By now you’re all aware of the scandal at Baylor University. A culture tolerating sexual assault and the disrespect of women has festered for years and led to the ousting of major campus officials, including head football coach Art Briles. In an interview session on Tuesday, Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema was asked if the firing of Briles would serve as a wake-up call for coaches to hold players more accountable for claims of sexual violence. And in an interesting response, Bielema went off on a tangent about Steph Curry and LeBron James.
According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, Bielema started to answer the question directly saying:
I can’t speak for others. I can only speak for myself. What happens every day outside of my program in the world of college football I’m aware of, but very seldom does it affect what I do. I think it’s great awareness. I think it’s great education and great teaching tools at times for our players.
Then he went a bit askew, continuing:
I used the NBA [Finals] series a year ago, an off-topic deal, but [it’s] just the way I think. I told our guys here at Arkansas we need to be a little bit Curry and a little less LeBron. We’ve got to be a little bit more about the team and working together and the chemistry.
Ummm, what?! Let’s first start with the fact that Steph and LeBron have nothing to do with the initial question. Which Bielema answers, without answering. Which is totally understandable on one hand. The Baylor situation is radioactive and I’m sure all coached and AD’s have been instructed to stay clear. Now, will coaches actually hold college football players more accountable in regards to issues of sexual violence going forward? We’ll have to wait and see.
Now, onto the pivot to Steph and LeBron. I’m all for cross sport comparisons and many coaches use this technique. It’s very useful and often provides tremendous context for players. The part that is dubious is the faulty premise that LeBron is selfish and Curry is selfless. How is Bielema supporting that statement? Both have multiple MVP’s and an NBA championship. Is there something more here?
We are at a interesting moment in the sports landscape. The worship and adulation by the mainstream of Steph Curry – while completely warranted and deserved – for his supreme skills and talent on the court is largely built off of circular logic. Somehow, and I’m not sure what it is but I have my theories. Curry represents everything good and great about sports and well, if one thing is great, their must be a counter, a foil or opposition. In this instance because their teams will be battling for the championship, James is that foil or counter. So then he must represent everything that is evil and bad about sports. Maybe it’s their physical appearances, Steph’s diminutive size (he’s 6’3″ 185 pounds), baby face and slight frame make him more of an “every man” in contrast to James’ massive hulking frame (he’s 6’8″ 265+ pounds) with muscles popping out from everywhere. Perhaps there is a sentiment, “he (James) is not like us (the collective) mere mortals. ”
The danger here is a prominent member of the athletic ecosystem (Bielema) has a platform to promote a narrative, that while it may fit his particular need and the need of the collective mainstream to categorize things so it’s easily consumed, does not do proper justice to either Steph or LeBron. Both are immensely talented basketball players at the top of their games, looking to lead their teams to the ultimate prize of an NBA championship.
What we know for certain is, Steph and Bron will be center stage for the next few weeks, they are arguably the two best basketball players on planet earth and their every move (both on and off court) will be dissected, analyzed and distributed for mass consumption. Pay attention to the narratives that are being crafted and told to you.