By Katie Kieffer
Royalty doesn’t sit well with Americans. Our ancestors sailed across the pond to free themselves from pompous aristocrats. Americans believe that all men are equal before God, not that certain men should be treated as gods.
If you’re a pro athlete and you want to win fans in America, you need to respect American ideals. These include gratitude and humility, of which basketball star Lebron James has proved deficient throughout his process of moving from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat as a free agent.
Americans want choice. We want to choose our celebrities and we expect our celebrities to at least appreciate where they came from. We don’t mind if they drink Champagne for breakfast and get chauffeured to their private jets. We don’t even hold it against them if they’re a celebrity for no apparent reason (i.e. Paris Hilton).
But, if you’re Lebron James and you dub yourself ‘King,’ believing your fans will eternally grovel at your feet – regardless if you leave them for another city, use an hour of prime-time TV to announce your decision to move and then celebrate with a wild fanfare – you’ll turn American sports fans away from your alter.
You’ll cause your sport’s commissioner to label your “Decision” as “ill-conceived.” You will incite your hurt and angry hometown fans to tear down your mural, set fire to your No. 23 jersey and throw rocks at your billboard.
Look yourself in the mirror everyday.
Joe Mauer faced a similar decision to Lebron about a year before he would have become a free agent. Mauer decided to sign an eight year contract extension, essentially guaranteeing that he would retire with the same fans that brought him to life. Mauer chose his hometown team and says he’s never looked back.
According to Joe Phan, Mauer answers and signs all his fan mail with a personal touch. Mauer told ESPN, “I remember getting that first fan letter. It still feels cool. It’s not work when you read this stuff from people. So I decided a while back that this is important.” Here’s a video of Mauer responding to fan mail with his mother:
Mauer is not one to preach from the pulpit and tell other athletes how to act. His one piece of advice for Lebron reveals his genuine desire for the basketball star to succeed:
Mauer told MLB.com, “He [LeBron] has to live with what he decides and I hope that he’s happy with it. It’s kind of tough. I’m not sure with how the NBA works with all the salary caps but he’s probably going to sign a pretty lengthy deal so he’s going to be there for awhile. So I just hope for him that he’s happy with his decision.”
LeBron said he has “no doubts,” about his decision. But, so far, many sports fans and former LeBron fans are expressing emotions ranging from disgust to outrage at his decision and the manner in which he announced his decision.
Look outside yourself.
Joe Mauer took home the jackpot when this year’s All-Star Game votes were counted. Mauer received the most fan votes to the 81st All-Star Game and the third-highest number of votes in all-star history. 5,372,606 to be exact. At the end of the day, LeBron openly admitted that his primary motivation in choosing the Heat was his personal obsession with winning. He may discover that this self-centered motivator will backfire on him in the years ahead.
Although faced with shoulder, hip and back pain and a grueling schedule, Mauer still chooses to get up early and meet with fans, hold press conferences, and help multiple charities. Due to his pain, he considered sitting out of the All-Star Game, but ultimately said, “I kind of went back and forth a little bit, but this is a great event. It’s a great honor to be the top vote getter.”
Mauer is loyal to his fans and his hometown team, and they are loyal right back.
Get in touch with your human side.
While Lebron James refers to himself in the third person and appears to consider himself royalty, Joe Mauer’s humble talent leads his opponents to treat him with respect, even when his performance is down. Perhaps Mauer’s talent is more believable because it’s more human.
As Blue Jays catcher John Buck told Kelsie Smith with the St. Paul Pioneer Press,
“When you talk about him in the meetings, it’s the same things,” said Buck, who called pitches against Mauer in Toronto last week. “I think if you go to any pitcher, any pregame pitchers’ meeting, there is not one pitcher for one second thinking, ‘Oh, Joe Mauer is struggling.’ He’s still Joe Mauer; if you make that mistake, he’s still going to hit you.”
“If you’re going to throw him balls off the plate, he’s still not going to bite. He’s going to stay disciplined. I think that’s obviously what makes him so tough to pitch against, even now while he’s so-called struggling or not being Joe Mauer. I think people are realizing he might be superhuman rather than super-nonhuman or robotic. He’s actually just superhuman now.”
Lebron would stop hemorrhaging fans if he followed Mauer’s lead and expressed genuine gratitude to his hometown, made peace with Cleveland fans and began de-emphasizing his royal ‘Kingdom.’ After all, royalty is so overrated.