It’s disorienting when idols age out, when the mere mention of their names does not create slackened jaws, oozed admirations, fear of contrarian hot takes, or even knowing nods of acknowledgement.
So it is then that we note not only that LeBron James is being booed in Los Angeles for for the crime of kicking other people’s tires while the car he currently drives is in the back yard housing families of opossums, but that Derek Jeter has removed his name from the equally dilapidated 1966 Ford Falcon that is the Miami Marlins.
Either that, or Jeter and actual money man Bruce Sherman finally realized that there are jobs not even Jeter’s star power can overcome. Say, like the Marlins. It is something to be said that in Jeter’s five years running this heap of dampened soot that the only things the Marlins did was install some of Jeter’s pals into the team’s front office, watch the team’s Forbes valuation drop by $10 million, drive attendance down from from 1.583 million to 642,000, and see the Tampa Bay Rays become the dominant team in Florida.
In short, it has been an absolute disaster, and whether the responsibility for the failure and the rift it created lies with Jeter or Sherman matters not. It is the worst franchise in baseball, and if Tampa’s Stuart Sternberg is still dreaming of splitting seasons with Montreal, Sherman’s equivalent plan would be to split the team’s seasons between Miami and the open sea.
Nobody feels sorry for Jeter here. He made a slick $40 million while investing zero, a nice return for his name, a name that did not imbue its owner with wisdom that could overcome the staggering levels of neglect and incompetence that are the Marlins’ M.O. If he plays his cards correctly, nobody will remember that he ran the Marlins at all, and that the most you can say for his time there is that they didn’t fold. In the meantime, Alex Rodriguez now owns a considerable chunk of the Minnesota Timberwolves, so there’s that rivalry taking an interesting twist.
As petard hoisting goes, Jeter’s departure from the Marlins, forced or otherwise, is a grand example of the diminishing power of yesterday in the cauldron of today. Time and memory have less and less a shelf life in a world racing so quickly that Katy Perry may as well be Rosemary Clooney. And if you’re not buying that, there is a clear path between skill as an athlete and skill as an operator, as the other 29 MLB owners looked upon Sherman as a comparative pauper and Jeter as a dilettante. The failure has been so comprehensive that the only team in straits this dire is the Arizona Coyotes, who are moving operations to the equivalent of a college intramural gym for the foreseeable future.
Plus, what’s Jeter got do now that baseball is being closed for the summer? The Marlins seem like the kind of team that would cut operations to save a few bucks anyway, and what’s more redundant than a franchise savior who only loaded the boat with a shipment of anvils?
As for LeBron, it is now safe to suggest that his career has finally reached the diminishing returns stage. His numbers remain Jamesian, but he is having to work harder and less efficiently to attain them. The Lakers’ current roster was built through a drunken evening on the internet, and say what you will, Jeanie Buss never walked out of a game in the final unfruitful seasons of the Kobe Bryant era. The team lost to the still-Zion-free New Orleans Pelicans, and the announced crowd of 17,536 was both 1,461 short of the usual sellout figure and generous by a few more thousand. The Lakers are now actively repelling people who they used to count as sure attendees, and LeBron being booed at home is a fresh sensation the hot take farmers can bask in until the next home game against Dallas.
Or maybe the crowd will come to see the new energetic and slimmed-down Luka Doncic and do what they always do—imagine what it would take to get him to come west. After all, the last truly epochal draft choice they made and employed was, amazingly, Magic Johnson (Kobe started his life as a momentary Charlotte Hornet, remember). The Lakers always aim high, and to their credit normally achieve. Still, LeBron’s Lakers haven’t won a title in 504 days, and Lakers Nation has wearied of him being carried by Russell Westbrook. He’s yesterday’s news, so booing him for the sin of aging at a tiny but perceptible rate that helps expose the festival of talent malnutrition that is this Lakers team seems perfectly reasonable.
Besides, the Lakers have had only two non-losing seasons in the last nine years, so it’s not like their fans should feel all that entitled. I mean, when you can say your team has been better since 2014 than only Sacramento, Minnesota, Orlando, and the godforsaken New York Knicks, who are you to have attitude? Frankly, if I were LeBron playing for these ingrates, I’d want my son to be drafted by Detroit or Washington just out of pride and principle.
The lesson remains the same, though. The end is never glorious, and even the mightiest names give in to the character flaw of thinking they can fix anything merely by saying their own names. Derek Jeter attached himself to the worst team in baseball and got what that level of judgment usually produces. LeBron James just got a whiff of how it works.