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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

The Rules of Criticism, According to the Cramp Police


We’re in a looping cycle of agonizing judgment here, folks.

In the great tradition of wondering, “Who’s more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows,” today we get the latest installment in “Our players are better than yours,” which of course is only the precursor to “Here come the ‘our players are better than yours’ trolls,” reaction, which gradually rises and stands like a bouncy house inflated with pretentiousness. In no other sports league do we witness the process to such an agonizing degree than in the NBA, and no other figure is the target of more criticism and its ensuing backlash than LeBron James.

Answer: Option No. 3: Complaining about people complaining about people complaining.

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Of course, James was the target of “Internet backlash” Thursday night, when he exited the Miami Heat’s 110-95 loss to the San Antonio Spurs with cramps at an AT&T Center where the air conditioning went kaput. The cramps were so bad that James had to be helped to the bench in a scene reminiscent of when Paul Pierce injured his knee in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers in 2008 and had to be carted off via wheelchair…only, of course, to return.

Here’s the thing, Pierce ruined it for every player going forward. Even the most hardened Celtics fan has to admit that the wheelchair incident was a joke, the ultimate in crying wolf on a national stage, the same one the athletes of today watched in their youth and pretended they were Willis Reed, Larry Bird, or Daniel LaRusso. For the love of Kirk Gibson, your legacy isn’t any more elevated because you pulled a Roy Hobbs, and frankly, that’s the most overrated, hackneyed climax in sports athletic cinematic history anyway. But because of Pierce’s shenanigans, there’s always a lingering question if players are always trying to pull the same thing, playing the hero that came back from despair to bathe himself in triumph. Yes, we’re always looking at you, Pacioretty.

Actually, now that we’ve brought it up, we actually should blame Gregory Campbell. After all, it’s NHL players like Campbell, who broke his leg during a penalty kill during last year’s Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins, only to remain on the ice in an act of cajones that some use as an example why hockey players are more hardened with a general refusal to quit that most other athletes don’t possess.

Besides the fact that this is true, mostly because Canadians are unhinged, whenever the comparison is made to NBA players, as was inevitable Thursday night involving LeBron, it’s like a beacon to the antenna of the Basketball Police of Defense Unit, which is only wont to react with the harrumphing nature of Rob Ford. Rich Peverley and Clay Buchholz are not the same person, nor do they play the same sport. We get that. Bring up Peverley’s name in reference to an NBA player sitting out over the likes of a cramp, and you’re liable to get lumped in with an intelligence level that includes seaweed and Lite Brite pegs.

Instead, can everybody just can it? Cramps suck. Broken legs suck. Heart attacks suck. Ninety-degree playing conditions suck. You suck. I suck. This is sports. This is what we do. This is what we've always done. We boo, we cheer, we question. Thanks for getting to the party in 2014. Did we really need Twitter to realize that people have been saying the same things about other players and teams since Gaius Appuleius Diocles was laughing at horses who were too slow to hook a chariot onto their backs?

And yes, I just complained about people complaining about people complaining about people complaining. My totem is still spinning.


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