Something has been bothering me the last few days.
I read an article in Sports Illustrated entitled “The Many Layers of Boston’s Beef With Ray Allen” and it got me to thinking about the fact that as die hard sports fans we too often forget that sports are JUST sports.
Ray Allen left the Boston Celtics in 2012 for the Miami Heat. The same Miami Heat team that knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs in 2012 and 2011 ending all their hopes of repeating after winning an NBA title in 2008.
The Big 3 – Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen – would never be again.
Sadly Celtics fans, and several of Allen’s NBA Championship teammates, took Allen’s decision to leave in free agency as a personal affront.
A professional basketball player changed teams in FREE agency and he immediately became enemy No. 1.
To a certain degree I can sympathize with fans being upset. They invest so much emotionally and financially in their teams. Because of that they have a pride and a certain, albeit unjustified, sense of ownership over players on their team.
What I cannot sympathize with is when players start acting like fans and get so butt hurt that they hold grudges for years.
For one moment lets just substitute professional “athlete” for another profession.
Let’s say there is a pilot that works for an airline that got a better offer and decided to work for a rival airline. Do you think for one moment that any of the other flight attendants or pilots that worked with said pilot would be so pissed off over someone changing companies that they would refuse to speak to this person?
No. Not at all. And if it did happen any sane person would look at the person or persons holding a grudge and say they were off their rocker and completely unjustified.
Sadly, that isn’t usually the case in sports.
I don’t know what it is about someone throwing, shooting, kicking or hitting a ball around that causes people to lack the ability to see and think clearly. But it definitely happens and with shocking regularity.
Sometimes, we forget that sports are just sports.
It’s not brain surgery. It’s not a war where people fight for something so ferociously that they risk their own life. It’s not science and the fight to cure cancer.
Yet, Ray Allen deciding to sign a contract to play basketball with a rival team has filled so many people with an irrational hate and fury they do things like freeze him out from a reunion to celebrate a title he was crucial in helping them win.
It causes a fan base in Oklahoma City to lose their minds. Sweet little old ladies, young children, fathers, mothers, lawyers, doctors, etc. wearing cupcake shirts, making homemade signs, yelling and screaming vitriol even burning his jersey to berate, bully and express their anger for Kevin Durant for simply choosing to leave his employer for another employer which he had every right to do.
It is completely and utterly mindbogglingly flabbergasting to me.
Ray Allen is a phenomenal human being. And he was a phenomenal player. The fact that he is cut from a different cloth and would rather sit down on a plane or in a hotel room on the road and read a book instead of go to the club or out to dinner isn’t ammo to add to this weapon of hate Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Celtics fans have been wielding since 2012.
All that matters is what he did between the lines. And you cannot argue with what he produced.
Can we just let it go? Can we gain just a little perspective here? Can we remember, even if just for a moment, that sports are sports. Just sports. Everyone from 3 year olds to 90 year olds play them. They are meant to be fun. They are meant to teach life lessons. They’re meant to bring people together. Not divide them.