Joltin’ Joe Has Left and Gone Away

Perhaps we were premature in declaring 2016 a banner year in sports.

Apparently, a free agency has ruined athletics everywhere.

Or so declared every blubbering bobblehead on ESPN after The Oklahoma City Thunder lost prodigious forward Kevin Durant to free agency and its sworn enemy, The Golden State Warriors.

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You would have thought George Washington were revealed a British cross-dresser, the outrage ran so deep. Stephen A. Smith, the loudest of ESPN’s bullhorns, called it the ‘most cowardly move’ in the history of sport. Not just the NBA. Sport. You know, gladiators and the Olympics and O.J. Simpson and shit.

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The self-flatulating Bill Simmons proclaimed that the Warriors now had the NBA’s greatest “supergroup” lineup in basketball history. imageFrom the covers of The Huffington Post to the Hollywood Reporter, a viral video of a toddler vowing to punch Durant in the face became the emblem of a brokenhearted city.

I get the hurt. I could never forgive the Detroit Lions for moving to Pontiac (bitterness probably fueled by dad’s stories about Pontiac laying off police to pay for the stadium).

Still, this Chicken Little response seems a bit much, if inevitable. Yes, the betrayals must sting, the shifting allegiances must discourage.

But name a sport that isn’t contaminated by money. Long ago, free agency turned major American teams — regardless of sport — into a collection of millionaire gypsies, villains to hiss. Think of most major sports and you’re likely to know the names of more players you don’t like than the ones you do.

Like that kid in the video.

Speaking of which: Who the hell is the dad? You know, the genius who decided how fun it would be to break his kid’s heart. And tape it. And post it. I can only imagine family holidays: ‘The Easter Bunny is here, Miles! Well, his leg, at least. I really should adjust that trap.

And whose drawl is that later in the video? My guess is the grandfather who raised his own little Einstein. You can almost see the bait drop in the water when gramps asks Miles his opinion of that black man who broke his heart.

So that’s how Republicans are born.

And so too, perhaps, dynasties. Few Vegas bookies would offer generous odds that the Warriors will lose in the next decade.

But from armies to rock bands to sports franchises, supergroups can be tricky things. While often potent, they can be short-lived; just ask Blind Faith or the Miami Heat.

And they often wilt facing a local kid with a reason to care.

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