Yesterday I was watching the replay of PTI on ESPN2 and caught an interview with Derek Fisher. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon were asking his thoughts on the aging of Kobe Bryant and on the backlash from Utah Jazz fans during the last playoff series. This is where I get angry. He has the gall to summarily dismiss the anger of the Jazz fans, saying that he simply plays a game.
For those who forgot, back in 2007 Fisher asked to opt out of his contract with the Jazz so he could move his family closer to a city with specialists who could help in his young daughter fight with retinoblastoma (cancer of the eye). The Jazz organization let him leave and he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, playing out the rest of the season as the most sympathetic player in the NBA.
Fast forward three years and Fisher is still playing for the Lakers, leaving a gaping hole in the Lakers perimeter defense and occasionally playing Robert Horry in big playoff games. The Lakers played the Jazz in the second round of the 2010 NBA playoffs and two girls wore shirts accusing him of lying about his daughter’s illness to escape Salt Lake City and the terrifying reach of the Mormons. The spirit of the accusation infected the rest of the raucous crowd and they chanted “Cancer” as Fisher walked up to the free throw line.
Are those fans who chanted “cancer” and wore shirts stating “Fisher lied” despicable? Yes, of course, but they are also wonderfully inventive and exactly what a sport needs to create a television-worthy rivalry. Are not who I am angry at? No.
I am angry at Derek Fisher. I do not think he lied, but the fact that he was amazed and dismissive of fans’ ridiculous devotion is what pissed me off. Yes, basketball is just a game, as is football, baseball, soccer, and plenty of other professional sports, but their devotion to a silly game is the reason he is making $5.3 million this year.
This is not a rare occurrence. Professional athletes, high profile sports writers, movie stars, and ridiculously popular musicians say the exact same thing about their industry after a few years in the spotlight. Dogs are smart enough to not bite the hands that feed, so why are jaded rich people allowed to do so?
Understand that if you are willing to take the paycheck to play a sport for a living, watch sports for a career, act for a multi-million dollar payday, or sing before crowds of thousand paying a week’s paycheck for the concert tickets, then you must respect the very insanity of the world in which you live.
These athletes, writers, actors, and musicians play an important role in our society. They provide escape from the mundane, soul-crushing existence that is the 50- to 60-hour work week. Being meta-aware of the situation is not helpful to the illusion keeping millions of people sane.
Do not tell the middle class fans depleting their bank account to purchase three hours of entertainment with New York Yankees tickets to the overpriced Yankees Stadium or Los Angeles Lakers tickets to the equally overpriced Staples Center they are being ridiculous.
I am not asking them to give back all the money they have been paid (I hesitate to say earned after watching some these people play, reading what they have wrote, watching them soil the silver screen, and listening to the atrocious discordant sounds of a tapped out music mind). All I ask is these people fortunate enough to earn millions living out a dream to be thankful and respect the improbable situation in which they live, lest they want to see their world implode and reality to wreak its revenge like a George Romero movie toppling consumerism.