You need to watch LeBron James play basketball tonight.

Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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127 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    I think the 80s finals comes close, but it wasn’t a whole series. If LeBron wins this, it will be the greatest individual performance in history, hands down.Report

    • Chris in reply to Chris says:

      This has been my favorite finals so far. Curry has been off, for sure, but he’s still making plays that human beings should not be able to make: the shot off the triple screen near the end of the 4th in game 3, e.g., or the game 1 breaking of LeBron’s ankles, which never happens.

      Also, I think that if the smart money is still on GS, it’s by a very, very slim margin, as Green is really hurt, and Barnes has been completely shut down. Right now, GS is just a backcourt and maybe David Lee (who didn’t even play in games 1 and 2), and while making those 3’s will keep them in games, it will be damn hard for them to win with 3 point shots alone.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

        As far as series goes, to this point it is the best of my adult lifetime (I’m 31). However, Game 6 of the first Spurs/Heat series was probably the best game… or at least most insane finish in that time frame. I believe I hosted a life blog here that just devolved into me smashing my fist into the keyboard.Report

    • LWA in reply to Chris says:

      *Nods and chuckles knowingly.*

      I’ll be back later.Report

  2. Sam says:

    Nods. It seems impossible to imagine that he won’t win the Finals MVP award regardless of the series’s outcome.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    LeBron James is breaking basketball. What he’s doing doesn’t make sense. And one of the frustrating things about it is that it isn’t all that easy to see if you don’t really follow the game. So, yes, watch LeBron tonight and every night… but you still might miss his greatness unfold because of just how unique it is.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    All I got to say is that sometimes I feel very odd being one of the few guys who seemed born without the liking sports gene. I get the importance of physical activity and nutrition for health reasons. I get why it can be fun to play sports with friends (somewhat, I always hated gym). I don’t get the idea of watching professional sports. There was a cartoon that was going around earlier this year. The cartoon featured a sports journalist talking to a football team guy. The football team guy was saying stuff like “We sports hard. But the other team sportsed harder and won. We need to work on our sportsing next time.”

    This is what sports pretty much are for me.

    I sincerely wonder what causes a lot of people to be really into sports and other people to just look at sports with a blank wall incomprehension. I even liked that I went to a Division III school where sports are not a big deal.

    And I suspect that I will get a lot of heat for this.Report

    • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Just watch everyone sitting around screaming about whether Israel or Palestine is more just, all the while people — innocent people — are dying.

      Teams! Teams! Teams!

      Unity is Life!Report

      • Pyre in reply to Kim says:

        The “winner by proxy” mental behavior is indeed powerful and, thanks to the internet, infects just about everything we do whether it is video games, comic book movies, or political parties. I think I miss the days before the internet when this behavior was mostly constrained to which team of multi-millionaires I was supposed to cheer on at a sporting event.Report

    • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The problem with society today is that there are people who think we shouldn’t watch sports.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        It’s a silly pastime, but there’s tons of those, and is it really any sillier than going to bars and having people throw glass bottles (or tomatoes) at you? No, actually, it’s far less silly.Report

        • Tod Kelly in reply to Kim says:

          Kim, one of these days I really need to go out drinking with you.Report

          • Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            LOL. They only have bars where they throw glass bottles south of the Mason Dixon… (Mostly near army bases). And I’ve never been.

            I could carry along a bit of dehydrated wine next time I’m out though. If you managed to swing by the Dolly Sods, I might not even have to admit I knew ya… 😉Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:

        Where did I say that?

        I just feel like an outsider when everyone seems to talk about sports especially during Finals time. Especially with titles like “You need to watch lebron james play baketball tonight” and no one gets angry at it in the same ways as they would if I worte “You need to read Narcissus and Goldman” or “You need to watch the 400 Blows” because those suggestions are obviously snobby.

        I would say that there is more sports mandatoriness in the world than anything else.Report

        • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          If you aren’t watching Orphan Black, you totally need to be. It’s a triumph of acting akin to Lebron James playing basketball.

          Insert other references as you please — I totally want to hear them, and will totally check them out (as soon as I find the time. I only JUST saw Tootsie, and that’s one of the top ten screenplays EVER).Report

        • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          The form, not the content, was my comment.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


      “And I suspect that I will get a lot of heat for this.”

