Reality TV is cheap to produce, thus it rules the airwaves. I am not a network executive, but the fact that it is everywhere is indicative that it is massively profitable. Personally, I do not get the appeal of watching people who I have nothing in common with compete for the love/job/house of their dreams. I don’t care for these people. There is something completely unappealing about a person who would sell themselves out in order to gain fame. And we’re not talking about legitimate fame. They aspire to be D-list celebrities that will be forgotten as soon as the new batch of pathetic, attention-seeking people with unresolved issues pop up.
Recently, another reality TV personality has committed suicide. It is too simple of a narrative to look at the death of Sgt. Wesley Durden’s suicide and blame it on the fact that he was a member of TLC’s “Next Great Baker.” I don’t know Sgt. Durden. I never heard of him until last night when I was researching this topic. What I do know is that a member of society put himself in a vulnerable position by agreeing to be on TV and he later committed suicide.
LeBron’s free agency decision was aired on ESPN on July 8, 2010. This was after years of building momentum about how historic the free agency period of 2010 would be. The topic of the ill-fated primetime television event has been discussed ad nauseum. At first people were furious that it even happened. After having a period of time pass, it seems like it is in the public discourse less and that the outrage has subsided.
The popular narrative about it is typically about how damaging it is to LeBron James’ legacy that he would go on live television to announce his decision. On one hand, you have the LeBron apologists. They are quick to point out that a donation was made to the Boys and Girls Club of America from the proceeds of The Decision. You also have guys like Dan Gilbert who want to equate a grown man making a professional choice to that of treason. Again, these perspectives have been discussed to death. One thing that I have never heard from anywhere is how the Decision was offensive to Cleveland fans because it made them a party on a reality TV show.
As I mentioned, reality TV is exploitative in nature. One has to have issues to want to subject themselves to being scrutinized on national TV. As I sat in my living room on July 8, 2010 hoping that the reports were not true, I couldn’t help but feel that I was a personality on a reality TV show. I never signed up for that. I didn’t ask for my emotions to be toyed with. The Cleveland fans who were shown on TV burning their jerseys didn’t ask to be part of this, but they were. I would hope that the people who reacted with such anger have simmered down. That footage was not a positive image of the Cleveland fans. However, they found themselves in an emotional place that they never signed up for or wanted. When Kim Kardashian complains about not being able to go to the gym without having the Paparazzi photograph her, the natural response is to blame her for bringing this upon herself and her family. She is exchanging fame and fortune in favor of her privacy and happiness. Cleveland fans were not given the option to opt out of that show and were made a mockery of for reacting negatively. Putting a group of people on TV and then televising their immature reaction is unethical. I am not attempting to make excuses for negative imagery from that evening. I am merely attempting to explain how and why it happened.
In the grand scheme of things, it is just one night in our lives and it was in regards to sports. People who willingly appear on reality TV give up their right to privacy for longer and it affects their lives in a more serious manner. Much has been written about the exploitative nature of sports owners during the lockout. The fact that the proletariat players are now taking the power back about their careers is celebrated by people like Henry Abbott. This very well could be a valid opinion to hold, but I just wish that the fans wouldn’t be exploited in the process. I also hope that this is the last that I ever have to say about The Decision. It’s time to move on.