Although chatter has subsided over the weekend, it's hard to do anything right now without hearing about LeBron and the Heat.
I know some of you are big pro sports fans, but I'm not. Never have been. Sure, I enjoy going to an occasional professional games for entertainment and enjoy following the Blazers, but I'm nothing more than a causal fan, at best. I have no favorite NFL team, no favorite MLB team. I like following the development of OSU and other hometown players in these leagues, but that's about it.
LeBron James' decision to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami has served as a gigantic reminder of why I gravitate towards college-level athletics.
Wade, James, and Bosh are like the three second graders on the playground who are better athletes than the rest of their classmates. When it comes time to pick teams for a game of 5-on-5 at recess, they manipulate the weaker kids, and all end up on the same team. Their team wins, but how fun is that? They get self-entitlement, everyone else essentially gets bullied.
Athletics should be about hard work and teamwork. Sure, the Miami Heat will have an opportunity to work hard and play as a team in order to win a championship, but it's the way they've assembled their roster that has many sports fans shaking their heads.
LeBron has made a spectacle out of this, and the media has allowed him to do so. He wants to be the most famous, highest paid player to ever don an NBA uniform. At this rate, we are going to let him. He has the raw talent, but has that alone earned him our respect?
Pat Casey took Oregon State baseball to a National Championship twice. His roster wasn't loaded with the best players, and they weren't even the best team, talent-wise, when they got to Omaha. They won because they played as the best team. It was about building the program with teamwork, being competitive, and playing well when it matters most.
There are plenty of examples of this in college athletics. There was Boise State in football, TCU as well. Look at the NCAA Tournament: Davidson, George Mason, Butler. In baseball, not only did the Beavers make an admirable run, unsung teams like Fresno State and South Carolina have done it recently as well.
They didn't have the best players, they played as the best team.
I'm drawn to the fact that players at the college level are still developing. It puts more pressure on a coaching staff to not only develop talent, but to instill values. In professional sports, coaches turn into managers. And as these high profile athletes continue to garner more and more say inside their organization, they're becoming more influential than the coaches themselves.
On Friday night, the Miami trio were introduced to raving fans in Miami. But if I'm not a Heat fan, why should I want to root for this superteam? They've grouped themselves together in Miami because they want to win championships, and they're not making any secret about it. LeBron told fans, "it just feels right". Well, duh LeBron.
If we're getting to the point where three of the NBA's very best players have to group themselves together in order to please themselves, I really don't like the way professional sports are heading.
That's why I'll always be a college sports fan first. I want to see the teams who overachieve win the championships. The teams that bond to play best together in the playoffs, when it matters most. From what I've seen, you can see that most at the college level.
I want to support a team who builds their success and tradition from scratch, over time.
A team that earns it: both success, and our respect.
--Jake | (email@example.com)