      Why? Honestly, I couldn’t care less if you do or don’t like sports. To each his own. I may give you pushback if you start saying I shouldn’t watch sports but I don’t get that sense from you here.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      @saul-degraw “I don’t get the idea of watching professional sports.”

      Part of it is certainly the competition, obviously; part is tradition; part is that for many it sparks memories of youth.

      But I think if I wanted to offer you an explanation I think might speak to you…

      I would submit that the reason one watches professional sports is akin to the reason one goes to hear Kathleen Battle at the Met, or that one goes to see a Romare Bearden showing, or goes to see a recital by Mitsuko Uchida, despite the fact that anyone can sing, paint, or take piano lessons on their own, and enjoy doing it.

      One goes and witnesses those things because there’s something profound about seeing gifted, dedicated people achieve a level of performance that escapes the realms of possibility for most humans.

      It’s the same with professional sports.Report

      • Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        What troubles me about professional sports is what troubles me about ballet. The idea that we’re pushing people past the point of injuring themselves…Report

      • And there’s beer and garlic fries.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        This is fair. Lebron James is obviously talented in ways most people including other great professional athletes are. I don’t deny that athletes have talent.

        I am just trying to still figure out (and perhaps care too much about) why some things are considered snobby and not others. Sports obviously speaks to billions of people worldwide. Football (Soccer) has the world mad in ways that even dwarf American sports fandom. Hence the story about how Germany might (or probably did) have done a back-room Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia to get a World Cup vote.

        I just look at all the money spent on sports and it seems mad to me at some level. Obviously other people feel the same way about the cost of Opera tickets. The Mets and the Yankees don’t make me miss New York. This makes me miss New York:

        So yeah I am arts mad and I get that this can be snobby and maybe it is just a numbers thing.Report

        • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Oh, Saul, Nobody’s Snobby about arts. They’re snobby about Particular Arts, like they’re snobby about Particular Sports.

          Try finding 10 fencing afficianados — nope, too snobby. Ditto Lacrosse and Field Hockey. Even Soccer is too snobby for most Americans.

          Every single person watches television, or reads, or listens to music. They’re fine pastimes, and most people don’t think you’re snobby for doing ’em. Now, if you go to curated artsy things (or watch Harold and Maude)… then maybe you’re snobby.

          Snobby is a combination of “This is Upper Class” and “I don’t like it.”Report

          • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kim says:

            “Even Soccer is too snobby for most Americans.”

            I like cricket. It is a great game in its own right, and coming to it from baseball there are weirdly inverted imperatives that I find fascinating. In America, soccer is positively mainstream compared with cricket, and has been for all my life. I have offered to take friends to a cricket match. I have not once had anyone take me up on this, even with assurances that no, it won’t take five days, and that no, the game is not inscrutable (at least in its basics). The response is much the same as if I had suggested we stroll naked down Main Street.Report

            • Kim in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

              Can you give me the basics to cricket? (Yes, I could use wiki. I think you’d be faster and more succinct)Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kim says:

                I’ve been thinking about this as the subject for a post. I’ll put in on the list.Report

              • This is one of my favorite things, from Malcolm Muggeride’s autobiography:

                Orwell and I talked about Wodehouse, and I mentioned how very poorly writers can judge their own work and that Wodehouse had told me he considered his best ever book to be Mike, an early and surely immature schoolboy story. Of it, Wodehouse told me in all seriousness that the book to him still captured the ‘ring of a ball on a cricket bat, the green of the pitch, the white of the flannels, the cheers of the crowd’ or words to that effect. ‘Certainly’, said Orwell to my immense surprise, ‘Wodehouse is perfectly right. Mike is undoubtedly his very best book.’

                (It’s not.)Report

              • Kim in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                it depends on the author. And sometimes you get one of those “this is personal” stories where it’s just not working, but the author says it has to be that way anyhow — and those suck.Report

            • The funny thing about cricket is that, while we think of it as quintessentially British, it’s a niche sport in the UK, far less popular than soccer. Cricket’s mass popularity is in South Asia.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I think it was more popular but fell out of favor during the post-war period and got seen as being too snobby and “public school”

                There is a book called “When Basketball was Jewish”. A lot of the early professional players were Jewish guys from NYC, Philadelphia, Newark, Chicago, and Detroit. They played basketball because it was cheap and did not require much equipment. This is why basketball is the urban game.

