticket-holder should immediately regret. After all, you pay your hard-earned cash to help others, not enjoy the game of basketball. What's more, this kind of universal appeal, which is somewhere between religion and bullies, doesn't exactly make you feel strong and in command. And face it, part of a real man's fan experience is feeling like you matter not as a passive spectator, but as a warrior in your own right. Any kind of self-conscious fandom is macho, unless it's a function of parenting, in which case it's proof that PARENTING IS THE NEW ASS-KICKING.
But you know, when this happens, I can't help but think: Maybe we're onto something after all. Maybe there are shades of liberated fandom, that will follow in the wake of our scorched-earth extremism.