ONE OF THESE IS NOT LIKE THE OTHERS.
So, I am reading this article the other day in the throes of my March Madness fetish, about how Eric Devendorf is the most hated kid in the NCAA. He is the kid everyone loves to hate. Like Christian Laettner was, or Jason Williams. And in the pros, Steve Nash, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and let’s not forget for a moment about ‘ole John Stockton or Bill Laimbeer. Gee, what do all these guys have in common?
They are all WHITE.
Joining Devendorf in the list of the Top Five Most Hated Players are: Tyler Hansbrough, Greg Paulus & Jon Scheyer (though they both go to Duke so they may not actually substantiate my thesis here… or maybe they do… more on that in a moment) and Hasheem Thabeet. You may not have been able to guess this, but actually Hasheem is the only black guy on the list. Srsly.
ESPN’s Pat Forde says: “The fact that four of the five are white guys is an interesting sociological discussion for another day.”
So what is it about these guys that inspires such ire? Few black players have done as well in this regard: Kobe, pretty loathsome top to bottom (pun intended); Iverson, I think it was the irreverence for rules, could have been the gun; Karl Malone, well he’s a douche, obviously; Ron Artest, clearly a punk; Carmelo seems to aggravate people, I can’t come up with a good reason, though I have a friend who would say it is because he went to Syracuse; Carlos Boozer? Not sure if he is black; Paul Pierce? Seems to have found redemption in a ring; Rodman? I think anymore he is just laughable. But what is it that presents such a clear divide among the fans?
Note: You will have realized I did not put Chris Mullin in the former grouping because, for whatever mysterious reason that we are trying to uncover here, he seemed to have missed the hate-boat. He did always seem to have a bit of street cred, so maybe that was enough. [Or maybe it is just that I adore him and so I ignore his haters. I also love Steve Blake and he has some of the same qualities.]
I mentioned that the fact that Paulus and Scheyer play for Duke may be a legit enough reason to hate on them… and this may be true. But just the other day I was trying to get to the heart of my Duke hatred too… and it was difficult… I started thinking about some of the other teams I have really hated… Along with Duke, I have: the Utah Jazz, the 1970s-80s Celtics and the Kirk Hinrich KU team.
See any trends? Me too.
WTF is the deal here?
I have several theories on what makes people hate players and teams:
1) People hate super talented people and redundantly successful programs
2) People hate seeing people they think do not deserve success achieve success
3) People hate perceived arrogance (I say perceived because unless you know these guys, come on… it’s your opinion)
4) Some people just hate (scary number of white supremacists come up when searching for ‘top white basketball players”)
All the college players that are on this year’s most hated list are standout players on excellent teams. Coincidence? I doubt it. On Facebook there is currently an application for March Madness and the most hated teams [Duke, UNC, Florida, Ohio, KU] overlap the most favorite [UNC, Duke, KU, Wisconsin, Kentucky] and they are all very solid programs. Always. No sense hating or loving a shitty team, I guess. I hated the Larry/McHale Celtics because my grandparents loved the Lakers, that was all. And it was easy: they were really good and always foiling LA.
If you look at the “favorite players” based on jersey sales, two white guys make the list: Nash and Nowitzki (neither of whom are Americans, by the way… which I mention because it seems that the Europeans catch a little less shit than the American white guys. I love Manu Genobli and I know some people don’t like him, but for the most part you don’t hear people dissing Pau and Peja all the time, do you?)
In my search for answers I found some interesting stuff… like the All-White American Team, the Top Reasons We Hate Duke (there are a million variations on this one, but this was the most agreeable to me), and this list of the Top Ten Most Influential Basketball Players of the Last Decade (interestingly, two white guys here, and number one is local favorite where I am, Yao himself.) Is it latent white guilt? Is it love for the underdog? Is it just random? In the end, this is a rather inconclusive exploration into the inner workings of a fanatic… and I am still wondering what it is that makes us love the players we do, and hate the other guys.
Maybe it isn’t about race at all. Maybe we are all just jealous ragers and haters.
But I kinda doubt that.