                Soccer functions this way for most of the world.Report

              • The observation about soccer being far more popular comes from from Orwell, so it’s not new.

                I presume you’ve seem the quote from Paul Gallico [1], written in the 30s, that basketball “appeals to the Hebrew with his Oriental background [because] the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smartalecness.”

                1. Remembered today, if at all, for his novel The Poseidon Adventure.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Never saw that before.

                Orwell famously was appalled by a football mob which caused one Cockney fan to observe that Orwell and other intellectuals “missed out on all the fun in life.”Report

              • gingergene in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Ashis Nandy says, “Cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the British”.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I think that down here in the south SF Bay area is one of the few places in the US where you can go for a walk around your neighborhood and see more than one field with people playing or practicing cricket.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                There used to be some games around NYC among South Asian expats and immigrants.Report

              • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                I once saw a listing of cricket clubs in the United States. This was some years back, but at that time the capitol of American cricket was Redmond, Washington.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Kim says:

            Snobby is a combination of “This is Upper Class” and “I don’t like it.”

            This is an astute observation.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Kim says:

            Americans don’t think soccer is snobby, it’s just that many American see it as a kid’s sport but this is changing. My opinion is that Americans aren’t into soccer because of an accident of history. One reason why soccer became the big sport was because it is cheap to play. This allowed it to grow in many poor countries and colonies. When professional sports became a big think, the United Ststes was wealthier than most other countries. We could afford more expensive sports.Report

            • Richard Hershberger in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Why Americans play (American) football and why most of the rest of the world plays Association football is a source of great fascination to me. I will probably write about it at some point. The short form is that we play American football because we always have, for a value of “always” going back to the 1870s and for a value of “American football” that initially was “Rugby.” The initial trend was toward soccer, but Harvard preferred Rugby, and Harvard is Harvard and always has been, and Harvard is and was excruciatingly aware of this, and that everyone else is not Harvard, so if Harvard preferred Rugby, they weren’t going to let everyone else get in the way. Seriously. If you are an American football fan, thank Harvard.

              As for the rest of the world, it is complicated. There are places where other forms of football, or even other sports entirely, are bigger than soccer. It ties in with British Imperial history. You can divided this into three phases. Roughly, the first is the North American and Caribbean colonies. The second is India and Australia and the like. The third is Africa, along with a lot of economic imperialism that doesn’t appear pink on the map. The soccer world \\is the third phase empire western and central Europe, which was deeply impressed by the success of the British Empire.

              As for Americans and soccer snobbery, consider hipsters talking about “footie” while wearing their Chelsea shirts. Also MLS team names like “DC United” or “Real Salt Lake City” are absurdly twee, and deserve to be roundly mocked.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                Those are the hipsters who largely grew up playing soccer instead of Little League Baseball and Football. Soccer was huge for kids at my upper-middle class Northeast suburb, little league football, not as much.

                I know that in the late 19th and early 20th century sports fandom for boys was largely centered on Harvard and Yale.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          What @tod-kelly says. One reason I struggle to watch most college athletics is because we are seeing something less than the best quality of play. I’m more likely to watch Olympic swimming than a random college basketball game — even though I love basketball and am meh about swimming — because there is something about greatness. And competition. And it is why I can get suckered into performing art shows that I can understand. Drama is hard for me to make sense of because I don’t get it. And I don’t know the technical aspects of singing or dancing, but I can at least say, “Holy shit, that was awesome!”

          Sports gives lots of, “Holy shit, that was awesome!” And even more so when you truly understand them.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          FWIW, I have tickets to see a play at the Folger Theater in about a week and a half. I plan on spending the day in the Library of Congress researching baseball, then wandering over to the Folger.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:


            I know plenty of people who are arts-mad and sports-mad. I am just not one of them.

