In professional wrestling, there’s a thing known as the “heel turn.” This time-honored morality metamorphosis happens when a good guy suddenly turns to the dark side, betrays his friends, and forsakes all bonds of fellowship and decency. The level of adoration for the hero prior to this transformation is directly proportional to the measure of enmity incurred after, and the most adept performers in sports entertainment can manipulate the crowd so expertly that the whole thing has the feel of a religious revival—albeit one where the congregants would like nothing better than to see the preacher torn apart by syphilitic hyenas.
But there was nothing staged about LeBron James’ heel turn, in 2010, during an infamous televised event dubbed “The Decision.” That is, the ESPN-amplified announcement that LeBron was leaving his hometown team for a burgeoning NBA hegemon in Miami was completely staged, but it was clearly not his intention to see traumatized Cleveland fans setting their No. 23 jerseys on fire, or cause Cavs owner Dan Gilbert to memorably ramble away in Comic Sans. Four years ago, after several difficult playoff exits, LeBron—ever mindful of his legacy—took matters into his own hands and opted for a situation that offered him the best chance to win. And win he did, achieving nearly everything he set out to do in leading the Miami Heat to four straight NBA Finals appearances and two championships.
With a pair of rings and four MVP awards on his mantel, James’ legacy as one of the NBA’s greatest-ever players is secure. But as long as he stayed in Miami, and by extension left Cleveland wallowing in mediocrity, he would never be loved. No matter how many titles he won in Miami, his story would always be marred by what might have been in Cleveland.
Guys like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant thrive on crushing those that wrong them, usually in the most painful and embarrassing way possible. But LeBron never appeared comfortable in the role of villainous dream assassin. And, in a weird way, all of the vitriol directed at him for “The Decision” only served to demonstrate how deeply the people of Cleveland cared. (Miami fans, on the other hand, can’t even be bothered to stay in the arena during playoff games.)
But still, when rumors started circulating a few weeks back that LeBron might just return home to Cleveland, most didn’t dare hope. The Cavaliers, after all, are a young lottery team; they aren’t anywhere close to being a title contender, even in the pitiable Eastern Conference. Up until the end, LeBron held his cards close to his chest, finally announcing his intentions last week with a short, cathartic missive in Sports Illustrated. James told Cleveland that he’s “coming home.” Can’t you almost hear “I Am A Real American” playing in the distance?
San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is playing a different game. Specifically, he’s streaming his Hearthstone matches on Twitch.
The World Cup semifinals pitted the best in Europe (Germany, The Netherlands) against the best in South America (Brazil, Argentina). Germany marched through the Group Of Death, while Brazil had its share of close calls along the way. It would be a contest of artistry versus efficiency. Most pundits gave Brazil a better-than-even chance advancing, if only because of home-field advantage.
What no one saw happening was a comatose Brazil team getting run off the field in 18 minutes, which is all it took for Germany to go up 5 to 1. The Brazilians, minus their best player, looked completely unable to cope with the German attack. Fortunately, the Internet, as usual, was completely prepared for all eventualities and responded beautifully.
- Brazilians were sad.
- Jim Ross calls the match.
- Some treated the massacre creatively. Others, not so much.
After Germany’s demolition of Brazil and the Dutch losing to Argentina, the stage was set for a classic World Cup final. The favored Germans would face off against the country favored by German war criminals. Both teams were offense-oriented. Germany featured the 24-year-old Thomas Müller and all-time World Cup scoring leader Miroslav Klose, while the Argentines had arguably the world’s best player in the resolutely bland Lionel Messi.
Instead of the goal-scoring jamboree everyone expected, though, what we got was a TV-unfriendly defensive effort from both squads. With a few exceptions, and despite announcer Ian Darke’s best British efforts, the match proved a pretty tame affair—almost unworthy of what had otherwise been a spectacular World Cup. We were even denied the drama of a shootout when, with about five minutes to go in extra time, 22-year-old substitution Mario Götze settled a cross from André Schürrle and laced one past the Argentinian keeper to put Germany up 1-0, securing that country’s fourth World Cup title.
- If I never have to hear the name “Schweinsteiger” again, it will be too soon.
- Lionel Messi reminds me of LeBron when he was on the Cavs. He was surrounded by a bunch of pretty good players who were just good enough to get him to the finals but not enough to win the championship. I guess he can’t Decide not to be Argentine?
- Germany will defend its title in 2018 in Russia. That shouldn’t stir up any barely repressed nationalist sentiments at all.
Can the 2014 National League All-Stars rebound after last year’s three-hit, zero-run effort at Citi Field? More importantly, does anyone care? Find out tonight when the 85th MLB All-Star game gets underway on a Tuesday night in Minnesota! And hey, even if no one pays any attention to the game itself, the mid-season break is a good time to take stock of the season to date.
- The American League Rookie Of The Year (and possible MVP) is a two-person contest between a pair of imports, Masahiro Tanaka (Japan) and José Abreu (Cuba).
- The World Champion Boston Red Sox currently sit in last place in the AL East. The Oakland A’s, meanwhile, have the best record in baseball while spending about half as much in payroll.
- Regarding the team’s poor performance, Rockies owner Dick Monfort told a season ticket holder that “Maybe Denver doesn’t deserve a franchise.” Ouch.
The Padres still aren’t good. Not terrible, mind you. But not good.