Let me just start by saying: I am not really a sports fan, and I am definitely not a basketball fan. I know next to nothing about the NBA and am not that interested to learn. However, when I got on the internet this morning the collective schadenfreude at the Miami Heat’s loss was unavoidable. It seemed like every other message on social networking sites was a celebration of the Mavericks’ win, and this from people who were neither from, nor live, anywhere near Texas.
Something about this immediately doesn’t sit right, since almost all of these people are white and they just seem so damn excited to demonize a Black man. Over at the Nation, Dave Zirin wrote a nice post about James’ post-game quote and how it reflects a collective decision to direct anger at an athlete rather than at, say, our politicians. What Zirin doesn’t quite spell out, but what stands out for me, is the fact that people (mostly white people, I’m guessing) seem to have an easier time enforcing moralistic narratives on Black athletes. It’s hard not to feel like James’ choice to join the Heat is not somehow related to the feeling that he should be grateful and humble for the success he’s found, which is a profoundly racialized narrative. The schadenfreude from last night’s game just seems as though people are glad to see James ‘put in his place.’
Meanwhile, over at New Black Man, David Leonard discusses the complexity involved in such situations, illustrating nicely how sports fandom isn’t just about the politics of race, but yet at the same time always is.
Updated to include this link to a post about Ohio’s decision to “honor” the Mavericks for beating Lebron James.