            I kind of sort of have a fondness for the Mets but that is mainly because they are underdogs. If you gave me the option between going to a performance at Mostly Mozart or Lincoln Center’s Summer Festival and going to a Mets game with prime seating. I will pick the arts every time.Report

            • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              I would probably take the baseball tickets, but I would check to music programs first. My problem is that I am too snobby for a lot of classical music performances. Symphony programing based on the belief that music began with Beethoven and ended with Tchaikovsky bore me. The thing with sports is that you don’t know what is going to happen. It might be a great game you will talk about for years, or it might be complete snooze. But a lot of arts programming is pretty much guaranteed to be the latter.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Saul Degraw says:


          I don’t know about snobbiness — that is a word I so very rarely use — but I think sports appeals to the masses in part because there is something both tribal and collective about it. I have a team. Tod has a team. We align ourselves with them and their followers in a way that you probably don’t with actors. I doubt you turn to your seatmates during a show and high five after a line is delivered perfectly.

          So while there are similarities to sports and the performing arts, there are also differences that make them appeal differently to folks. Many people root for sports teams not so much because they know or care about the game itself, but because it brings them in line with something larger. I root for the Red Sox because my dad did and did so before I even knew what the hell was happening on the field. But it connected me with him. I’m not sure the performing arts offer this same opportunity. Which isn’t a knock on them… it just means it has some limits to the type of audience it can draw. A seven-year-old isn’t going to watch MacBeth because mommy loves it. Well, most seven-year-olds, at least.Report

    • And I suspect that I will get a lot of heat for this.

      Last year, maybe. This year you’ll get accused of being cavalier.Report

    • LWA in reply to Saul Degraw says:


      I thought I was the only one without the sports gene!

      Its a running joke with my wife that if I am in a group of guy who start a conversation involving sports (like, say, “you gotta watch LeBron James” my defense mechanism is to chuckle knowingly and nod my head.

      Then discover an urgent need to be somewhere else, lest my mancard be revoked summarily.Report

      • Kim in reply to LWA says:

        My husband just refuses to talk to people like that.
        Or he’ll spin it into an entirely different conversation, if the poor lads can keep up.Report

        • Richard Hershberger in reply to Kim says:

          What does he talk about? I ask because there are lots of non-sports topics that I am more than happy to talk about, and I will actively seek out other persons who are interested. But I don’t imagine that I am so scintillating that I will fascinate random passersby. I consciously restrain myself from the temptation to become an utter bore.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to LWA says:


        We exist but in seemingly small numbers. Most of my women friends are also much, much more into sports than I am. Glyph once mentioned that he did not have the sports-caring gene either.Report

      • Glyph in reply to LWA says:

        I’ve never learned how to care, or even pretend that I care. I wish I could. It is very easy, as a man, to feel left out when you don’t.

        Don’t get me wrong, I understand the social aspect; and if you invite me to go to a game with you, I will totally go, and have a good time drinking beer in the sun and looking at the sights; but I generally don’t find pro sports even a little bit emotionally-involving.

        I can muster up *some* enthusiasm and interest and “rah!” for amateur or high-school/college stuff, where the “my tribe” aspect isn’t quite so abstracted-out, and the games are not so massively, nakedly profit and -spectacle-driven.

        (Holy crap – I just realized that even when it comes to sports, I’m still a 90’s underdog indie-rock Gen-X guy. “That dude totally sold out when he went to the majors, man. Just a buncha corporate BS now.”)Report

        • Kim in reply to Glyph says:

          If you must go to one game, go to a home game by the Pittsburgh Pirates, one that’s around sunset. Great view of the city as it lights up at night (including a great multicolored pyramid that tells the weather).Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Kim says:

            It is, by all accounts, the second most beautiful ballpark in the world.Report

            • aaron david in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              First being Comerica Park.Report

              • Comerica is indeed a really nice park.Report

              • gingergene in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I mourn the days when Detroit teams played in Tigers’ Stadium, the (Pontiac) Silverdome, the Palace (at Auburn Hills) and the Joe Louis Arena. Not because those were necessarily great venues, but because none of them were named after any g-d corporations. (I know Comerica has a long Detroit history, but they’re not even based there anymore.) But yeah, Comerica park is nice and at least it and Ford Field* are actually in Detroit. I also know that in feeling this way, I’m in “old man shakes fist at clouds” territory…

                * I am actually ok with Ford Field, because (a) Ford is more than a corporation, it’s a Detroit family where (b) Both the family and the corporation played a huge part in making 20th century Detroit what it was, not to mention (c) a Ford actually owns the team. That said, if the Wings go from The Joe to playing at Little Caesar’s arena, I will die a little inside.Report

        • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

          It genuinely sucks that y’all feel left out.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

            Eh, it is what it is and I have made my peace with it, knowing that when I start babbling about *my* enthusiasms, plenty of people out there are puzzled as to what I could possibly see of any interest in that.

