Comprados

Buying in to LeBron James after that blocked shot

My grandfather had a saying: professional wrestling is the only honest sport. At least they admit to the fact that it’s all scripted.

Being a fan of international soccer, my wife shares this healthy — and well-earned — skepticism of professional sports leagues. Any questionable call by a referee or dumb decision by a player has her rolling her eyes and muttering “comprados” at the TV. In her native Spanish, that’s the accusation that someone has been paid off (the verb comprar = to buy).

So, during the recent NBA Finals, with all the talk online, by Ayesha Curry and others, that things were rigged in favor of a longer series or for particular stars to shine, our house reached FIFA levels of conspiracy theorizing. It’s undeniable that teams, TV networks, arena vendors, Vegas bookies…lots of people…made much more money by the series going seven games than they would have if it had been a shorter series.

Every out-of-bounds call, every foul or no-foul call, every time the camera even lingered on a referee would elicit the same reaction: “comprados.”

But then, in the waning minutes of that final game, LeBron came from seemingly outside of the arena to block a go-ahead layup, and our skepticism simply vanished. The grace, power, spatial awareness and timing he exhibited on that one play had both of us jumping and screaming in amazement.

In that moment the human will overtook the machinations of a larger, potentially corrupted, system. LeBron, this god-like figure, came out of nowhere to utterly smash the conspiracy machine — a deus contra machina.

And then, when the game officially ended, those most human of emotions he displayed were too genuine to deny. Joy, pride, exhaustion…whatever praise LeBron received for his role in Trainwreck, he’s not that good an actor.

By the end, both my wife and I were shaking our heads in wonder at what we had seen. For a moment, at least, LeBron had provided the ultimate argument for giving oneself over to the spectacle and excitement of live sports. And we, at least for that moment, had bought in.