Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Kobe and his sappies

It's become nauseating watching the scenario play out this year. Kobe Bean Bryant is on his farewell tour. To which I would respond -- so what? Like a few others over the years, these season-long suck-up adoration fests are enough to gag a maggot.

Sure, I get it. Many athletes had long and distinguished careers. Perhaps they should be honored for their contributions to the world of sports. But hey, isn't that what Halls of Fame are for?

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon had a farewell tour last year. Michael Jordan and Brett Favre retired and unretired a few times. Derek Jeter was feted in every stadium during his last go-round.

This never used to happen in days of yore. When it was time to retire, athletes just faded off into wherever life would take them afterwards. Over is over and time to move on. No muss, no fuss, and certainly none of them expected a circus atmosphere of fans that rooted against them for their whole careers suddenly adopting them as heroes.

But nowadays things have changed dramatically. Enter Kobe Bryant and the talking heads that can't wait to faun all over him, especially regarding the recently concluded NBA All-Star game. They appear outraged that Russel Westbrook of the Okla City Thunder walked off with the MVP award for the game. Westbrook should have deferred to Kobe and done whatever possible to assure Bryant received yet another MVP award.

This is total nonsense, of course. Since when did Kobe Bryant transform from a basketball player into some sort of Messiah that all should bow down to and worship? After all, in recent years, he's stunk it up for a team that's stinking it up even worse while making a mind-boggling $24 million a year. He was unfaithful to his wife, shamelessly self-promoted himself, and a ball hog while on the court. Kobe scored a lot of points over his career, but when a guy is jacking up shot after awkward shot during the course of games -- a few of them are likely to rattle in. During all Bryant's years on the Lakers -- it was always about him. Come one, come all to see the Kobe show. Watch the magnificent self-titled Black Mamba perform his spectacular feats.

And somewhere along the line the media bought in to the hero-worship. When that happens, the gullible masses are sure to follow. True, Kobe Bryant was a very good player, won championships, and many individual awards along the way. And lasting almost two decades at the highest level of any professional sport is an achievement not to be taken lightly. Especially in modern times, few have shown such longevity.

But there comes a time when enough is enough. Countless thousands of people retire every year from all walks of life. And a lot of them contributed far more to the greater good of mankind -- for far less money -- than Kobe Bean Bryant. He played basketball. Period. This does not make him a hero any more than good teachers, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc., and your local newspaper carrier that gets up at 3 in the morning to make sure the paper is in the box before you wake. All have jobs to do, and some do them better than others.

Contrary to what the sappy Kobe-loving talking heads would have us believe -- Bryant was not entitled to the All-Star Game MVP award just because this was his last rodeo. For that matter, the game itself has become a joke. It's morphed into a no defense, alley-oop, 3-point shooting dunk-a-thon, where team play long since ceased to matter. It's all about showing off offensively, while the other guys let you do it.

So why should Kobe Bryant be considered "special" and treated with "kid gloves"? Because he's old for an NBA player with a glorious past behind him? Hey, have you seen how the younger Novac Djokovic treats legendary tennis player Roger Federer on the courts lately? Game on and no mercy. The difference? Federer is still a world class player, while Bryant has been terrible for the last few years. No other NBA team would have had the slightest interest in his services. All he would have brought is a salary-cap busting number and a media circus.

Yet the Kobe farewell adulation tour marches on. I can't wait until the regular season is over. Obviously the Lakers won't be making the playoffs, because they're terrible. And finally -- FINALLY -- Kobe Bean will hopefully go away.

I mean, what's next in the media world of hero worship and season-long send-offs? Will Tiger Woods be able to play from the lady's tees at the Masters Tournament in April? Has he "earned" the right to do that for his past performances over the years? Will any putt shorter than 5 feet be conceded to him as a "gimme"? Likely not. Eldrick's not even in the top 200 in the world anymore. And the other young guns will likely beat his brains out at Augusta National and every other stop on the PGA tour this year he has the temerity to enter. But that's about the same as saying Kobe Bryant somehow, some way, should have been the All-Star game MVP. Here's an idea. How about just going out and, you know, earning it the old fashioned way? Like play better than everybody else. It's really not that difficult of a concept.

The good thing is -- Eldrick Tont Woods will likely never torture the golfing public with a farewell tour of his own. No way would he quit. He can bumble along for another ten years and then join the Senior Tour. When that happens, the geriatric hype machine will crank up again. In that respect, unlike most other sports, pro golf resembles most US Senators and Supreme Court Justices. Once in, there's no getting rid of them. Like the Energizer Bunny, they keep going, and going, and going. Right up until the Almighty steps in and decides to retire them permanently.

I believe a highly relevant example happened just recently. The Honorable Justice Antonin Scalia didn't get a farewell tour to strut his stuff. And in the whole scheme of things, like or hate his judicial philosophies and opinions, he was far more important than any basketball player. And for the umpteen thousands of ball and stick guys, despite how good they may be, to make 100-200 times more money per year than the 9 people that sit on SCOTUS -- charged with making tough decisions that often impact the entire country --  is a shining example of how bass-ackwards America's priorities have become.

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