'Tis the Season to be Hateful (in Sports)

And what's wrong with that?

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Kobe Bryant leaves the arena after the Lakers' Game 5 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder (AP Images)

Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), discuss the current storm of malice surrounding sports

Hey, guys,

Ah, spring, when a young man's fancy turns to... hate. Not real hate, of course. That will rot the soul. But the silly, fantastically cathartic faux-hate of certain players and teams that gives sports fandom so much meaning. Hating Kobe Bryant's Lakers, for instance. Seeing L.A. get bounced from the NBA playoffs, losing four of five games to the Thunder, was pure joy—almost as much fun as it will be to watch their roster get completely gutted again this summer.

But the real basketball vitriol is back east. There was plenty of good, old-fashioned nastiness in the Heat and Pacers series. Miami and Indiana had loads of flagrant fouls, called or not, and trash talk on- and off-court. In Game 5, Tyler Hansbrough even drew blood with a foul on Dwyane Wade; to which Miami's Dexter Pittman and Udonis Haslem did not take kindly; for which they were suspended for Game 6; despite which, the Heat won handily. The series between Philadelphia and Boston has gotten pleasantly mean-spirited, too, with Kevin Garnett saying the 76ers have "fair-weather fans," and a Philadelphia Inquirer beat writer responding by calling Boston fans racist. Saturday at 8 p.m., fair-weather Philly will meet racist Boston for what should be a gloriously low-down and grungy deciding game.

We know who Tim Duncan is rooting for. The Spurs star told Sports Illustrated that he hates Kevin Garnett. But... Whatever. Does anyone truly believe that Tim Duncan is capable of anything more than mild dislike?

Hate isn't just for hardwood, though. Ozzie Guillen hates Twitter. The Florida Marlins' manager, who has more than 230,000 followers, told reporters he will quit Tweeting because he doesn't get paid for it. Given Guillen's penchant for saying anything that pops to mind, though, Marlins' ownership may have had a say in his choice.

The French Open starts this weekend. That's got everything a hater could want. Americans can't win on the red dirt of Roland-Garros. Plus there's Rafael Nadal, who's trying to become the first man to win a seventh French title, and the looming possibility that he will wear Capri pants at some point during the tournament. Let's not forget classics, either, like A-Rod. Mike Vick still exists, and player-hating has no off-season. Tom Brady, the big showoff, had the nerve to get his supermodel wife pregnant for a second time.

How about it guys? Take me to Haterville. Douse me with Haterade, and tell me who's currently topping your list of people you love to loathe.


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Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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