The RP: Lebron, Tiger & Why I Find Myself Rooting for the “Bad Guys”

This Father’s Day, I will be spending in bed rooting for Tiger Woods to win the US Open, and then for LeBron James to carry the Miami Heat to a 2-1 NBA Finals series lead.  Not IN SPITE of their widespread unpopularity, but BECAUSE of it.

I explain why in my latest column for The Huffington Post:

For most of his career, I’d been largely indifferent to NBA superstar Lebron James.  My passion is college basketball, and since Lebron leaped straight from high school to the pros, I never had the opportunity to root for him in Kentucky blue, or curse him if he had, God forbid, put on a Duke uniform.

My opinion of golf phenom Tiger Woods was always a bit more jaundiced.  I developed an early man crush on Phil Mickelson, and was continually frustrated with (while being constantly awestruck by) Tiger’s mind-meld hold on Lefty — and on the rest of the PGA tour, for that matter — during his extraordinary and unparalleled domination of the sport for nearly a decade.

But as Lebron leads his Miami Heat through a brutal playoff finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and as Tiger tries to recapture his magic formula for winning Major tournaments in this week’s U.S. Open, I will be enthusaistically cheering both of them on.

Why my change of heart?

Each of these men, after all, made a series of stupid mistakes.

Lebron James branded himself with a scarlet A for arrogance by announcing his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers in what many thought was a callous, disloyal manner; and then by carelessly bragging that by taking “his talents to South Beach,” he’d produce a string of NBA championships for the Heat.  In the most communitarian of sports — a game that rewards teamwork over selfish hotdogging — Lebron emerged as the poster child for Gen Y narcisism, the prototypical me-first face of the Facebook generation.

Tiger Woods’ scarlet A was, of course, a bit more true to the original Hawthorne.  From his initial domestic-induced car crash, to the perverse scenes of Kardashian-wannabes hiring Gloria Allred to grub their fifteen minutes of sex scandal infamy, Tiger enriched the monologues of the late-night host and comedic stand-up industry for weeks on end.

Both Lebron and Tiger have been mercilessly villified; their public unfavorability ratings possibly unmatched by any American not named John Edwards.

And that’s precisely why I am rooting for them.

Click here to read the entire piece at The Huffington Post.


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