Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hated Guys, Adam Morrison, and Ken Griffey Jr.

As I went through the bracket the other day and I got to Duke and North Carolina, it made me think of how much players on their teams are hated. This topic has generated tons of stories in the print, online, radio, and television media. I saw this from The Big Lead (it was linked off of the Dan Patrick Show) this morning and, while interesting, it’s the same type of thing that I’ve seen anywhere else.

What's missing is why the media “wonders” why certain guys were considered the most hated college basketball players in their time. As if it’s a big mystery why people couldn’t stand Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, JJ Redick, Adam Morrison, Jon Scheyer, and Tyler Hansbrough, to name a few. Notice anything similar about them? The Duke thing notwithstanding, they’re all white guys who played significant roles on their teams. (Yes, I realized Hasheem Thabeet is black, hard to miss a 7’3 guy, but he’s not a universally hated guy on the level of the other names above, no one is publishing his cell phone number and calling him).White guys are easy targets for student fans attending games because most of those kids are white. Scan the student section of any school and you’re not going to find a lot of non-white faces. Maybe some Asian kids will be sprinkled in, but you sure won’t see a huge faction of black kids jumping in unison with their faces painted yelling “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” So it makes perfect sense why those guys are targeted. It’s a lot easier for these kids to target opposing players who look like them because they are familiar and there is no downside to it. If they razz Scheyer on the court and call him names, make posters, post his cell phone number and the like, then they’re spirited college kids and create a great college atmosphere. If they treated a guy like Terrance Williams from Louisville the same way, then there’s a pretty good chance that they’d be considered racist. Not that college kids are above being racist, but in a public setting like, say a college basketball game on national TV, they would probably refrain, that and they’re probably scared of him in a way that they’re not scared of guys like Jon Scheyer.

Add the fact that each of those guys, except Morrison, were around for four years and you can see why a fan base would grow to hate them.

Also, I remain baffled as to why draft experts were saying that Morrison was going to be a marketing wonder for whichever franchise drafted him. I didn’t understand it then and I don’t understand it now. What exactly, besides his whiteness, is appealing about Morrison? He’s a poster child for athletes suffering from type I diabetes. He is to be commended for being able to function at the highest of levels with this disease. I’ll give him that. But outside of his ability to excel despite having a debilitating disease, it’s my understanding that he’s a real jackass, perhaps he’s mellowed because he’s been humbled and exposed as a pretty substandard NBA player, but when he was in college his aloofness and overall “I’m superior” attitude was well known.

He could play, but he was a jerk. So aside from his preposterous mustache, shaggy hair, anti-establishment, Che Guevera clich├ęd persona, and whiteness made him such a guarantee to be a marketing machine? If a player is good, makes himself available to fans through the media, and is cool to fans in appearances and charity work he will be a god in whatever town he’s in. There is no question. Many people in US cities are highly provincial and are very protective and sensitive about where they live. If a player shows even the slightest interest or pride in the city that he plays for, he will have fans eating out of his hand. It’s such a simple concept, but many players don’t get it or simply don’t care. Seattle is no different. Ray Allen immediately made an impression with the people of Seattle by taking out an ad in the local newspapers introducing himself to the city and its fans. It was such an easy thing to do and even if he didn’t mean anything that he said, he still had them.

Some guys transcend that though just because they are so damn good it doesn’t matter if they’re jerks. Ken Griffey Jr. is one of those guys. I know nothing about him on a personal level, but I do know how he sounds when he speaks about Seattle. People here love him because of what he meant to the Mariners in the late 80s and all of the 90s. He was widely considered the best player in baseball and he was ours. It was like dating the hottest girl in school and doing anything and everything for her and forgetting about all of those times when she went out on the town and danced with random dudes and didn’t even bother calling you and then not apologizing for her behavior. You forgive all of that because she is so hot and you don’t want to mess that up. Griffey would be extremely cold to the local media; which, by extension, meant that he was extremely cold toward the fans. When he re-signed here in Seattle recently people desperately wanted him to make very overt statements about how much he loves it in Seattle and he owes it to himself and to the fans to return here and retire as a Mariner, all that b.s. He kind of did that, but not as overtly many people wanted him to. Also, when a local sports radio guy, Mike Gastineau, asked him if he feels like Seattle needs some good news because of the Sonics leaving and the terrible season the Seahawks had, and that he could provide that, Griffey distanced himself from the situation dismissively by saying (I’m paraphrasing here), “Hey, I live in Florida, I don’t really follow it.” That was weak, but Griffey doesn’t care. He doesn’t care about the people in Seattle one bit. He cares about the closure this move could mean for him and his career, but he doesn’t care what anydude in Seattle thinks of him, really. He just wants them to cheer for him and praise his every step. I loved Griffey back in the day, because he was a great baseball player, but those days are long gone. I see no need to date him any longer.

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