Fair or not we expect more from superstars. Love’em or hate’em, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are stars of the highest order. (Albeit Wade is past his prime). We tend to exaggerate their successes and failures.
Another way we judge players of all sports is in how they play the game. Playing the game, “the right way”, or “the way it is supposed to be played” are two common expressions of coaches and players meant to validate:
- Hard-nosed play.
- Physical play.
- All out effort.
- Honest way of playing.
True there is also a sports expression that states, “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” But that best represents a sentiment from a pre-social media era. With drug testing, digital technology, and the traditional media no longer in the back pocket of the games, players simply cannot get away with the things they did years ago.
Technically, since flopping is now a fine-able offense, you can say it qualifies as cheating. And as much as we don’t like cheating, we like it even less when stars do it. See the reaction when a player like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens gets suspected of using steroids versus someone like Melky Cabrera actually testing positive for something.
Hypothetically, if a 45-year-old knuckleball pitcher named Phil Niekro got busted for doctoring up a baseball that would be viewed one way. If Clemens did it? It would be stop the presses and call into question everything he ever accomplished. Again, we expect more from superstars. This is not entirely new.
We admire greatness but feel betrayed by it when it looks to cheat, or for lack of a better word, a weasely advantage. It was one thing for Vlade Divac or Derek Fisher to be floppers for the Los Angeles Lakers. It would be another if Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal or Kobe Bryant were habitual floppers. Just wouldn’t feel right.
LeBron refers to it as a legit strategy. Forgetting for a moment that it is now a fine-able offense, so is bunting a runner to third base in a critical late game situation in baseball. If a pitcher or even a leadoff hitter like Brett Gardener does so, we’re excited, but if Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols did that in their prime, it would not be greeted with the same enthusiasm. Plaques aren’t built for bunt sacrifices and floppers.
It was much more satisfying watching the Chicago Bulls win games on Michael Jordan clutch shooting as opposed to if he flopped to draw an offense foul. MJ, Magic, Bird, Russell, they weren’t known as floppers. Lebron, do you want that attached to your resume?
Now let’s look at hard fouls/ cheap and or dirty play. Unless you’re talking about the 80’s bad boy Detroit Pistons led by Isiah Thomas, at best that is a role player function. Kurt Rambis of the Magic Johnson Lakers, Dennis Rodman with Michael Jordan’s Bulls, and Bruce Bowen for earlier versions of Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs are examples.
If Duncan fouled people or executed the cheap shots that Bowen did it would be a bigger deal. As it is now with seemingly nice guy Dwyane Wade who is slowly building a resume of questionable plays. Because of his nice guy persona he has enjoyed the benefit of the doubt, but elbows, like the one he threw in game three against Indiana’s Lance Stephenson are starting to add up.
For reasons already well documented, fans already root for the Miami Heat and their not five, not six, not seven proclamation to fail. Flopping and dirty play only gives them two more reasons to root for them to lose, and minimize them if they win.
As players, James and Wade do so many things the right way and are so talented, they shouldn’t need to flop and or cheap shot to win.
It’s fine for people to trot out the old cliché about only remembering the winner… But with Twitter, Youtube and Facebook, that is not as true as it used to be.
Memo to Commissioner Stern: Kudos for instituting a fine for flopping, but increase it.