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So I saw Catching Fire (the sequel to The Hunger Games) this weekend.  It was pretty good; better than the first movie and certainly better than the books.  I don’t know, it didn’t really do it for me the same way like, The Avengers, or like, Inception had me popping out of the edge of my seat.  I mean, Jennifer Lawrence is awesome and stuff, and the action is good, but it didn’t blow me away.

That’s kind of my thing with The Hunger Games in general.  I’m not overly impressed.  I mean, I’m no literary critic or anything, and it’s certainly not like my own writing has any sort of shiny aesthetic, but reading that trilogy was somewhat painful in that the writing style was something I could have done in like, 9th grade.

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If you ask me, the series is popular because Suzanne Collins took a Battle Royale concept (kids love the idea of having the violent autonomy to kill people in awesome ways), mixed in with the idea that the survival free for all was a competition for some sort of title/freedom, and then to keep people around for the sequel, she wrote a whole second game, but then tied in this ‘VIVE LA REVOLUTION’ plotline towards the end in order to create the basis for a trilogy.  More fighting!  More being a hero! Girl on Fire!  etc. etc.

Yeah I know, I know, I’m being bitter and cynical, but all this being said, the whole Tribute/Hunger Games idea *is* an entertaining and interesting concept.  It rather conveniently falls into the whole fandom rhetoric I’ve been spinning over the last couple weeks – you have a pair of tributes, being sent to do battle with tributes from other regions in this massive arena.  You support your favorite combatants by sponsoring them, spending a bunch of money to give them an advantage in the games.

Sounds simple enough, right?  Maybe in the Hunger Games.  The act of picking our heroes and villains in sports is a complicated process, shaped by a slew of outside factors that sway our opinions.  It’s not as simple as just rooting for a team – it’s no longer about joining a collective fanbase to support an established organization – it is instead specifically about you and your relationship with your idol, or enemy.

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Sometimes athletes make it easy for us; Jeremy Lin lit the world on fire last winter, there’s no denying that; vets like Peyton Manning, Tim Duncan and Steve Nash have been role models and great at their sports for long and respect-worthy careers; and on the flip side, guys like A-Rod, Michael Vick and Lance Armstrong bring deserved flak and ill-will upon themselves by breaching rules of their sports, or engaging in nefarious activities.

But in most cases, there are so many nuances, different standards, different opinions – especially when it comes to the most polarizing stars of our generation.

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I expressed a lot of Knicks opinions last week so I won’t linger here – but the fact that that I can’t stand Carmelo Anthony as a basketball player despite him being the centerpiece of my hometown team is a good example of how complicated these relationships can be – he’s an elite scorer in the NBA, certainly a top 20 player, but I don’t like him simply because  I didn’t like the circumstances of his arrival, or his style of play.  Is that fair?  Maybe, maybe not – but tough shit.  Melo seems like a nice guy, and he plays with heart, but because of X, Y and Z, I don’t like him.

The reasons are simple and superficial, but that’s just the way it works – it’s the same thinking process that occurs often when we decide to label the villains of our sports.

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Take athletes like Lebron James, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Tom Brady for example, three guys in the top echelon of their respective sports. A lot of common fans *really* don’t like them, but in reality, they’re guilty of no real wrongdoing besides being really good at their craft and certain acts of hubris.

Like okay, Lebron was responsible for The Decision, and spurned his hometown Cavs for the Heat, and it’s easy to make fun of the “Not 4, not 5, not 6…” stuff, but the man is really, really good at basketball; not only that, he’s been responsible in his fame, giving to charity, not getting into trouble, being a good role model.

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Same with Cristiano, the man is at the top of his sport, but common fans and certain media-types keep taking pot shots at him, god forbid we judge him independently of Lionel Messi for once.  But why all the negative attention?  Because of the hair gel he wears?  How he’s confident on the soccer pitch?  Because he’s a pretty boy who attracts models?

It’s not really reasonable, from an objective standpoint, but like I’ve been saying, fandom doesn’t really have much rhyme or reason a lot of the time.

And the superficiality of it all works both ways, too.  Sometimes we almost too conveniently look over our stars’ faults in favor of their greatness.  Take Kobe, for example – the man still has his detractors, but by and large has won his way back into the graces of NBA fans, despite the Colorado incident that occurred (do you even remember when?) back in 2003.

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People likewise overlook the fact that Jason Kidd, probable hall of famer (not for his coaching), pled guilty to both domestic abuse in 2001 and a DUI last summer; the Nets even hired him to be their head coach this summer without batting an eye!

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Even over in England, Ryan Giggs, elder statesman and hero of Manchester United, is still rather universally admired for his ability and longevity on the soccer pitch despite having an affair WITH HIS BROTHER’S WIFE.

It’s a free country.  I’m not trying to say sports fans should try to develop a moral compass or anything – I’m as guilty of liking or disliking certain athletes as anyone out there (still honestly kind of hoping Tiger gets back on track); but it’s definitely something to pause and think about.  Yeah, people typically like their team’s heroes and hate their rivals, but when it comes to some of the polarizing athletes of our day… people’s minds work in wild and crazy ways.

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