We desperately want to know these athletes, but we refuse to have a grownup conversation with them. We’re really too angry and jealous to be trusted with so much as a paragraph of their actual thoughts. If a quote can be potentially mocked, it will often get suctioned into the LOL vortex, where middle school sneering obliterates all memory of the source material context. If a great many fans are already angry at the quote giver, then LOL framing gives way to STFU framing. Mad people like to stay mad, or at least, to validate their rage. If you already hate an athlete, you’re liable to sculpt his sentences into one, long, middle finger.
It would seem that a certain former Celtic is trapped in that STFU box because he joined a historically hated franchise. Ray Allen is 37 years old. His team was inclined towards a future involving other, younger options. Allen wanted a different style of play from Boston’s PG-dominant approach. Few expected Ray to get through five Celtics seasons when he was traded there at age 32, so you could say that it’s been a bountiful relationship for both parties.
This is one of the most common occurrences in the NBA, as aging stars often believe in themselves more than their teams do. Reggie Miller is an exception that proves the rule. Even the most cherished, beloved players are either forced to go, or depart on their own accord–often in pursuit of championship.
And for the most part, they are forgiven for doing so, even if the new squad is a rival. Laker fans had few bad words for Derek Fisher when he signed with OKC. Robert Horry was a beloved kind of foe when he came back to Staples in a Spurs jersey. Rasheed Wallace was despised for many reasons, but not because he chose Boston upon leaving Detroit. Steve Nash will never buy his own drink in Phoenix, no matter how hot the desert sun gets.
Players are occasionally hated for leaving, but the issue is rarely their next destination. LeBron James could have stoked the same Cleveland rage by signing with New York, Brooklyn or L.A. Orlando fans would have loathed Dwight Howard, no matter his final landing spot. The anger results from a superstar taking his team’s chances with him out the door. The new team is usually immaterial.
So why is this Ray Allen situation a big deal? Allen leaves the C’s in no particular lurch. Actually, they have more shooting guards than the secret service. Boston is fine. If Ray helps the hated Heat, it’s probably a peripheral boost. As was mentioned earlier, this guy is 37 years old. The Celtics didn’t need him, and he only theoretically helps a Miami team that’s likely a lot better than Boston anyway.
Yet I’m seeing “TRAITOR” and “BETRAYAL” when I read stories on the topic. Kevin Garnett plays into the narrative a bit, talking about how he ditched Ray’s digits. Now fans are incensed over Ray Allen’s version of events. Allen’s synopsis of this story, as far as I can tell is this: He loved the city of Boston, but the team didn’t really want him anymore, and a source of his Rondo tension came after the team nearly traded the both of them to Phoenix, partially on account of 2009 Rajon’s temperamental nature.
Ray Allen is getting asked about what happened quite frequently by a lot of different reporters, and he’s responding with what appears to be frankness. I have no clue as to whether this all went the precise way Allen says it did, but these aren’t bombs he’s chucking. Everybody knows that Rajon Rondo butted heads with Rivers, and everybody knows that the Celtics tried to trade Ray Allen multiple times. So why are those who already know this angry at Allen for merely saying it? Study of Ray’s stats reveals that Boston really was phasing him out of the offense. So why are those who saw that angry at Allen for pointing it out?
Ray’s tame words are crammed into shrieking, blaring headlines that depict an angry man. He’s “bitter,” he’s “emotional,” he’s “blaming” his old team for what happened. This talk helps elicit the highly click-able STFU reaction from fans, and it always helps portray a seemingly prosaic rift as a soap operatic screamfest.
The use of “blame” particularly strikes me strangely because it makes free agency sound like a crime to be answered for. Nobody should be “blamed” when a 37 year-old man changes teams. That’s like blaming either the sun or earth for a sunset. When Ray Allen claims that Boston didn’t want him, this isn’t an assignation of fault so much as an explanation of a perfectly understandable front office position. If Allen is happy in Miami, and if Boston is happy to have a deep guard rotation, then who’s exactly losing out here? I’d credit both parties for being savvy enough to move on and find amenable situations.
If I’m looking to blame, I blame us. We make it all but impossible for athletes to merely communicate like basic humans–especially in all matters Heat, Lakers, Knicks and Celtics. I’ve read more than a few articles and comments telling Ray Allen to keep his mouth shut. It’s a funny request from people making the effort to read what Allen thinks. When we’re angry, we can’t handle the truth–and we’re twice as inclined to project our anger on the truth teller.