Last night, while covering the Mavericks-Clippers showdown, announcer Jeff Van Gundy said something that angered a lot of people and pleased some. He said, basically, that it was ridiculous that Dallas sports fans were going to boo DeAndre Jordan and then go cheer Greg Hardy.
The "some" who were pleased are those who like every opportunity to point out that Greg Hardy is a bad man, and that the Cowboys are enabling him by looking the other way for the sake of his football talent. And this is great, because Greg Hardy is probably a bad man and the Cowboys are enabling him by looking the other way for the sake of his football talent.
The many who were pissed though were pissed for a good reason: the good people of Dallas absolutely did not deserve that insult. For lots and lots of reasons.
Starting with this: JVG's point is that what DeAndre did is not important in the grand scheme of things. Which is true, but sports are also not important. Nothing that will ever happen on the court/field of a professional sports arena is more important than finding a cure for cancer. Sports exist, and are a gabillion jillion dollar industry, not because of the good they do in the world—every sports fan I know spends a lot of time being miserable—but because of their entertainment value. Which comes from pretending something stupid is important with regularity.
In the world of sports importance, you have to be riding a horse the size of the Empire State Building to be seriously upset at Mavericks fans for being seriously upset at DeAndre Jordan. All he did was change his mind, as JVG said. It's not a crime, and it's not being prosecuted by one. I imagine almost nobody really wants DAJ to have to honor his word if he didn't want to be in Dallas.
But, still, while he was changing his mind the Dallas Mavericks built a team around him of minimum players, with money they assumed was committed to him, and as a consequence have their worst bench in a decade. Still, while he was changing his mind, all the remaining good players signed with other teams. Think about what the Mavs would look like this year if they hadn't been able to pry Deron Williams and Zaza Pachulia away for basically nothing. DeAndre, as I detailed here, did nothing more than put the final stab wound on a Caesar who'd long been murdered, but if anything in the kayfabe world of sports is worth getting mad about, why isn't that? Why did Caesar get extra upset when he saw it was Brutus coming to stab him, since he'd already been stabbed 22 times by around 60 other people?
In fact, think about that a little more. If you go to see Shakespeare's Julius Caesar performed and you get invested in the dictator's life, even though it's a play, how much do you want Jeff Van Gundy yelling across the stage "I can't believe people are upset about what's happening in this play when crimes are being committed!" He'd have the same level of point there, in that if we agree that our lives should only be consumed by the most serious of pursuits, sentiment wasted in other ways does appear ridiculous. But I bet if we had video of even those of you on the highest horses, throughout your sports watching lives, we might find an instance in which what was and wasn't important blurred a little bit for you, too.
Jeff Van Gundy could have easily said that it's ridiculous that Mavs fans are booing DeAndre Jordan rather than Lance Stephenson, a starter last night, and a man who allegedly pushed his girlfriend down a flight of stairs. My point isn't that people who are fond of JVG's comments are hypocrites, because it doesn't really matter. Greg Hardy doesn't get a pass on domestic assault because Lance Stephenson and others aren't being talked about right now; those are two separate issues. My point is that JVG would have been equally right. People shouldn't cheer for domestic abusers. Greg Hardy, Lance Stephenson or otherwise. They shouldn't be glad their team has them, or ask that athletes be judged as athletes and not as persons. Our money and our pressure on front offices are our votes for how we want our franchises to behave.
But the question of whether or not they should boo people they're sports-mad at is completely unrelated, not least because sports fans aren't a mindless collective wandering from stadium to stadium. Not all Dallas fans are Cowboys fans, and many Cowboys fans are disgusted by the Cowboys' actions in this case as they have been by their dealings with criminals in the past. For myself, I'm disgusted I enjoy football at all since we have all the evidence we need to know it's literally killing people.
But if that's your bar, get out of the arena. It's not up to you to decide what fans care about with respect to their own teams, and if you think you get to because of an obvious sin somewhere in the city of Dallas, you better read your own newspapers close before you cheer for your own guys tonight or tomorrow. No one gets to insult Dallas Mavericks fans for having sports feelings as if that precluded them from having any other ones. Most of them who I know are your partners in fighting for an end to domestic assault, and an end to bad behavior in general getting a pass just because someone is talented at sports.
It is precisely because what DeAndre Jordan did doesn't really matter that the anger which is directed at him is acceptable, because it is precisely because sports don't matter that fandom is what it is. A dumb show, a play, a foolish something to get too invested in because it makes you feel alive--action made interesting by the interplay of heroes and heels.
You don't know what I do and don't support because I care about my team in the part of my brain that lets me care about teams. So don't you sit in judgment on me. It's not your call.