The glow from Spain’s fantastical World Cup triumph has been fading pretty rapidly for me since July 11th; I’ve been following the whole world of sports, and have been living pretty large as a fan of two of the most hated sports franchises in the world. Real Madrid signed new coach José Mourinho, “The Special One” this off-season, finally making the move that I’ve been begging for since, oh, 2004. The Yankees are in first place in the AL East, have the best record in baseball, and I’m going to watch big CC Sabathia pitch tomorrow night against the Royals (if you happen to be watching the game, I’ll be in right-center field with the other faithful bleacher creatures).
But one person has managed to dampen my buzz a bit this summer–and, incredibly, this person has nothing to do with Barcelona (the city or the soccer club), Spain, or even soccer in general. LeBron James, with his egotistical, over-the-top, self-aggrandizing, “Decision” special, performed one of the single most mean-spirited things I’ve ever seen in real life (I don’t count reality TV as real life, so all “Real World” or “Real Housewives” moments are discounted). It’s incredible. He made an hour-long special TV show that got a 9 rating, just to whip out a massive knife and stab the entire long-suffering city of Cleveland in the back multiple times. Blech. It’s one of those things that just makes you feel kind of sick, like you’ve witnessed some sort of deep evil.
I’m not saying he had to stay in Cleveland, mind you–it’s more that instead of communicating with the Cavaliers organization in any way at all he walled himself off and announced his intentions on national, prime-time TV. It was the closest thing to sports torture I’ve ever witnessed (not counting being a Cubs or Newcastle fan…sorry guys). And I’m a Milwaukee Bucks fan, so I can only imagine what it was like for those poor folks in Cleveland.
[Before I go on to my main topic, I feel like I should note another thing: LeBron’s fleeing Cleveland could very well amount to a sort of anti-stimulus plan for the city. If the Cavs start to really suck, people will stop going to games–and thus, stop frequenting the restaurants and shops in downtown Cleveland. You see where this is going? The man represented an injection of capital into downtown Cleveland akin to something our government would do. Yikes. As a letter Bill Simmons quoted says, “this is the first time in history one man managed to destroy an entire city by himself. Even the Enola Gay had a flight crew.”]
Watching Wade, Bosh and “The Self-Appointed King” (as Dan Gilbert called him) prance around South Beach in the farce of a presentation ceremony, I couldn’t help but remember some of the presentation ceremonies I’ve seen in my career as a fan. Ah, Zidane in 2001, Ronaldo in 2002, Beckham in 2003, Cristiano and Kaká in 2009, and the list goes on. I’m sure re-watching Goal 2: Living the Dream, a thoroughly awful movie that epitomized the spirit of Madrid’s galáctico years, also jogged my memory.
This, of course brings me to my comparison, the title of this article: what about the Miami Cheats (as Simmons, among others, calls them) is like the Real Madrid galácticos circa 2003? Well, in 2003 we brought in David Beckham, the face of soccer in England–and in much of the rest of the world–after a successful campaign in 2002-2003. Beckham was announced with much fanfare, and happily predicted titles, as he pranced around in his jersey. Like A-Rod on the Yankees, his first (and only) title came 4 years later on Capello’s new Madrid in 2006-7.
‘Bron’s explosion onto South Beach reminds me of the way Beckham hit Madrid–with so much fanfare that it actually obscured some odd details: where will Becks play? We already had, in Luís Figo, a fantastic right-sided midfielder. The Cheats, in Dwayne Wade (who remains one of my favorite players, even though I will root against him with all my heart), have an “alpha-dog” scorer. Before he came to Madrid, Becks was captain of ManU, used to leading his team to glory; on Madrid he came second fiddle to Raúl, captain and bearer of his beloved number 7. LeBron is used to living in sports-crazed Ohio, being touted as the savior of the franchise, and carrying the love of the entire city–how’s he going to deal with living in Miami with the flighty South Beach crowds loving D-Wade?
And of course the Heat could easily fall prey to the galáctico curse: an embarrassment of riches, where the best players in the world find it almost impossible to play with each other because of ego, women, fame, etc. (For the record this is what I hope will happen with Barça next season–David Villa? Really? And now Cesc? I guess I know what it must’ve felt like to be them in 2002…)
Of course, Basketball isn’t soccer. “Chemistry” isn’t as important because every player plays offense and defense, and is responsible for more on a personal level. An individual player can take over a basketball game in a way that one won’t find in soccer–yeah, even you Maradona. In soccer, a player can make tons of wonderful passes, or find men in space, or even score–but without a few other guys picking up their game, you could easily still lose (in fact, it might be more likely because he’s/she’s too individualistic). In basketball, Kobe/Michael/Wilt/[insert hall of famer] can put up 81 points–game over.
I also think the LeBron = A-Rod comparisons are probably more valid than the LeBron = Beckham, and Miami 2010 = Madrid 2003 ones, but still.
And hey, if they make even half the money that Madrid did from 2003-2006, well, good on em’. And if they win the same number of titles for that many years–well, I think that’s an arrangement we could all get behind.