Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Day Country Music Died

                It’s no secret that I’ve generally disliked country music for a long time.  It’s not that I won’t listen to it if it comes on the radio; I’ll just do everything in my power to not listen to it if it does. I’m a firm believer that no music is inherently bad as long as the notes are being played correctly. Everyone has different tastes, and what invigorates me musically may make you want to gouge your eyes out.  However, I do believe that country music is doomed to fail; actually I’m certain that country music already has failed.  If I could play a guitar and sing, I’m sure I could write my very own hit country song. The lyrics go something like this, “Woke up, and grabbed a beer. Need to make last night disappear. Grabbed my fishin pole and hopped in my truck, headin to the pond let’s see if I have some luck. Now I’m drivin down that old dirt road, what do my eyes see? They see a nice cute honey, can’t take her eyes of meeeeeeeeee,” (continue to corny chorus about country living and good times).  Guaranteed, number one on the charts, and I just thought of that in only two minutes.
                The failure of country music has been inevitable. To truly understand it, you must understand country music pre-1994.  Back then, you had legends like George Jones, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, etc.  These lyricists brilliantly crafted stories about life in the backwoods areas of the country; stories about strange characters, women who hurt them, drinking escapades, all the things that cowboys or rednecks were accustomed to.  The problem is that as the United States progresses technologically, these places and occurrences happen less and less. It’s imperative not to forget that country music used to be dubbed country western music, as in the Wild West. The Wild West is dead, and along with it should go country music. 
                I generally break music down into 3 main groups. Rock/alternative, pop/hip-hop, and country (yes, this discounts other genres like jazz, classical, and polka, but none of those are mainstream).  Rock music can never die simply because it’s based on musical creativity. No matter how poorly lyrics are sung by a wild-haired rock star, each song can throw a face-melting guitar solo or an ear pounding drum segment at you. Pop/hip-hop can’t fail because it constantly updates itself with the times. At its birth, rappers talked about how they make danceable beats, in the early 90’s it was the gang wars and East vs. West, present day is about making lots of money and obtaining material success. Country music is faced with an impossible paradox. It’s a music genre that can’t give you guitar solos or really any musical creativity. It’s completely lyric-based, but as the years move on, country music cannot lyrically update itself with the times. Dierks Bentley can’t croon about using his iPad on the rocking chair out on the front porch of his lakeside cabin. It would similarly seem strange if Trace Adkins belted out a verse detailing him watching his new car automatically parallel park itself in front of the new Super Target in town. Unfortunately for country, this means that there is a set limit of subject matter it can cover; much like the finite amount of subject matter western movies could cover.  If you hadn’t noticed, there isn’t an increasing influx of western movies, and the same should happen with country music, if only we could be so lucky.
                What continues to be the lure of country music then? The answer to this question is simple. As our nation has become more urbanized, the thought of being able to “get away” and out of the big city for the weekend or for a vacation has become this utopian idea for many children, adolescents, and adults. However, getting away to the woods or country now is not what the country truly is. People who take vacations to their getaways are doing so in lavish cabins with cable TV and Internet. They drive luxurious speedboats and fast cars. This is what country has become in 2011. What people don’t realize is that individuals and families who already inhabit the country don’t view it as a getaway, but a way of life.  These singers from the country were telling stories about their true lives, not vacations out on the lake.  The detachment from what country really is has led to the new generation of pseudo-country pop; artists singing about pop themes while on vacation in the country.
                I will forever and always blame Tim McGraw as being the catalyst for the genesis of pop-country. Growing up, my parents were very fond of blasting country western music on the radio in our home. I genuinely was a fan of the artists that I heard back then. McGraw was probably the first hugely popular country singer that I absolutely could not stand. To me, he was a fraud; someone who walked around with a fake cowboy hat and a big belt buckle and pretended he was a country bumpkin. It disgusted me that he even thought of himself as a cowboy.  Once he entered into the picture, it opened the floodgates for the army of imposters. Ever since, country music has spiraled into a cesspool of people who sing the same songs, about the same events, in the same way, with the same twangy guitar chords. I can think of no better example that signaled the free fall of country music than Craig Morgan’s song, “Redneck Yacht Club,” which was released in 2005.  This tune, with stunning lyrics talking about party barges, houseboats, and tiki torches, basically signifies everything that country music is not.  So much so that it actually made my blood boil. Now whenever I see Taylor Swift trot out in a dress and cowboy boots, or am forced to hear Rascal Flatts’s lead singer whine in his crybaby voice about girl problems that we’ve all heard a million times over, I want to jump into a fire pit. 