            Sports fandom is just a pretty widespread phenomenon; and I think especially for guys, there are times when you feel like a real weirdo being the only one who doesn’t have an opinion on [sports topic X], or even understand why one would.

            I remember being pretty young when I first realized the guys on “our” NFL team didn’t really come from our area, and the team owners mightn’t hail from here either; right then and there, the whole concept of pro sports just struck me as so strange and alien and baffling, that you were supposed to root for “your” “team”. What do *they* have to do with *me*? I fail to see any connection! This is large-scale emotional manipulation!

            (I had a prodigious vocabulary, which in no way protected me from wedgies).Report

            • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

              You guys have Chomsky on your side, at least:

              Take, say, sports — that’s another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it — you know, it offers people something to pay attention to that’s of no importance. [audience laughs] That keeps them from worrying about — [applause] keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it’s striking to see the intelligence that’s used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in — they have the most exotic information [more laughter] and understanding about all kind of arcane issues. And the press undoubtedly does a lot with this.

              You know, I remember in high school, already I was pretty old. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? [laughter] I mean, I don’t know anybody on the team, you know? [audience roars] I mean, they have nothing to do with me, I mean, why I am cheering for my team? It doesn’t mean any — it doesn’t make sense. But the point is, it does make sense: it’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements — in fact, it’s training in irrational jingoism. That’s also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, I think, typically, they do have functions, and that’s why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers are willing to pay for them and so on.


              • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

                A perfect example of something so dumb only an intellectual would come up with it.

                And the part that does make sense is something a genuinely smart person could say in one tenth the space.

                “So. basically, you’re rooting for laundry” — Jerry SeinfeldReport

              • Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Mike, he was speaking extemporaneously, so a lot is going to be pensive filler (especially with Chomsky, who doesn’t pause or have a lot of disfluency).

                Mike and LWA, though I used a Chomsky quote, the notion that sports is a form of pacifying the masses or serves a propagandistic function goes back at least to the Greeks.

                Also, as someone who sees what Glyph said and immediately thought of Manufacturing Consent, I obviously don’t think Chomsky amounts to Godwining. (Pssshh… liberals.)

                Glyph, I thought it might.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

                Advertisers pay for sports because they’re part of the conspiracy to indoctrinate the masses into mindless jingoism, uh-huh. The fact that they sell a ton of beer that way is just gravy.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Beer is the opiate of the masses.Report

              • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

                I miss the days when opium was the opium of the masses.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


                So you are the basis of Christopher Lee’s performances in Dracula!Report

              • Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                He’s not saying that’s sports only function, or even that it’s a conspiracy or a deliberative act. He’s saying that it comes to serve that purpose, among others. It would be perfectly consistent with what he’s saying to suggest that sports also serve nakedly capitalist functions.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

                That’s an interesting quote, and I identify with it quite a bit.

                I *did* enjoy HS football, because I went to a small school, and did know those guys; but after that, it just became way too abstract, and I am much more likely to look at sports-related phenomena in an amateur sociological/anthropological way, like “what would I *think* was happening here, if I were an alien observer” (which I really do feel like – there’s a real…distance, for lack of a better word, emotionally and intellectually) – so all of that tribalism and ritualistic-warfare stuff really stands out.

                But all that said, it can be joyous to feel part of something larger than oneself, and I am a little sad that I am denied that pleasure, whether by temperament or by choice.

                It’s kind of like religion with my grandma – I couldn’t ever feel what she felt, but I wished I could.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Glyph says:

                The libertarian is the one who likes the Chomsky quote!!!

                I never thought I would see the day.Report

              • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Dude, if you think it’s weird that a libertarian likes Chomsky, you really should read some Chomsky.Report

              • LWA in reply to Chris says:

                Being compared to Chomsky must violate some sort of rule about civility, or Godwin or something.

                I wouldn’t for a moment assert that my preferences (politics, art, history) are somehow superior to sports.

