As I was watching the San Antonio Spurs put on an extraordinary shooting performance in the NBA Finals last night, I found myself thinking back over Lebron James’ tumultuous career since he was taken #1 by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. He came into the league with as much hype as any player I have ever witnessed in my short time. He was adored by many as he made fans across the world say “ooo” and “ahh” as we watched his unmatched physical gifts paired with a maturity in his game that far surpassed his young age. Due in particularly to his success since going to Miami, the perception of the NBA’s golden boy has changed as he’s become the unquestioned best player in the world. The average fan went from tuning in to his game in hopes of seeing a spectacular highlight to watching and hoping for his demise. Fans have grown tired of his perceived whining and complaining for fouls and his perceived arrogance when he is a victor. To the non Heat (or Lebron) fan, He’s become one of, if not the most despised player in the game. How could that be? After all he is the game’s most exciting talent to watch, and very rarely disappoints.
As many have realized by now, this is because we as a society love to consume anything and everything at an unsustainable rate. We consume it so much that we grow tired or become to loath the commodity long before it reaches its useful life. You see it all the time in pop culture whether its the new rising teen star like Justin Beiber or one of the numerous flash in the pan actors we see for a brief few years like Clive Owen. Apologies in advance to those Beiber and Owen die-hards out there. The Sports media became (and still is) obsessed with James and his remarkable talent to the point they’ve exhausted the enjoyment of his talents long before it should be. I should love to watch Lebron play in the Finals for the fourth year in a row because its a testament to his insane ability as a basketball player. Instead I watch hoping for his downfall, hoping he loses. My interest in him has been used up, and I only watch to see him falter. However that is the key, I still watch. Why do I watch, what purpose do I gain in watching something I’ve grown to hate? Its because strong emotion either positive or negative will bring viewers to their couch’s come game time. Hate or Love, we are going to tune in and watch Lebron James. Which got me thinking, have we had that in College Football?
My initial reaction was no, a player can only play for 4 seasons at any school, and it would be too short of a time frame to turn from a golden boy to villain. The deeper I looked into it though, I realized there may be more to that than I originally thought. For myself I can think of 3 athletes in College Football who over the past 10 years fit this profile, Tim Tebow, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston. Each have similar paths with all winning the biggest individual award in the game, and all having high team success as well. However each of their details off the field vary greatly that helped lead to their downfall so to speak. I’ll briefly touch on the first two before getting into Winston.
Tebow for me will always be my biggest villain in college football. He won a Heisman and not one, but two Championships for UF, my school’s biggest rival. It’s easy to see why I wasn’t his biggest fan from the get go, oh and did I mention I just so happened to go to FSU the same 4 years Tebow was at UF? Yeah… talk about luck. Regardless Tebow came in as a back up True Freshman used in design packages helping the 2006 Gators claim their first title in 10 years. From there he took off as the biggest name in College Football. Originally I got it, he seemed like a likable, good christian guy and clearly had the skills to dominate on the gridiron even if I had to dislike him for rivalry reasons. Over time though the average College Football fan was drenched in Tebow-mania. He was on Sport Center virtually daily, whether it was his great rushing touchdown or him talking about his religious views. He literally was too much of a golden boy to be enjoyed as a golden boy. No one likes perceived perfection and that’s what Tebow was.I watched more Gator games in those 4 years than I have in my entire life, I had to see him fail, which rarely happened. Needless to say I couldn’t wait for him to leave for his predictably unsuccessful NFL career. I never despised an opposing player so much in my life. Now my take on him is extreme due to my personal dynamics, but I highly doubt FSU fans were the only ones who grew tiresome of the Tebow charade.
Next to take the torch was Mr. party animal himself Johnny Manziel. Manziel came out of nowhere as a red-shirt freshman for Texas A&M during their inaugural year in the vaunted SEC. He wowed fans across the nation with his escapability and pocket maneuvering play after play. He went on to win the Heisman and beat then #1 ranked Alabama, a feather in any players cap. Then the off-season hit and Manziel was everywhere. Partying in South Beach, attending NBA Finals games, golfing at Pebble Beach, you name it. Quickly things turned on Manziel as he was cast as an immature party boy who was using football to advance his social life. In one short year he turned from the charismatic golden boy to the villain. By his second year we saw on the field confrontations with other players and numerous media outlets calling him out. Again though, media and fans alike, we watched his every move.
Insert the new heir to the villainous golden boy throne, Jameis Winston. Jameis lead the Noles to an undefeated championship while racking up numerous personal accolades including the Heisman. He started the year as a media favorite for interviews, as he was charismatic beyond his years and was always good for a few funny quips. Add some excellent play on the field and of course, we all fell in love with him. Then the allegations came. As its well documented he was accused of raping a fellow FSU student but no charges were ever levied on him. Since then we’ve heard numerous other minor incidents such as stealing soda from Burger King, shooting BB guns and of course stealing crab legs from local grocery store Publix. I’ve read tons of articles about how FSU football needs to suspend him, or even worse, many who refer to him as a rapist openly. I’ve watched Winston go from adored to despised within a matter of just a few months.
Heading into this year all eyes will be on Jameis as it has been since this past August.The media and fans alike will watch his every play, and scour the news outlets for any off the field happenings. FSU and Winston fans will look for anything to prove he’s a golden boy, the rest will look for the evidence to prove he’s the villain they’re certain he is. Surely Winston will not be the last of the villainous golden boys, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him supplanted this year by someone else. Even though these 3 have vastly different circumstances (in no way is a rape allegation the same as being over zealous on your religious views or night club partying) but the premise holds true. We as society find reasons to dethrone the exact same people we exult to the highest of highs. What do you think, is this fair, right, wrong? I’m not sure I have an answer but I do wish we allowed a little more gray area in all these black and white views. If there is one thing I know though, it’s that come this fall we will be watching.