                Country music has run its course. Honestly, I don’t care if the new genre that’s been created still exists; I just can’t accept that it still calls itself country, because it’s not. It not only hurts what country originally was, but also prevents young music listeners from discovering what true country is.  Disco died and it moved on; no other genre took it in a completely different direction and called itself disco. Country is also dead and it’s time for it to finally move on as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Last year in November, an album that I had been waiting for since 2009 came out. That album was My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West. I am a music connoisseur, so after months of listening and evaluating, I devised the ratings of each track on the album in individual categories as well as a final comprehensive category.  I’ve also provided links to each song in the final rankings.

Lyric-Based Track Rankings - Probably not my strongest ratings, I am not a lyrics guy by default (choruses and bridges NOT included)

11.) Hell of a Life - Really not much here as far as lyrics are concerned, therefore a non-factor on this disc.
10.) Lost in the World/Who Will Survive in America - This is unfair. There are not many lyrics in this song so it can't contend with some of the heavy hitters. Also the preaching at the end loses it some points.
9.  Runaway - This, along with ”All Of The Lights”, was incredibly hard to rate lyrics-wise. The courses are dynamite, and the songs are both moving and emotional. However, both tunes power comes from the chorus, not the overall lyrics, which deals damage to both.
8.) Dark Fantasy - Another song that’s strength is in the production value, but I won't discount Kanye for presenting us with some nice lyrical wordplay to open his album.
7.) All of the Lights - Tough rating. Nikki Minaj ALMOST pushes this into sixth place with a hard verse, but, honestly, the beauty of this song is production, production, production. I feel decent giving this seventh best pure lyrics.
6.) Blame Game - Interesting tune lyrics wise. You could argue that with more POW it would have moved up a few spots lyrically, but I would contend that altering it in that way would destroy the song as a whole. This is right where it belongs.
5.) Devil in a New Dress - The heavy hitters start here.  Lyrically infused, snappy, it does the job. However, not enough to land itself any higher. The last 4 are just too good.  Kudos to Rick Ross swooping in after the long bridge though and nearly stealing the show
4.) Gorgeous – Kanye really gets after it in this song. As the second track of the CD, it really sets the table after the introduction track. This song really lets us know that he has departed from the college/school based theme of his first 3 albums. It begins a beautiful change for Kanye.
3.) So Appalled - Probably the toughest choice here in the lyrics section. In the end, while West drops a nice verse and Jay-Z drops his best verse by FAR on the album, the other two lyricists in the song don’t do a whole lot for me.  Also, it took a few listens back and forth to realize that my real love of this song is in the production value...that beat, amazing.
2.) Monster - I would debate all day that Kanye raps maybe his best verse (in a song with other artists featured) here. Also, I am very near calling it undeniable that Nikki Minaj drops the best verse of the album on this track. The one glaring negative is that Jay-Z’s verse just doesn’t carry any weight for me. It just seems so weak. I'll describe this song like this; I hated it when I first heard it, but the lyrics have made it one of my favorites on the album.
1.) Power - Was there ever any doubt? NO, there wasn't. It seems like every word violently spewed here is classic. This song is destructive lyrically. You really couldn't have picked a better opening single from the album. A year's hiatus, and Kanye drops this? Basically he's saying, "I’M BAAAAAAACK!"  and an eff you to boot.

Production Value - This is my baby, you better believe I'm taking it seriously (choruses and bridges considered)
11.) Hell of a Life - Wow, I was hoping this song would make it further down the list, because I enjoy the beat. However, that's just how good Kanye is, this song couldn't make it beyond 11.
10.) Devil in a New Dress - Tough call between this one and number 9. Such a clever beat, but no chorus hurts it (though not in overall ranking) and it gets a little too repetitive.
9.) Gorgeous – Not too high up on the list for production value, but honestly, this song was made to be a stunner lyrics-wise and that’s where it delivers. The nice simple beat and chorus are good compliments to it.
8.) Blame Game - Song that really grew on me in the late stages. Nice beat as a change of pace song. Also, John Legend crooning the chorus is excellent. How did they come up with a song like this? Oh yeah, "Yeezy (Kanye) taught me" (I'm counting that towards production value).
