Brett Favre, the man-child that put Green Bay back on the map.
LeBron James, the shoulda-coulda-woulda-been savior of Cleveland sports.
Tim Tebow. Former Gator, farmboy, and Jesus' #1 fan.
One of the most amazing things about sports is that it brings people together. Differing religions, political affiliations, eating habits, lifestyle choices, sexuality; all of these things tend to create invisible (and sometimes visible) lines in our society. One of the things that people can always agree to disagree upon are sports. Red Sox vs Yankees, Packers vs Bears, Lakers vs Celtics.
Some of the most heated rivalries of ANY groupings of mammals happen in professional sports. Within the confines of sports, and the civility MOST people retain in the face of adversity, you'll find certain men (and yes, women I guess) that stick out more than others. Folks like Tim Tebow, LeBron James, and Brett Favre. Although their backrounds may differ, one thing rings true for all three of them: You love 'em or hate 'em.
Tebow is the prototypical goody-two-shoes. Devoted to religion, life-long supply of humble pie in his pantry, and a natural-born leader. He is a true competitor. A model football player, emphasizing the importance of a team, and the desire to work hard and, above all (well not above God, he's like, really way up there), win. Most people that have heard of him know this about him. Some hate him just for the goodness he oozes. Some hate him because they can't even begin to believe he could be authentic. Some people hate him for using his rising star in the sports world as a platform for his political agenda, such as the campaign against abortion. But a lot of damn people love him, sometimes for the same reasons people hate him. And just like twitter, people are converting by the arkload.
Favre was the happy-go-lucky, gun-slinging man-child. Everything was for fun, and the love of the game. As a Pack fan growing up, I was enchanted by his care-free attitude, and his propensity to launch the ball (seemingly) miles down the field. That's how a lot of folks' view of Brett started. Happy, and fun. But as his last season in Green Bay ended with an interception, in the NFC Championship game no less, most had grown weary of his attitude during the game. He didn't seem to read coverages. He didn't communicate with coaches all that well. He got on the field and just threw that damn ball however he pleased. As a young man having to prove himself in the league, it was awesome. As an adult in his late 30's, it was irritating, and detrimental to the team. The flip-flopping during retirement was the last straw for many, including me. Coming back to sign with the Jets (some deemed a ploy to get out of the division so he could seek a trade to his team of choice, rather than have Green Bay decide his destiny) and eventually the Vikings, I believe, was a huge selfish mistake.
He tarnished his legacy by throwing more interceptions in crucial moments than any QB I can recall, getting involved in a (sex?) scandal, and holding multiple teams hostage as he skipped training camp (a transgression for which he publicly ripped teamates in the past). Even now, after the Super Bowl was won by an OUTSTANDING Aaron Rodgers, there are still some that fume at the mention of Ted Thompson (Packer's GM) for not re-signing Favre, giving him one more year. Most of these same people love Skip Bayless and smoking crystal meth, but I digress. EVERYONE has an opinion on Favre. Most are bad now, but there was a time when most weren't, and then a time when it was split. But now, the sure-fire hall-of-famer has as many, if not more, haters than fans.
And lastly, Lebron James. The basketball MEGASTAR from Ohio. The self-proclaimed KING. The sole man who could save Cleveland, Ohio from the sports championship basement. For Cavs, Indians, and Browns fans, it's been a long, hard life. It's been almost 60 years since any Cleveland team has won a MAJOR title, (I don't count the conference title won by the 2007 Cavs with LeBron. Not good enough). Not many sports cities come to mind when you think of a drought spanning all 3 major sports....in fact, I can think of no other! LeBron was the shining beacon of hope, and it all ended with 7 terrible words: "I'm taking my talents to South Beech."
Most will contend it wasn't the fact that he left to go play with people that were good (which is a stupid move in my opinion, as he will never be known for his individual effort now, only that he was on a super team). Most will say it was the WAY he left, sitting on national TV for an hour, drawing it out, surrounding himself with small children like he is the father of something other than egotism.
To me, it doesn't matter, he is just a child. Like most megastars his age, he didn't need college, doesn't need a blue-collar job, and already has more money than my entire neighborhood will make in a lifetime. He comes across as self-important. "We're not going to win 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6 championships," yeah, no kidding? The first one went well. How about being gracious? Like Mike Vick, who also has a city (Atlanta) that feels betrayed by his immature and self-serving behavior, LeBron struggles with subtleties that most professionals learn while growing up. I see LeBron as someone who has struggled to grow up, as he skyrocketed from kid to World Class Superstar.
If you live in Miami, you LOVE LeBron. If you love the NBA, you probably love LeBron, too, for the hype he has brought with him. If you are a normal person, you probably see him for how a good 50% of the media portrays him. A punchline, and a prima donna....until he proves otherwise. Yes he is talented, but he walked away from home to join two stars a thousand miles away in an attempt to fool fate into letting him win a championship. Yes he is talented, but he is like 11-134 all time in the fourth quarter.
This year has been a year where these men have been woven into almost everyone's day to day life. These men all have their pros and their cons, and we all are itching to express why we ARE right about them; not just what we think, but what we KNOW is the truth about these men and their lives. Sometimes it makes me wonder...are they groomed to be topics before they are pros? Or are their lives so extraordinary that we can't help but dreaming of living among the stars, and feel the need to justify our own lives by ridiculing their choices? Or do our own lives lack so much meaning that pictures of Brett Favre's.........personal life, Tebow's faith, or LeBron's optimal career path are daily concern's of ours? Or is it just another thing for people to be passionate about?
In the end, it doesn't really matter. We are fans. We are supposed to be extreme, otherwise we would all just knit sweaters instead.
Sometimes just having an opinion is what keeps the machine oiled. We need villains the same way Batman needs Joker, and we need heroes to give life meaning and hope. There is a balance to everything, as many believe, and without these people to separate us into stubborn lines, sports wouldn't be what they are: a haven, a vacation from life where we can be ourselves, but also be as one.