Our Personal Distaste for a Star Athlete Should Never Hinder a Legacy

Great running team. Cut-throat defense with a speedy secondary. Steadfast coach. Mark Sanchez has it all. In fact, we automatically believe it’s his fault if his team loses but the Jets are rarely victorious because of him.

But isn’t this very similar to the tools surrounding Ben Cheeseburger during his second-year championship run? 

Mark is considered the weak link of the Jets. But for Cheeseburger’s early years, no one considered his lack of experience or pocket presence as drawback; the media praised him for how he played within the offense.

My focus of this discussion is not to question Cheeseburger’s leadership as a youngster but to highlight how we view legacies in sports out of emotional attachment or hate rather than subjectivity.

Recently I posted on facebook a simple fact: “[Almost every great player] of the past 30 years has defended his NBA title except for Tim Duncan.” Immediately several Duncan supporters commented on how Duncan is the greatest PF of all time and that I shouldn’t look to critique his body of work.

Why am I not allowed to post one honest fact about Duncan? Contrarily, fans have learned to accept that any discussion on Kobe Bryant requires several typical forms of both legitimate and purely dishonest criticism.

Sanchez and Bryant suffer from a major issue that debilitates sport’s stars: once a star is viewed as brash or arrogant at a young age, he or she will continue this negative image through the media’s need to have an enemy, which will ultimately boost the sport’s ratings while encouraging fans to question the star’s legacy.

I believe it’s perfectly fine to hate an athlete on a team that dominates. The world needs haters. Sports need haters. But when we start to subjectively push athletes down a few rungs on the metaphorical ladder we’ve created for the greatest of all time in each sport, we are doing certain athletes an injustice.

We have to all admit; the media is having a difficult time portraying Cheeseburger in his post-rapist years. He can no longer be that loveable athlete who supposedly was blue-collar and lunch pail behind his offensive line. In fact, the response against my comparison of his early years to Sanchez now would have been ridiculous if he wasn’t a rapist. I would be committing blasphemy by just pointing out a simple fact that his second year in the league mirrors Sanchez’s second.

Even though statistically Lebron James is having an insane season, and in all honesty, he finally actually has the help to win a championship, our distaste for his previous antics will never put him near Bryant or Jordan. But we have to look past that. We have to look purely at statistics, situations, memories, and championships when comparing the greatest.  Even in Cleveland.

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