It is the sad fact that we, the modern sports fan, the media and all who are involved expect superhuman things from mere mortals. Contrary to popular belief, driving around in an expensive hummer while flashing the best in “bling” makes one no more a human than cappuccino Joe down at your local coffee distribution centre (expensive way of saying “Starbucks”). And yes folks, Shaq’s little superman tattoo will do his aging mass no good when he’s pushing 40 (although, it seems to have worked for Jon Bon Jovi). So why is it that the sports fan can get so down on one player? How can one player go from being tomorrow headlines to yesterday’s punch line in such a swift swoop? Easy, it’s about the hype.
Often construed as a good thing, “hype” in reality, is just a bad four letter word. A stamp of expectation, a limit set so high that only the few can reach. It is the reason why we see so many prime athletes come and go before we can even snatch a bit of whatever and sell it on eBay. And in these recent months, that “hype” has reached previously unseen proportions, so much so that the hype itself has “hype”. If you’re a sports fan, or most accurately a basketball fan, you will undoubtedly have heard of a young and multi talented man-child who will soon make the big leap. Like so many before him, the call of mega bucks and bright lights will see him don an NBA jersey come this summer’s draft. We of course, like everyone else for the past few months, are talking about LeBron James, or as Sports Illustrated calls him, “The Chosen One”.
His high school games were nationally televised, he drives a VERY expensive hummer and his mom is already making Allen Iverson’s mom look like the dispirited cheerleader. Yes, there was all the flap about the throwback jerseys he received that ultimately led to his suspension – but his jersey, the #23, has already been RETIRED by his high school. At the age of 18, the amount of pressure put on his shoulders is astronomical – the expectations he will have to face when he is (most definitely) selected as the #1 overall pick will be like no other before him. While other 18 year olds will worry about performing adequately on prom night, James will try to live up to all the talk, all the potential and hoopla that surrounded him. True, those who have received attention before him took awhile to develop – Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett took a few seasons – but neither got the microscope treatment LeBron is getting. They will be expecting him to make a big splash – every move he will make, every shot he will take will be analyzed, scrutinized and Sportscenter-ized. Every bad game taken as sign he is underachieving, every mediocre performance a sign he was not all he is cut out to be … all the makings of what could very well lead to the biggest bust in NBA history, if not sports history altogether.
While a little hype can do wonders, too much of it can place a burden of unsurpassable expectation. While hype itself applies to almost all aspects of life, it is in the sports world where its head is the ugliest. This NBA fan will hope for the best when it comes to LeBron – because only the greatest achievements in the sport will satisfy all that preceded him. Whether or not he will live up to all this hype remains to be seen, and it will without a doubt, be seen. It is the world of today’s sports – there is no escape from the hype. It is an entity of its own, devouring those in its path and making rich those who see the bandwagon of gold.