                They trigger the same tribal impulses, same irrational thought processes.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to LWA says:

                Yeah. I agree. That quote is silly. I bet he even said it in Cambridge or Berkeley.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Chris says:


            It is partially feeling left out but a lot of guys wrap up their guyness in their sports fandom. So when you say that you are not a sports guy, it is like getting a look like you are from an alien planet.

            Women can even do this to guys.

            So there are all sorts of gendered assumptions and stuff that still plague heterosexual guys where it assumed that some part of you is going to like sports.

            Heterosexual guys are probably the most narrow enforcers of what it means to be masculine.Report

            • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              I wouldn’t look at you funny, if you said that you didn’t like sports in a real life conversation. I would, though, if you started saying things like:

              So there are all sorts of gendered assumptions and stuff that still plague heterosexual guys where it assumed that some part of you is going to like sports.


    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I accept the idea that sports–at least team sports–are a substitute for aggression. How many wars are begun after careful cost-benefit analyses? Some, but not many. How many wars are begun as masculine dominance exercises? Many. So if we can get the masculine dominance exercises out of our systems via our sports teams, that is a complete win. It might even justify public funding of stadia.

      There was a lot of discussion in the early years of baseball of what the public would or should care about. The early clubs were social organizations. Playing for the honor of the club was something everyone understood, but it was less clear why anyone not in the club should care. Betting was the obvious reason. To a certain sort of bettor, the game itself is unimportant. It could be a baseball game or it could be a cockroach race. The bet was the thing.

      Then a bit later there arose the idea of a “representative club” for any given city or town. The early thinking was that the citizens would only care if the players were actually from that city. Players from other cities, it was thought, would be regarded simply as hired mercenaries. It turns out that they cared a great deal about winning, and little about the origins of the players doing it. This is the Seinfeld observation that we are rooting for laundry. The phenomenon goes back to the 1870s, and so does the bemusement of observers.

      Even if you don’t personally feel any need to vicariously satisfy your aggressive tendencies, sports can give you something to talk about. This might seem trivial, but it provides a human connection that can cross class and race lines. I can find myself in a country club or at a bus stop, and how the local team is doing can be a topic of conversation. Small talk serves an important social function, and can help humanize one another, so this is not nothing.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:


        I do think that sports do work for a mini-version of hometown pride and rivalry yes. I know a guy from Ohio who moved to the Bay Area and he is rooting for the Cavaliers because they are the hometown team still.Report

    • Don Zeko in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Hey, it could be worse. You could have, at best, a vestigial sports gene, such that you have learned over many years to more or less like sports in very specific circumstances, and then you might only be interested in the finals because of the super-exciting career of this guy you went to college with who is now the NBA’s regular season MVP, only to see them be that guy lead the team that is being single-handedly beaten by Lebron.Report

      • You know Curry from college? I am envious as hell.Report

        • Don Zeko in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          @mike-schilling Not quite. We both went to Davidson and I was a year ahead of him, so I was a student during the crazy 2008 NCAA run. As far as personal connections go, let’s see. My girlfriend at the time lived in an apartment a floor above him and a couple other basketball players, so I knew about it when they left food outside in order to attract a raccoon in order to make it their pet. I was in a Poli Sci class with Andrew Lovedale, one of his teammates from the 2008 run in which Lovedale and I were on a team when we played Diplomacy as an in-class project. Austin Bell, the guy behind this madness, was part of my regular bridge group. Oh, and Curry passed me on a path at night once and we said “hey” to each other. I also went to High School with Chris Paul, but that’s way less cool.Report

    • Reformed Republican in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I do not entirely get sports myself. I have tried to follow them occasionally, but it just never clicked. My father did not watch pro sports much, so I think that might be a factor.

      He did watch pro wrestling and Nascar, and I did end up a hardcore wrestling fan. No Nascar for me though.Report

  5. j r says:

    I saw Reggie destroy one franchise’s title hopes for at least a generation in nine seconds…

    To soon.Report

  6. Jesse Ewiak says:

    To be fair to Saul, at least he doesn’t like sports and also doesn’t like genre nerdy things. His snobbishness is consistent. 🙂

    The most amusing thing (and by amusing, I think silly as hell), is people who get into intense debates about differences between film and comic versions of superheroes acting like having knowledge of sports is some weird ‘normy’ thing they could never have.