7.) Monster - I feel extremely comfortable putting this song here. The beat is nice, but not spectacular, however, that's ok; this song is lyrics and lyrics only. Can I bob my head while I rap to Kanye during this song? Yes I can. After that, I don't care.
6.) So Appalled - Tough call here, but this is sort of the end of the songs where Yeezy doesn't try to make the perfect beat. The chorus here is great; it's f’ing ridiculous.
5.) Runaway. Tough, tough, tough, tough, tough decision. In the end, I had to remind myself that this section is based STRICTLY on production. I know what my top 3 are, so this and number 4 have flip flopped 100 times. This track just doesn't quite top number 4.
4.) Dark Fantasy - The song that has arguably the best intro of any Kanye album belongs here. I'll be honest, the vast majority of production value here lies in the "Can we get much higher?" segments. To me, that makes it almost more impressive that he's hitting me with the same thing over and over and yet I love every one of them and they're all different from one another. Masterful.
3.) Power - On any other album, this is number 1 hands down. The choir, the drums, the chorus, everything is seamless and obliterating here. The only separating quality from this song and the top two is that this lacks anything super wild (which would have destroyed the song, so kudos to West).
2.) Lost in the World/Who Will Survive - Of all categories and all songs, this is the most difficult decision. If you had asked me this question the first month I had the album, I vote this song number 1. Again, I have to remind myself that this is strictly based on production value. A snarky critic would complain repetitiveness here (I most definitely would not and will not, but that's the only separating flaw).
1.) All of the Lights – This is really a no brainer when you think about it. The best beat, hands down, always catching you off guard. The interlude comes into play here as well, setting up the song nicely. The chorus is dominating and empowering, superb.

What you've been waiting for, overall final ratings
A short preamble here. Sloppy readers would try to take my previous two categories and try to mathematically determine the final rankings. I'm adding a third criterion variable here though; how much emotion does this song evoke? In other words, how much am I feeling this song and how much is it reaching out and moving me? This adds the intangible element that is crucial in determining final song order.  So, without further ado.....

11.) Hell of a Life - Things get difficult already. I like this song, I really do. There are just too many good songs on the album and this song doesn't really do anything emotionally. Listen here
10.) Devil in a New Dress - Probably my most subjective rating. I just don't feel this song so much, and I know a lot of people do. I know the verses are great, but as a non-verse guy, that doesn't affect me as much, and in no way does this song move me. Listen here
9.) Dark Fantasy - You really start to see now it's not because the song is bad, but that the other songs are so good. This is a great song, yet it can only crack top 9 on this album. Listen here
8.) So Appalled - By FAR the most shocking turn in the rankings. At one time, this was my second or third favorite song on the album. This ranking for this song is astonishing because the lyrics are still outstanding and the beat is still fresh, but the other songs just aged like a fine wine. Listen here
7.) Blame Game - Like the above song, this has made the biggest jump up in the ratings. The first month that I had this album, I had it rated as my least favorite at the time. You could say this song has gone the opposite path of “Devil in a New Dress”; it has clearly benefited the most from the "feeling it' criterion. Listen here
6.) Gorgeous - Funny thing is, if you would have asked me 6 months ago, this probably would have made number 11. I've since realized just how emphatically West raps on this song. It’s not the best song lyrically, definitely not the best production-wise, but it’s the second track, and it lets us know that Kanye is here to stay. Listen here
5.) Monster - Hot verses; ridiculously hot verses. At the end of the day (to borrow from Rick Bucher) though, this song just doesn’t have the “it” factor production-wise to rise any higher. Listen Here
4.) Runaway - A lot of people probably disagree with this since this was the breakout track of the album, but even so, I had this at number 5 for the longest time. At the end though, this song is off the charts for the emotional scale. He thought this through, looked himself in the mirror, disliked what he saw, and wrote a song about it. It’s difficult to not sympathize with Kanye here; the most heartfelt song of the album. Listen here
3.) Lost in the World/Who Will Survive – Until about 4 months ago, this was my favorite song on the album.  I’m not exactly sure what happened. If I had to put my finger on it, this track ultimately fails in the emotion department. If this is number 3, what does that say about the top 2 tracks? Listen here
2.) Power -  Listen here. This song has flip-flopped a million times between number 1 and number 2. It could very well be the most remembered song off the album. It's truly an anthem. It is the announcement of West’s return that shall not go lightly. However, if the world was about to end and I had a couple minutes left, I would press the fast forward button to get to.....
