When approaching a topic to write about it is important to have some source of credibility. For me, that source has usually been the law, or pure hatred for UK. I like to think of myself as fairly well versed in both of these topics. Today I want to add another layer to my pleated cargo short wearing persona; the role of sports dad.
My son is soon to be a freshman at DeSales High School. Over the years Matthew has played a number of sports; some better than others, but none at an elite level. I have coached his teams, ran video for his teams, and genuinely cheered for his teams. At least initially, I had visions of grandeur for his athletic ability, then I looked in the mirror. Sorry son. After watching the latest behavior of LaVar Ball, father to Lonzo Ball, I may never attend one of Matthew’s sporting events again, just to be safe.
What Lavar Ball is doing is one part magnificent, one part brilliant, and three parts insane. First, the magnificent. LaVar has always been a less than stellar basketball player. If you don’t believe me, just google his college playing stats or the video of his adult league performances. So to have raised at least one son to the height of stardom as he has done, with another two apparently waiting in the wings, is a magnificent accomplishment.
Next, the brilliant part; LaVar has apparently taken the “no such thing as bad publicity” angle and ran with it. Every show talks about him, every sports network is familiar with him, he is simultaneously enthralling and disgusting. Nobody paying attention to sports fails to have an opinion on LaVar Ball, and his children by proxy. When building a brand you have to keep ’em talking. LaVar is doing just that.
If that were all there was to it, I’d say LaVar has not done his family a disservice. He has prepared his sons to play at an elite level, and he has secured a stage for them to dazzle the world. In short, he has set their table. The three parts insane that LaVar has pulled off comes from his constant grandstanding, his outrageous claims, (both about his on the court ability and his business acumen) and lastly about his true lack of understanding of the power his stage yields.
Strutting onto the stage of sports talk shows in front of your all star son doesn’t make him a showman. It makes him an ass. That’s forgivable enough, if that were all there was. His outrageous claims that his brand is now worth three billion dollars, and that his game is better than Jordan’s doesn’t make him P.T. Barnum, it makes him Donald Trump. His failure to recognize the power of his platform, and his refusal to conform his behavior accordingly, makes him despicable.
On Wednesday, LaVar took the despicable nature of his schtick to the set of Colin Cowherd’s show. He was pressed, albeit lightly, about his shoe company sales and decided that he didn’t like hearing from the person who posed the question, Kristine Leahy. He refused to make eye contact, he said she scared him, (presumably an attack on her looks) and he told her in a dismissive tone to “stay in her lane.” He stopped short of telling her to go fetch him some coffee, while referring to her as “hon” and slapping her on the backside, but the message was delivered. To her credit, Leahy appeared to give as good as she got. She did not back down, and stayed on point asking question after question.
Local reaction has been mixed. Most people seem to agree that LaVar was inappropriate, but there is some credence given to his accomplishments and some awkward reactionary split along racial lines that is hard for me to understand. Regardless of race, being a jerk is unattractive. Being a bully to women, or anyone else based on their appearance or their age, race, gender, etc… is absolutely, well, deplorable.
Fortunately, Louisville fans have not had to deal with such shenanigans. We have had Peyton Siva’s dad front and center for the entirety of Peyton’s playing career and beyond. We have come to know, and love, Teddy Bridgewater’s mom as well. In short, we have been blessed with grace and class in the families of our team’s athletes. In a world of “me first” and endless self promotion, these two examples show that there is still a place for humility and grace. I hope to have learned it myself as a father, and I definitely respect it as a fan. Here’s to praying for more Peyton Sr. and Rose Bridgewaters, and to avoiding the Big Baller Brands at all costs. All of this reminds me of the bumper sticker that I saw on the way into work this morning. It was simple, it was short, it is lacking in LaVar’s world, and all around. The message; “Just Be Nice.”