    Frankly, it makes my estimation of anybody who uses the phrase ‘sportsball’ in a serious way drop a little bit. Fine, don’t be interested in sports. Just don’t think that makes you a better person because you obsess over Game of Thrones instead of the Super Bowl.

    Also, on topic – the hate for LeBron thoroughly confuses me. I mean, in Cleveland, I got it. But the rest of the country’s hate for LeBron is kind of frustrating when there’s so much love for Michael Jordan. The truth is, if there was social media in 1992 like there is now, Jordan would be hated far more than LeBron, because after all, according to all the knowledge we have, Michael Jordan is far worse a human being than LeBron is.Report

    • Richard Hershberger in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      LeBron’s half hour ESPN special to announce that he was leaving Cleveland was peculiarly ham-fisted. There also is some feeling out there that an organically grown (i.e. through the draft) winning team is more admirable than one assembled through free agency, though this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in a sport with a salary cap. The sense I got was a feeling that the Heat was a group of superstars artificially assembling to bully everyone else. I’m not defending this feeling as being coherent.Report

      • There also is some feeling out there that an organically grown (i.e. through the draft) winning team is more admirable than one assembled through free agency

        Did anyone make that criticism about the Celtics’ Big Three team? If so, I honestly don’t recall it. That argument seemed to be that it was wrong for players to assemble themselves into teams as if they were GMs.Report

      • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        But, if The Decision was a 5 on the “awkward and ham fisted” scale, MJ’s Hall of Fame speech is an eleven.

        On the creation of superteams thing, if three stars get together on their own, it’s a horrible miscarriage of justice. On the other hand, if you happen to be the NBA champions and get the #1 pick thanks to a series of horrible trades that the NBA had to create a rule to stop it, that’s perfectly reasonable and should be celebrated.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      I hate the phrase sportsball. I’m not into sports much either but I appreciate live basketball and baseball games more than Saul. I also like working out more than Saul does though and was on a sports team in high school and college, fencing. However, I think that there is some basic obligation to be aware of what is popular be it sports or Swift Taylor and mocking it as common or mundane is not fine.Report

    • LWA in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      It amused Mrs. LWA to no end that once while I was intensely focused on a painting, she entered the room and asked “Can a light saber cut through adamantium?”

      And I stopped, pushed up my glasses, and gave a long detailed answer, after of course a deep serious reflection showing that I appreciated the gravity of the issue.Report

  7. Miss Mary says:

    I wonder if there’s a bar in pdx playing the game tonight…Report

  8. Kazzy says:

    “And don’t get me wrong, everyone playing with James is working their asses off. But those players playing their asses off should still equate to being run out of the building by the Golden State Warriors phoning it in”

    I think this understates it, actually. The Warriors were historically great during the regular season. They were the league’s best defensive team and second-best offensive team (and I believe they were first there until the last day or two of the year). Of the 8 teams that have won as many games of them (67) and compiled a 10+ point differential, all but one won the Finals… and the one that didn’t lost to another team that matched that feat. Again, this team is HISTORICALLY EXCELLENT — 538 had them as the 4th best all time coming into the series — and they are being matched by LeBron James and some spare parts.

    Seriously. He is breaking basketball.Report

  9. Stillwater says:

    I’m with ya, Tod. It’s absolutely amazing to watch. When the season began, Cleveland’s starting rotation was Irving, Love, Verajao, and Waiters. They’re all out. So basically, Lebron is beating the Warriors with the number 6 thru 9 guys on the roster, against the pre-playoffs odds-on favorite to win it all. I mean, once Love went down most of the “smart guys” wrote Cleveland off. Once Irving went down, everyone wrote em off. Including me, of course. What he’s doing is just incredible.Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Stillwater says:

      @stillwater Yeah, exactly. And more than just 6-9, because they used the Heat model, and loaded up salary dollars on multiple superstars and hoped that would overcome a bunch of scrubs taking the rest of the slots.

      We are in agreement: just incredible.Report

  10. Stillwater says:

    Whoa. Warriors are starting Iguodala. Which makes sense since he’s been their best player in this series. He makes Lebron work. Scores, too, when they give im the ball.Report

  11. Michael Drew says:

    Tune in Sunday for another crack at history!Report

  12. Hey, Hey, LBJ
    How many shots did you clank today?

  13. aaron david says:

    And the Warriors take it.Report