1.) All of the Lights – BOOM! This track hits you like a grandiose explosion of sound and feeling. Although I initially wasn’t too high on this song, with time I realized it has the perfect blend of heartfelt lyrics and incredible production value, and found it was the only logical choice for number one. Simply, it’s one of the best, if not the best produced song I’ve ever heard; and on top of that it has a lyrical value that can move the soul. This song not only is the best of the album, but also may very well be the best of 2010. Listen here

Thus endeth the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Family song rankings. It's been a long time coming, and I hope it was worth it. I strongly encourage you to give this album a listen, as it truly is the best album of 2010.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Not-So-Secretly Unwatchable Life of the American Teenager

                When I first developed the idea to begin a blog, I figured a large part of it would be my commentary on things I listen to, watch on TV, or see in my daily comings and goings.  A big challenge for myself, I decided, was going to be whether or not I would be able to stick an event out, even if it was truly terrible, and be able to write about it fully on this blog. My test for this was watching a TV show that I’d seen small snippets of and absolutely despised for its premise, production, and acting.  That show is The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Created by Brenda Hampton and airing weekly on the ABC family channel, this show was produced to give all of American a glimpse into what really goes on with students during one of their most trying times, high school.  It was a monumental task to tackle all 73 episodes available on my Netflix Instant Queue, but tackle them I did, and regret it, even with how pitifully awful the program is, I did not.
                As with any powerhouse TV production, ensemble casts are becoming more and more popular (think Lost or Mad Men). Fittingly, Secret Life chose to incorporate one as well. That being said, a little introduction into the main characters in the show is necessary.
·         Amy Juergens – The poor 15 year old girl who gets pregnant during a summer band camp. She’s the America’s Sweetheart of the of series, and the show vaguely centers around her struggle as a teen mother.
·         Ricky Underwood – The older student (by a couple years) who impregnates Amy. He is the resident bad boy around school, and doesn’t hesitate to sleep around with various women or belittle men who are less masculine than him.
·         Ben Boykewich (BOY-ka-Vich) – The hopeless romantic. Son of a Sausage King, Ben has grown up with a silver spoon, which has turned into a silver room. He is what you would call the anti-tough guy.
·         Adrian Lee – With no better way to put it, she is girl who is not afraid to experiment, meaning she gets around a lot. Secretly though, she only wants to be with Ricky. She’s also a straight A student.
·         Grace Bowman – The “crazy Christian” (show’s quote, not mine).  She is the gorgeous (although unobtainable) devout Christian who initially is into saving herself for marriage, even though she is portrayed to be the prize of every guy at school.
·         Ashley Juergens – Amy’s annoying know-it-all younger sister (by two years).  Even though she’s mature for her age, somehow she magically is included in all of her sister and her sister’s friends' day to day problems.
·         George Juergens – Amy’s dad and my favorite character. Though a bumbling imbecile most of the time, easily the most humorous person on the show and generally tries to do the right thing.
·         Anne Juergens – Portrayed by Molly Ringwald. Amy’s mother and somehow has the right advice and keen sixth sense at critical moments, even though she comes off as a dimwit 99% of the time.
·         Leo Boykewich – Ben’s father. He owns a sausage empire and is wealthy. However, he prides himself on work ethic and tries to instill the same attitude in his son at every turn.
These central cast members along with several other important figures make Secret Life what it is, a poorly acted and wildly unrealistic depiction of America’s teens.
                As Secret Life begins, we learn that 15 year old Amy Juergens is nervous that she is pregnant after a trip to summer band camp. As the early moments of Secret Life progress, it becomes clear that she is carrying child. What transpires after that is Brenda Hampton’s interpretation of what today’s American teenagers go through in high school. I’m not sure what experience Hampton draws from to create her world, but it’s one that takes the aspects of adolescence and blows them so wildly out of proportion, that what evolves is a grotesque depiction of teenage life. What exactly does Hampton get wrong? Pretty much everything, but I’ll go through only the biggest 3 atrocities for length’s sake.
