Two nights later, Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks was ejected for punching Los Angeles Lakers guard LeBron James in the groin area. The next day, Brooks also nodded at his reputation, speculating that it must have preceded him in play, and informed the referee’s hasty decision to throw him.
“The media makes me a villain, the fans make me a villain, and it just creates a whole different persona in me,” Brooks said. “So now you think I was going to hit LeBron James for real.”
In sports, reputations are formed quickly and are especially hard to shed. Athletes live their professional lives in high definition. Their every move is refracted through the eyes of analysts and commentators, scrutinized in slow motion and disgustingly deconstructed.
What heightens this dynamic is the fact that history looms large over the world of sports and always seems to be on the mind. Record books and historical statistics are called up daily. Fans will remember big wins and heartbreaking losses.
William Faulkner said, “The past never dies. It’s not the past either.”
Above all, there is a pervasive urge in sports to create a two-dimensional characterization of individual behavior and reduce that behavior to moral terms. Fans and members of the news media often apply storybook frameworks to their actions. To tell.
According to Arthur Rainey, a communications professor at Florida State University who studies how emotions shape the sports viewing experience: “We do it with people in the streets, we do it with entertainment, sports, politics, everything else.”
“And once those frames, those schemas, are set, they act as lenses for future expectations,” Lanny said.