Doing the media flip-flop or “How to play the results”

This is not a post about basketball.  Well, not exactly.

This means if you don’t care about basketball at all or sports in general, you can read on.  Or, if you do care about basketball or sports, you can read on.  Basically, read on…

Regular readers know I’m a fascinated follower of the Miami Heat ever since the big hoopla surrounding the signings of Chris Bosh and Lebron James (and resigning of Dwyane Wade).  Not so much because I follow basketball (I’m terrible at basketball and I rarely follow sports I’m terrible playing), but because of the unprecedented backlash resulting from the signing.

Digression:  I actually root for all Florida teams, being a born and raised South Floridian.  Granted, going to UF made supporting UM more difficult, but since they rarely play each other anymore, I can get away with it.  End digression.

Now,  rather than fill up the space with my reasons for staying focused on the Heat, I direct you to previous posts (found in the “Sports” category):  “But I don’t even like basketball”, “From dogs to underdogs” and “Winning is everything”.  Our topic for today differs from those, so let’s get to it.

What has most fascinated me about the “Big 3” Heat is the “performance” of the media.  First, in a much sought after and heavily publicized “scoop”, ESPN made a bunch of money broadcasting Lebron James’ ill-thought public announcement of going to Miami.

The network has spent a good portion of the ensuing two years “sitting” on Lebron to a microscopic level that would put most reality TV to shame.  Individual “talking heads” have literally ridden the Lebron “failure” to generate ratings or web hits sufficient to provide them an actual living.

During this same period, the viewing/reading public has been deluged with the idea that this “built to order” team must win a championship or they will have failed.  Specifically, Lebron James will have failed, be less of a man, have less heart, be less than great.

In the process, Lebron and the Heat became the “new” man and team America loved to hate.  America had not actually met the man (or the team), but when has that ever stopped us from forming an opinion.

Now, after one of the finest seasons a professional basketball player can have, the narrative changes as quickly as the weather in the town Lebron plays in.  The recognition of Lebron’s excellence, the MVP award, was given little attention as the focus shifted to the playoffs and his need to overcome his “failure” (the team was two wins from a championship).

In the first round, there was little drama, so the noise was about sloppy play and lack of aggression.  In the second round, Bosh went down in the first game, the Heat trailed 2-1 and the narrative was the team couldn’t work without Bosh; that Wade, James and the rest were broken.  Then James put on a performance that hadn’t been seen in the playoffs in 50 years and the Heat never looked back.

After the Pacers were dispatched, the narrative was how the road to the finals was a lay down, with key injuries derailing tough opponents and only the aged Celtics in the Heat’s way to a Finals showdown.  Indeed, racing out to a 2-0 lead without Bosh, everything seemed to be in place.  Then, disaster!  Three in a row lost and the Celtics with an opportunity to close it out in the “Gawden”, where the Heat had only one victory in two years (last year’s playoffs).  Suddenly, the “aged” Celtics were powered by the “hearts of champions” and the Heat simply weren’t a good enough team, led by a passive James (despite his record-setting heroics the previous round).

James then went on to have another superhero-like game and the Heat won at Boston and closed out a seventh game at home.  Now Lebron was back to being the best in the game,  magical and amazing and someone we just didn’t appreciate enough (I wonder why…apparently no mirrors were on the set that day).

The first game of the Finals, the Heat blew a lead, got crushed in the fourth quarter and Lebron James became a target for derision again (despite the lack of support from his other two cohorts).  It looked like the young and fearless Thunder would once again relegate James to failure.  Maybe they should break up the team, the pundits said.

After a game two victory, stealing back home court advantage, now the flop is back to Miami maybe having too much veteran savvy and perhaps the Thunder were too young after all.  If Miami only won 2 of 3 at home, they would have two chances to close it out in Oklahoma.  And gosh, isn’t that James guy great?

Huh?  I can’t call these guys fence-sitters, since they clearly choose sides, but apparently they don’t feel any embarrassment or lack of integrity from changing their tune nearly every game.  Granted, sports “journalism” is dead, but this behavior is as close to dishonest as you can come and at least qualifies as pandering.

Why does this irk me so?  Because too often, American viewers are easily influenced to form an opinion based on what they see on the screen (once and perhaps presciently called the “Boob tube”). From beer and car ads to talking heads about sports and politics, people are more willing to allow others to decide their opinions for them, rather than find out for themselves.

With the advent of the “information age”, the “disinformation age” has blossomed as well.  Anyone with a computer and some time can create a blog (case in point).  Now that Facebook and twitter are here, you don’t even need the computer anymore, just type some stuff from your phone.  And heck, if enough people say it, it’s gotta be true, right?

And then, when the opinion flips, people just flop right along, not even acknowledging the absurdity of having an entirely different opinion on a person or issue than the day before.  Good grief, people, wake up!  Don’t get caught in the media flip-flop.  Judge for yourself, learn for yourself, make up your own mind.  Don’t get caught playing the results.

Otherwise, you must believe that Lebron James will never win a championship, because he just isn’t strong like Michael or Magic.  Unless the Heat win this year, and then he has the heart of a champion…which, of course, we knew all along.

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