1.)    In Secret Life, it seems that the students of Ulysses S. Grant High School have all the time in the world to stand by their lockers or out in the middle of the hallway and discuss their life issues/plans.  What type of school system is this? Most schools allow around 5 minutes for kids to get to their lockers, put their previous period’s books away, grab their next period’s books, and hustle to their next room.   Secret Life never has a scene that is filmed inside of an actual classroom.   Maybe that’s part of being “secret,” but I remember that many significant conversations took place inside the classroom; hushed whispers that had to fool the teacher into thinking we were paying attention and remain private from other students.
2.)    Regarding students’ conversations, the content in Secret Life is unlike anything I remember. I would predict that nearly 95% of conversations covered between teens in Secret Life, revolve around some kind of sex, be it oral or otherwise.  I can tell you with complete assurance, talk of sex does not dominate actual high school conversation.   So many conversations in high school dealt with a myriad of topics, ranging from classwork to sports.  It seems in Secret Life, that EVERY interaction between students, parents, or students/parents, centers around or involves sex in some way.  I know that California is progressive, but honestly, I think Hampton is pushing the issue a little too hard.
3.)    Not only is the conversation content misrepresented, but the people involved also do not follow the prototypical high schooler’s experience. The Secret Life’s parents are remarkably ubiquitous in all the sex talk between not only their own children, but other students as well. The shocking aspect is the general nonchalance with which adolescent and parent speak about sex. The actual high school teenager is generally afraid to broach such subjects with his or her parents; and telling someone else’s parents? You’ve got to be kidding me.
All of these factors contribute to the overall dilemma with Secret Life. It wants to emphasize the trials and tribulations that America’s youths go through in today’s day and age, but in doing so, it over exaggerates  these hardships while trying to coach the views on what to do. While parents and their kids may have a sex talk every once in awhile, it’s not every day, and definitely not with children other than their own.  Students do not spend every conversation with their friends talking about sex. Other topics (friends, work, cars, projects), also have their place in the day to day dealings of these kids.  While love and marriage are sometimes brought up in students’ pipe dreams, it is not a centerpiece of everyday discussion.  
All of this over-embellishment actually provides the one saving grace of Secret Life, comedic value. On the unintentional comedy scale 1-10, it scores a definitive 10.  I kept roughly 35 pages of quotations and notes that amused me thoroughly for the first 2 and one third seasons of Secret.  I created a page that has all the quotes I noted , but right here I can present a few gems to show you the high comedic value of the dialogue.
Grace: “I had sex and now Dad is dead. And, he had a horrible death because I had incredible sex. Just the way life works, and death. I did this. I did it. And if I hadn’t done it, if I hadn’t had sex, and if I hadn’t enjoyed having sex so much then Dad would still be alive, you know it Mom.”

Anne: “George can you do this, can you really deliver the baby with one hand?”
George: “I can do this with both hands tied behind my back” (he’s not a doctor of any sort, and yes, he delivered the baby successfully).
Such is the depth of content in Secret Life. To compound matters, the actors are awful and give pitiful performances. Molly Ringwald fully shows why she has never been seen for years and years after a string of successful childhood movies. The rest of the cast, while fitting the bill of young, pretty, and handsome faces, gives a collective performances equal to that of a group of nine and ten year olds putting on a play for their hometown. It’s as if every line is delivered with the same inflections, never really pulling us into the gravity of a dramatic scene taking place or the glee of a humorous or joyful event.  If you’re looking for a night of laughter, just tune in and watch how the unrealistic story mixes terribly with the robotic acting to form a truly hideous cocktail of television.  All of this brings us to…
                ...Secret Life’s ultimate failure to accomplish its goal. I’ll be the first to readily admit, there probably is a secret life that most American teens do not want their parents to find out about. Even more, I believe that a properly produced TV program depicting that life would perhaps have a positive impact on families across the nation. Coincidentally, like many sex education videos show to adolescent teens throughout America, this is just another form of media that can be criticized and ridiculed for completely missing the mark instead of praised for presenting us with hard-hitting truths.  To put one final topper on the abysmal Secret Life cake, as I watched the final episode (that was on my Netflix), I found myself actually being drawn in by the story. Another teen girl (Adrian, this time) had become pregnant and married the father (Ben). What riveted me was that near the end of the episode, the baby was coming, but it ended up being stillborn, something that totally caught me off guard. For once, the actors and actresses were putting on a believable show of being completely crushed by such an awful event, and thought to myself “wow, this would be a great cliffhanger to end a season on.”  But did Secret Life do such a thing? No, of course they didn’t. Instead of ending it at that obvious spot, they chose to drag it along to a scene with Ricky and Amy at Ricky’s apartment. The episode ended with the two of them embracing in Ricky’s bed with Amy finally declaring she was ready to have sex with Ricky (the back and forth between them had been a focus of the season).  As the two of them cuddled while the screen faded to black, I couldn’t help but just smile at the ineptitude of Secret Life, for once again, the producers botched up a chance at relevant TV and ditched it for a fantasy world unknown to me.  Secret Life does its best to show us what really goes on with today’s youths, but trust me, if you’re ever thinking about attempting to watch this show yourself, do yourself a favor and let the lives of the teens portrayed in this show remain a secret to you.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Man, The Myth, The Bron

