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Changing sympathies place fans behind management. Here's why.

It's been covered 100 different ways on this blog and other places, but the reaction to LeBron James' decision to leave Cleveland and join the Miami Heat has been absolutely fascinating to me. The vitriol he has received for deciding to change his place of employment is staggering. I understand why some people might not throw a parade for it, but especially when reading comments on other blogs and news sites, the hatred is approaching violent levels. It's easy to explain this away with misplaces feelings thanks to the passion we sports fans feel towards "our" players and teams. But I think it touches something deeper. I think it has something to do with changes in perceptions about ourselves and our importance. I think it's something that's much larger than sports. Warning: What follows delves somewhat into a discussion of politics. It's not inflammatory, but if you chose to ignore this post from here on out, I understand. There was a time when America was solidly aligned with the idea of supporting the laborer. During The Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt ran and won on the backs of those who felt united in their disenfranchisement. Since that time, the political world has changed. The policies FDR won four elections on would likely now be thought of as socialist and repelled by the working-class. You can see it most clearly in the perception of organized labor. According to a recent Pew Research Survey, more people had an unfavorable view of labor unions (42%) than a favorable one (41%). That's a wild difference from one that was held just a couple of decades ago, when this was a memorable ad on televsion: So what happened? At some point, working-class Americans stopped identifying with the working man and started identifying with management. Part of that has to do with more people actually being involved with management. America isn't tied to manufacturing any longer, and the idea of a lock-step "working class" doesn't exist anymore. But I think there's an even stronger pull. It's an abandonment of what people are and an attachment to what they want to be. That's not necessarily a good or bad thing. Upward mobility in American society has provided millions with opportunities unimaginable to generations prior. But, it has also provided goals and ambitions once unimaginable. No one wants to be the worker anymore; everyone wants to be the owner. So, identifying with the worker is replaced with wanting to be in charge. So what does this have to do with sports? Although they might be paid millions and have business interests of their own, the players are the working class of the sporting world. They put in the heavy labor, and owners and managers profit off their toil. It's not meant to disparage owners, who do put their wealth on the line to support the investment (though safe it may be). But it is meant to reframe the discussion a bit, especially when players are almost always thought of as rich spoiled brats and owners, for the most part, get to skate. So when you reframe the argument and then look at modern sports stories through a different lens, things might come out differently. Why did Albert Haynesworth avoid optional workouts during the offseason, leading to his current stalemate with Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan? Well, why didn't the highest-paid player on the team get any input on a change to a defensive scheme he gave up money to avoid? Why did LeBron James choose to spurn Cleveland on national television? Well, why shouldn't someone who holds his entire future in his hands for the first time in his life not get the chance to do something with it? Why is Darelle Revis holding out from training camp and hurting his team? Well, if Revis has no guarantee of tomorrow with the team based on the current structure of NFL contracts, why should they with him? I understand things get complicated, personalities affect the perception of actions, and some people you just may not like. Hell, Brett Favre waffling again has my blood boiling again for no good reason. But the next time you feel like jumping on an athlete for a decision they did or did not make, think about where you're lining up on the matter, and how that affects your take.