The End of Hatred (Between Pro Sports Players)

I'm with you, Patrick. Athletes hating each other is like $10,000 salaries and sports on the radio: a thing of the past. We fans can thank ourselves for that.

Once, athletes had as much in common with the average blue-collar Joe as they with each other. Most players were barely middle-class, and only the stars of the game had the resources and Q rating to live like kings—or if they so chose, anonymous fishermen. But as the popularity of sports increased with the advent of home TV, labor lawyers like Marvin Miller went to bat for the athletes and won them free agency and other juicy collective bargaining rights. Once that happened, it was all over, even if it took until the 1990s for player salaries to become exponentially higher than the average American's income. Now, the typical pro athlete is so different from the average American—more money, more privilege, more prestige, many more women—that they hardly live in the same society.

With that in mind, of course athletes have more camaraderie than they used to. There's such a small pool of the population that lives a "famous athlete" life that it only makes sense for a guy like LeBron to be friends with most of his rivals, even Durant. Throw in the mutual respect great players often have for one another, and it's a veritable love-fest. There are still holdovers from the acrimony of the past, like Kevin Garnett, but they are few and far between.

Is it a good thing? For the players, absolutely. Filling your heart with a burning hatred of all opponents won't fundamentally improve your career, unless you're a once-in-a-generation homicidal competitor like Michael Jordan. And with the unprecedented amount of player movement among teams, a mortal enemy today could be a teammate tomorrow. For the fans, the lack of vitriol could be frustrating—after all, Vinny from Staten Island wants every Yankee player to hate the Red Sox as much as he does. But most players don't feel the need to share their fans' bloodlust, nor should they.

Are you with us, Hampton? Or do you yearn for the hatred of yesteryear?

–Jake

Presented by

Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis. The only problem? He has to prove it works.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

Just In