                Many years ago, a basketball phenom came out of high school into the NBA. He was drafted by a perennially poor franchise, but still blossomed into one of the elite players in the league, winning a league MVP, and making 3 All-NBA first teams. However, his franchise was poorly run. Management never seemed to surround this ultra-star with adequate talent to allow him to win a title. No one really ever blamed him; he was doing all that could, carrying the team on his back on a nightly basis.  There was one season where he made it to the league semifinals, but he unfortunately ran into that time era’s juggernaut.  Again, the player’s effort, heart, or skill was hardly questioned. When he was suddenly traded by his franchise, it took many by surprise; he was sent to a team that was loading up on superstars, building a superteam gearing up for a title run.  That team did win a title, and that player was a centerpiece. His name is Kevin Garnett, and many Minnesotans (whom he previously played for) actually were glad that he won a title in Boston. Most felt he deserved it, and blamed the Timberwolves management for wasting away a brilliant career by not surrounding him with much talent.
                Enter LeBron James (Bron).  A super phenom drafted by a woeful franchise.  He also toils away for years on a team that refuses to put adequate pieces alongside him in the hopes to win a title. He comes up for free agency, and what does Bron do? He leaves for another team, the Miami Heat. This team also is gathering up the top free agents of the year, building for a title run. However, when Bron makes this move, he becomes a nationwide pariah. Everyone seems to turn on him. In Cleveland, no one appears to be appreciative of the hard work Bron has put in to win a title (Back to back 60 win seasons, a Finals appearance). No one looks at the ineptitude of the Cleveland front office; no, everyone just looks at Bron, what an a**hole he is for turning on his city. What happened?
                The Decision was the beginning of Bron-Hell 2010-11. It turned people against him.  But why?  One of the first arguments you’ll hear is that “He should be wanting to beat Dwayne Wade, not play with him, that’s what a real champion does.”  This seems like an asinine point of view. First, it assumes that basketball is a single man’s game; it’s not, it’s a team game.   Players need to form crisp teams to win.  As mentioned above, Garnett was unable to bring a title home on his own, he needed help, he needed a team. Bron needs help, just like every other player.  The double standard is apparent when you listen to announcers and analysts spoon feed us sayings such as “Everyone in the league would want to play with Jason Kidd,” or “As an NBA player, you jump at the chance to be on Tim Duncan’s team.”  So in those situations, it’s ok for an athlete to join up with a star, but for Bron, he is not allowed that luxury. He has been exiled to basically play a one-against-all-game.
                A barely mentioned point of the Decision was the sheer idea of it. I applauded Bron (and Chris Bosh) for making the choice that they did. Think about it, how many hours of offseasons are spent with exasperated sports fans debating “WHY did athlete X go to team Y for just a little more money! He’s so selfish; he doesn’t care about winning at all.”  One glaring example, Johnny Damon, comes to mind. You may remember when he left a powerhouse Red Sox team for a marginally higher amount of money to join the hated rival New York Yankees.  I will never forget wondering why he did that. The Sox were prepared to pay him handsomely, but he left for seemingly pennies (to athletes) more to his biggest rival!  At this point, I remember discussing with my father, why don’t these athletes combine together and form super teams? They earn more than enough money; wouldn’t it be smarter to cement your legacy with titles than to join teams that don’t have a chance at winning for more money? After all, one of the first arguments people will shout at you when you try to say an NBA player is comparable to Michael Jordan is that Jordan is the owner of 6 championship rings, and the other player is not.  Over the days my father and I discussed this idea, it just so happened that the Los Angeles Lakers, with Shaq and Kobe already on their team, signed an aging Karl Malone and Gary Payton, two of the greatest players at their positions (career-wise), to play for them.  As it happened to work out though, Malone and Payton were too old to be effective.  It did however pave the way for other teams to replicate that philosophy.  For instance, the 2008 Celtics did it with slightly younger superstars and won the title. Who can blame the Heat for trying the same thing? With younger stars? It’s silly that all of the sudden fans across the nation now view stars grouping together as unfair, when there was no uproar over it just a few short years ago.
