I don’t remember when I started hearing this word used in basketball. I don’t remember hearing about Jordan haters, or Magic Johnson haters, or Isaiah Thomas haters. I know people who didn’t like the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys because they play physical and dirty. But there is a big difference between dislike and hate. Dislike is a feeling of distaste or aversion. I like the Chicago Bulls. I don’t like the Detroit Pistons. Hate, on the other hand, is an intense, extreme dislike for something or someone. I don’t hate the Detroit Pistons. I just don’t like how they play because that is not how I want to play basketball.
The word “hater” feels very recent. Like LeBron James-era recent. But I’m not a philologist, so my account is more anecdotal than scientific-historical. All I know is that this is very recent. And true to the essence of being alive in the meme generation, the use of the word “hater” quickly spread. Today, basketball fans casually throw the word around to label those who have something negative to say about their idol. Personally, I feel like the word “hate” has no place in sports. I feel like from a lexical standpoint, it stands in close proximity to other words that weigh heavily on social justice issues and it is easy to jump from hate to hater to hate crime, hate speech, racial hatred, etc. I just feel like there is no upside to encouraging the use of “hater” in sports.
Besides, branding people with a different opinion as a “hater” feels like it is petty and narrow-minded; a difference in opinion doesn’t exactly and necessarily merit hate. We used to be civilized like that. It used to be a gentleman’s disagreement. Now, we have a pejorative for everyone and everything different from our taste and beliefs?
I think above all else, I dislike the word hater because I don’t like it being used on me. There are many things I dislike in sports, but I don’t think I can pick something I can say I hate. And to call me a hater is very presumptuous for someone, who knows very little of me and my love for sports.
Hate feels like a feeling at the polar end of a spectrum, and apparently, so was my conviction to detest hate and the word “hater”. Turns out, there is a healthy kind of hate.
A parenting article explained to me that hate is not a bad word, just a strong word. And it is reserved for people or moments or things that truly deserve such an elevated response. I also came across The Importance of Hating People, a 2004 article written by David Weinfeld and published in The Harvard Crimson. Mr. Weinfeld argued that hate is not just about racist hatred, it could also be about loathing regular people, who are just awful. He makes a compelling point, especially when he reasoned out that “This kind of hatred is not wrong; it’s a simple value judgment that we all use to guide ourselves through social situations. And it doesn’t really hurt anyone, even those we hate, because we usually keep it to ourselves, or a handful of friends.”
What really stuck with me is this: Mr. Weinfeld argued that this kind of hatred is necessary. The act of hating demonstra tes moral awareness.
I will call this the Weinfeld Dosage of Hate.
So, consider me reborn at 42 because I agree: there is room for hate in sports. The revelation is surprisingly cathartic. And yes, call me a hater, because:
I don’t just dislike players when they flop to get a foul. I really hate it. I was raised a Catholic, and religious doctrine says hate the sin but not the sinner. I am, unfortunately, not a virtuous man. So I hate both the act of flopping, and the player who does that, because he does it knowingly, hoping to cheat the game. That is just supremely disgusting. Every flop stains the art of basketball with a cheap trick utilized by scheming idiots. I wish players who flop are banned for one season without pay. Let’s see what happens.
Call me a hater because I don’t just dislike the moronic notion of calling fans “bandwagoners”, I really hate it! And it is doubly infuriating because they are using it wrong. Merriam Webster defines bandwagoners as “a person who takes part in or becomes enthusiastic about something only when it is popular or fashionable” and it is an elitist pejorative, a negativity that is counterintuitive in sports. If rooting for the Lakers was a result of hearing and reading all about Kobe Bryant’s death when it became the talk of the town, so you started to grow an interest in watching basketball and the NBA, why should you feel bad about it? More importantly, what gives other people the right to make you feel bad about your newfound interest in hoops? When I started enjoying football, I rooted for FC Bayern Munich because they were very good, and I root for teams who are good. I don’t deserve to be derided or disparaged. I’m simply a fan—a new one, yes, but I am not a second-class citizen—no one should be—in a world that is supposed to be espousing the idea of equality, unity, and harmony. Here’s something many can relate to: I cheer for another team because my favorite team didn’t make the championship round, and people call me a bandwagoner? Isn’t it idiotic to root for the Chicago Bulls in a Cleveland-San Antonio best-of-seven? It is logical—and normal—to pick one from two competing teams. It is called being a fan of the sport because you are still watching games even if your team has already gone fishing.
And yeah, call me a hater because I really hate fans who think other people need their blessing first before they can root for the same team and be a legitimate fan. I hate players who join team sports, but refuse to be coached or play as part of the team. I hate how a lot of players are getting away with traveling and people think they have very good handles instead.
A can of worms, indeed. But acknowledging the things you hate (in the context of the Weinfeld Dosage of Hate) is liberating.
All hate considered, my love for basketball remains undiminished.
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