2010-11 Sportsmen of the Year: anti-villains Tiger & Lebron


I have one simple reason for these two anti-villains being sportsmen of the year: the fervor of fans rooting against them matches the fervor of fans rooting for them.

NBA Store: Beat the Heat Tees


People I know who haven’t watched the NBA or The Masters ever or for years watched them both this year. And who did all these people support? They were pro or anti-anti-villain.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods Press Conference April 10, 2010 (Joe Skipper/EPA)

Tiger Woods Press Conference April 10, 2010 (Joe Skipper/EPA)

Newly minted golf fans, some of them former believers in the inevitability of Tiger (without ever being someone who sat down to watch a round of golf) picked (on the last day) between McElroy, Day, Scott, Donald, Ogilvy, Cabrera and the eventual winner Charlie Schwartzel. In sports bars, in twitter feeds and FB feeds a fantastic round of golf was made all the more compelling because Tiger was playing well, and the field of not-Tigers responded. The anti-villian had arrived.

In a huge reversal, one of the most well liked sports figures became one of the worst liked.

Tiger supporters and golf fans were glad to see him play. The people that balked when the perfect family picture that had been marketed by Woods was trampled by the serial adulterer’s cavalcade of porn stars, cocktail waitresses and diner servers were glad that Tiger Woods played hard, and lost.

Woods’ return in 2010 and the 2011 Masters were the two highest rated Masters of the last ten years.

Lebron James

Off the hard court, LeBron James showed really bad form and took an unbelievable hit. I know one guy from Cleveland. A few more folks from Ohio. If they are so inclined to be pissed off about their former hoop King’s abdication of the throne, it makes complete sense. The era of King James was the best seven years the Cavaliers ever had. R&B star Usher bought in. The Cavs became must see TV. He was theirs until he said I’m from Akron not Cleveland and then picked the Heat over the Cav’s (Knicks, Nets and Bulls). Nevermind that the Cav’s were coach-less and had brought no other star player besides James. Never-mind the well jeweled Lakers, Celtics and Spurs were packed full of guys who were all but in the NBA Hall of Fame or big time playoff players. LeBron was theirs. As much as they give Dan Gilbert an irrational pass, I can understand them rooting against the Heat.

But the rest of the “anyone but the Heat” NBA fans? Are they staunch Cleveland defenders? Do they love The Flats, Shaker Heights or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so much that whomever may defile them must be the devil incarnate? As Joakim Noah made plain and simple prior to “The Decision”, that’s probably not true.(Sidebar: did Cavs fans cheer for Noah’s Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals?).

In a huge reversal, one of the most well liked sports figures became one of the worst liked.

People that rooted for LeBron but never called him king because he had never won the crown had no problem with him joining forces with D. Wade’s Heat: super teams make for super basketball. People that believed the prophecy of King James rising from a fiefdom in Akron, ascending to the crown-less, champion-less throne in Cleveland he promised to adorn with a championship hated “The Decision” and want to see him lose more than they want to see Dirk and the Mavs win.

This years NBA Mavs vs. Heat Finals are the highest rated in the last seven years. The NBA regular season was the highest rated in the history of the NBA on TNT.

The anti-Woods people and the anti-James people are of the same cloth. They personally bought into towering infallible images manufactured and sold to them by Woods, James and their marketing teams. When they figured out they had been believing the hype, they blamed LeBron and Tiger and they want nothing more than their actually sports legacies to be as devalued as their images.

Tiger’s Achilles Tendon and knee are forcing him to pull out of majors left and right. Lebron James has had some abysmal fourth quarters in the finals (despite solid overall numbers) in games mostly decided by under 5 points. The anti-villains may be falling to defeat right on cue. Either way, the sports world is watching.