                What else cripples Bron’s image? The Jordan comparison. The Jordan comparison is ridiculous for many reasons, but the one that’s most recently reared its head is that you can see that the detractors of Bron seem to be the only ones comparing him to Jordan.   They’ll attack Bron by saying Jordan would have never let such and such happen, or Jordan would have done this or that differently.  As a supporter of Bron, I don’t even bother comparing him to Jordan. He’s just simply not, no one is (Kobe pending), and what’s worse, basketball analysts used verbally recognize this fact. Bron is much more similar to Magic Johnson, a gifted scorer and equally gifted distributor.  There is simply no reason to compare Bron with Jordan.
                The above argument fails because Jordan and Bron ARE TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT PLAYERS! If you want to make a comparison to Jordan, use Kobe. They have a similar skill set and mentality. Both are deadly scorers, terrific defenders, and pathological competitors. I’m not saying Kobe is better, but he is a more similar comparison because they are closer to being the same player. Bron’s style of play is a completely different beast; someone with an incredible physique and phenomenal skills, but not someone with a competitive streak to rival Jordan’s. He has always been more content to dish the rock to an open teammate before forcing a difficult shot (another Garnett comparison) like Kobe or Jordan would.  Along those same lines, what truly makes one player better than another? Sports writers constantly cite Jordan’s competitiveness as his leverage over other challengers. Basically, that means if you’re not a psychotic competitor, you can’t be the greatest. I completely disagree. It would be foolish to argue that Bron’s physical gifts are less than Jordan’s; he is the more physically gifted athlete.  Sure, he’s not as competitive (for now), but that doesn’t mean he can’t be as good. If Bron averaged a triple double for his career (not saying he will) and won 7 titles, I would claim that he is better than Jordan. Could you really disagree?
                So….what is it that people really hate about Bron? The arguments his detractors give appear to not hold water, and they keep spewing them out because they don’t want to admit what the real motive is. It’s simply a case of the Haves vs. the Have nots, the Plebeians vs. the Patricians, the Wealthy vs. the Poor. Think back to before Bron chose to go to Miami. He was probably the most marketable player in basketball; everyone in America loved him, just like America blindly supports underdogs. Bron used to be an underdog; he was a likable face on a sh***y team, but played his guts out each night.  All of the sudden he wound up on a powerhouse that everyone was saying had a guaranteed title. As America does, they began to root against the ones in power, and Bron was the centerpiece of how the Heat came to power. He was the most physically gifted and arguably best player in the league.  What people are afraid to say is that they hate Bron because he wants to win, because he has made his current team a force in the league and he is no longer an underdog. The sad thing is that Cleveland, unlike Minnesota with Garnett (although there are Minnesotan that have turned on him), absolutely turned on Bron with an unpredictable ferocity (even Cavs owner Dan Gilbert unleashed a hate mail against Bron). It’s sadly pathetic that one, the city of Cleveland won’t recognize how inept their ownership is, and two, that they won’t even support their hometown hero anymore, that they have to be destined to hate him.  Why (again, like Minnesota) can’t the inhabitants of Cleveland root FOR Bron to win a championship somewhere else, and truly support him
               In honesty, the hatred for the Decision stems not from the showmanship of Bron (admittedly, a small portion is), but the simple fact that Cleveland was a Have, and they became a Have-Not in a matter of seconds. Even sportswriters are not immune to wanting to root for an underdog as they also have been carrying a bias. I don’t particularly mind if someone dislikes Bron or the Heat; what does irritate me is that people won’t admit WHY they hate him. Own up to your true thoughts America. After all, creating fabrications of who and what Bron is and pretending that you’re above them only destabilizes your arguments further.
                 In essence, Bron made the best choice for him, he wants to win and he took an opportunity that he felt would give him the best chance at that.  He’s not the next Jordan, and he will probably never be like Jordan; but keep in mind that he does not desire to be like Jordan either. He wants to be LeBron James, his own man. A man who made a decision that altered his career and (he hopes) propelled him to new heights.