Going Away from Politics for a Moment…a Brief Moment

I was recently writing a blog post for LASIS, the legal journalism blog from New York Law School, I reviewed the lawsuit that a Washington D.C. attorney filed against LeBron and Gloria James claiming to be LeBron’s father.  The lawsuit is pretty unlikely to be successful and I’ll post the link to my article when it is posted.  But that’s neither here nor there.

In searching for articles and other info on LeBron, I read Bill Simmons recent column on ESPN.com which was a funny review of the e-mails he receives from readers.  Two, in particular, caught my attention and got me thinking.  It’s a bit sociology, a bit psychology and some politics sprinkled in too. Here are the e-mails:

“Q: What really bothers me about LeBron’s decision is the effect it’s going to have on the younger generation. Young kids everywhere are going to see this and think that it’s better to take the easier road to success instead of taking the chance at being great. If you have a chance at transcendence but it seems just a little too hard or too much for you to handle, then don’t go for it. Take the easy road. That’s the lesson learned and the trend set for this generation. But then again, this is also the generation that airs out their beef on Facebook/Twitter. This is the generation that could never understand what JFK’s quote “We do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard” really means. Hell, this is the generation that thinks the greatest rapper of all time is a Canadian who got famous because he was on a Nickelodeon show. So maybe LeBron’s just a product of his time and he’s just doing what he thinks is right. But what do I know? Call me old-fashioned, but then again I’m only 21.
— Sopan, New Brunswick, N.J.

Sports Guy: (Still nodding.)

Q: Dr. Drew has a theory about the impact of reality TV, and that it has created a generation of people who want to be famous, but don’t want to put in the work to develop the skills or talent to be famous. Why study or practice or go to acting school or music school, etc., when you can just get on a reality TV show and be famous instantly? Isn’t that theory exactly what we have in LeBron? He wants to be the greatest of all time, he wants to be a global icon, he wants to be the King, yet he has shown no evidence that he wants to put in the work to really achieve those things. Instead of spending this offseason working on developing a low post game, or a midrange offense, he spent his time developing his media machine. He knows the key to being an all-time great is winning titles, but he thinks there is a shortcut to getting there. Why improve your own game and find a way to make everyone around you better, when he can just piggyback on Dwyane Wade to get there.

There is a scene in “Good Will Hunting” where Dr. Lambeau is talking to Will, and says there are only a handful of people in the world who can tell the difference between Will’s intelligence and his own. I feel like right now that is LeBron — talent wise, he is right there with Kobe and potentially he could be right there with the other all-time greats. But this act of his over the last few months is showing us just what that difference is between LeBron and the others.
— Andrew Gordon, Washington, D.C.

Sports Guy: (Nodding violently.)”

I think the parallels between what these two people say about LeBron James and how LeBron’s (and my own) generation view politics and problem-solving are dangerously similar.  I try, on an almost daily basis, to remember that paying dues is more than just arbitrary work to learn an industry or occupation, but the knowledge and experience required to see the whole picture.  That’s the type of perspective that produces valuable change.  Similarly, true change takes patience, discipline and hard work. There are no shortcuts in professional sports and there are no shortcuts in legislating.  Baseball had its Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) and the political economy had subprime mortgages.

I realize that I’m throwing “change” around a bit loosely especially given President Obama’s penchant for using it.  But I think it was one of his most attractive and positive messages.   The desire to roll up his sleeves and try to make real changes that benefit the lives of all Americans.  A bold statement to be sure.

We’ve made the mistake of expecting the speed and efficiency of technological advances in complex systems like government.  There is no Google or iPad for healthcare, financial and energy reform.  It takes understanding the problem, evaluating factors involved and formulating an effective solution.  Whether or not that’s happening in the Obama administration is a matter of opinion.  My opinion is that Obama does operate this way and understands the importance of hard work.  But does the “LeBron of politics”? There is someone out there who is approximately 26 years old and will be Obama someday.  Does that individual understand the importance of hard work and discipline.  Let’s hope so.

On the other hand, there’s no salary cap in politics.  In fact, it’s better if 3 or 4 all-stars work together on the same team to win.  So, before this analogy gets out of hand, I’ll just say that I think reflecting on generational/cultural issues that force an analysis of our collective perspective on hard work, money and society is valuable. Here, it forced me to look at LeBron James’s Decision and decide if it was one man’s poor choice or whether it said something larger about our generation.  Unfortunately, I think Sopan from NJ and Andrew from D.C. are on to something and if we’re not careful, shortcuts will just become “the way.”

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