In the last six months or so, no one has seen a more meteoric rise, in terms of public spotlight, than Lavar Ball.
There are no middle-of-the-road opinions about Lavar Ball. You either love what he stands for or despise his arrogance and brash attitude, much in the same vein as the Cowboys, Notre Dame football, or the Yankees.
His meteoric rise from the shadows of irrelevance to being on every sports show known to man, seemingly simultaneously, is something that continually makes me scratch my head. I don't understand his appeal to the public, I don't understand why he warrants the attention that he's drawn, but we'll get into that in a bit. It seems as though everyone on my timeline is either arguing about politics or the latest Lavar Ball nonsense.
He has become the modern day sports heel that is causing a tizzy among the sports purists, those who take the nature of sports for granted and treat it as though sports are the epitome of life and death as we know it. His takes have been ridiculous, ranging from claiming he could beat Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one, to asking for a billion dollars, now up to three billion, to license his "Big Baller Brand." He has potentially cost his son Lonzo Ball, per Darren Rovell, approximately $8 million by refusing to sign a deal with Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, or Reebok, let alone all of the public disdain and ire he is drawing merely because of his father's antics. Ball could have signed up to a $10 million deal with any one of the major shoe brands as a highly drafted rookie coming out of college, but his father denied the companies the ability to sign his son to a shoe deal, asked for a billion dollars to license his brand, and not surprisingly, they all declined. All of this just shows that he is a bull in a china shop - a streaker in the cathedral of sports; most of this I was fine with as it was just harmless anarchy against the stiff and stuffy practices that most sports leagues and high ranking company officials have to adhere too for some inane reason. Sports are games, they're meant to be an escape, something to bond around, something to follow, but they're not meant to be taken with such seriousness that when people even scoff at the mere idea of sports being important in any real way, the looks or sheer incredulity that are present is mind blowing.
Like I said, though, up until Wednesday, Ball was mostly just a pro wrestler doing one promo after another, with the only missing element being Mean Gene Okerlund interviewing Ball, but this past Wednesday, Lavar Ball crossed a line that struck a nerve with me.
While on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd", Ball and Cowherd were having a conversation about the shoes he had been marketing for a couple weeks, the brand he has been peddling, how many shoes he has sold, and if you already know this, forgive me for rehashing this information. Ball responded to the questioning about the shoe sales by saying that he had sold "a good amount, to me [an amount that is adequate]", and Cowherd's co-host Kristine Leahy, who had previously had some comments about Ball's parenting style and how he was overbearing and did not allow his sons to speak for themselves, asked "how many" in reference to the number of shoes sold. In one motion, Ball extended his right arm behind him straight out with his hand up, and without turning to face her, he told Leahy to "stay in your lane." To this Leahy responded "I'm just curious", and Ball again dismissively waived off Leahy without even so much as glancing in her direction, saying "I don't even worry about her over there...", showing a total lack of respect for her and any comments or questions she would have from here on out. Leahy continued to ask Ball questions, and he just responded "leave me alone", refusing to even engage in a harmless conversation with the Fox radio host. Cowherd brought up the point that Leahy is a reporter, and that she is just trying to do her job, to which Ball responded that she was a good reporter, she just could not report on him.
Leahy later asked Ball "What is your problem with me?", to which Ball responded "You are a hater.", and then in a mocking tone, pantomimed Leahy saying that she would "never wear a Big Baller shirt". Something that Leahy said obviously struck a chord with Ball, and caused him to act like a child on live television. At an even later point in the conversation, Leahy tells Ball that if the brand is to be successful, there will have to be merchandise that appeals to women, to which Ball replied "Uhhh yeah, if you have a women's company" as if that would somehow lessen the legitimacy of any company that appeals to or targets a female demographic? Ball finally retorted to Leahy saying that he "does not respect women" by saying "I would never disrespect women, but if you act like that, something's coming to ya."
Now, here comes the deep water.
Using that "conversation" between Leahy and Ball as a springboard into a larger conversation, let's start by noticing a few things.
One, notice that Ball says that he'd never disrespect women, but, if they act in a way that he doesn't like, or in a way that is outside the early 20th-century stereotypical gender roles, they've got something coming to them. That kind of mentality is the reason why women today are still serially underappreciated in our society. Would Ball have treated a fellow man that way? Likely not. He was more than eager to talk to Cowherd about anything that had to do with himself, but then once Leahy began to ask the tough questions, he dismissed merely because she is a woman. There is little other reason for the use of "stay in your lane" in that back and forth. Ball may as well have said "Woman, the men are talking, mind your business" because it is essentially what he said. There is no reason to treat a woman, let alone anyone that way, merely because they're asking tough questions that you, Lavar Ball, don't want to answer.
Two, and this is a part of the larger, macroscopic view of not only sports but society as a whole: the culture around women in sports is revolting. Take for my first example social media. Whenever a woman in sports, whether it be Kristen Ledlow or Kristine Leahy, posts a tweet or an Instagram picture, the replies and comments are always overly sexualized, degrading the woman to merely an object, something to be lusted after, rather than being appreciated for the amalgamation of everything that makes them, well, them. Secondly, the sports leagues themselves: at nearly every sporting event in one of the four major sporting leagues, there will be a parade of scantily clad women dancing. Why? What part of the game is this? What is the point of having these cheerleaders and dance crews at the game? What do they bring to the game? Why are they there? This is just a sexualization and a denigration of women that has been socially accepted and has remained unquestioned. People will argue "they're paid for their work, they're making money", but they aren't making anywhere near the money people might think they are. The point remains, it is unnecessary.
This Lavar Ball incident has brought up a lot of feelings in me. It has led me to believe that, while I think he is in the vocal minority of men who actually stand for that kind of treatment of women, there are not enough of the silent majority speaking up. My initial reaction to the story on Wednesday, when I first heard about it was that I didn't know whether to be more disappointed in Ball for what he did or the vast amount of men on social media defending what Ball said and what he stands for. I find it to be reprehensible in the highest order, but I'm just one man, I can't tell you or anyone you know what to think, but I can surely ask you if you'd like to.
At the core of all good men out there, and women for that manner, is a good woman who showed us how to treat people, how to be a productive and positive member of society. I know in my life my mother, and father for that matter, had an impact on my life that is so indescribably positive I can't know where to begin to put it in words, so when I saw Ball treat Leahy the way he did, I put my mother in my mental image, and I would be furious if someone treated my mother that way merely because she happens to be a woman. I understand if you don't want to have a conversation with someone, but to again and again dismiss and disrespect someone with the flagrancy and blatant disregard for how it would come off is something that I find to be not only objectionable but 100% condemnable.
I totally understand that not all of you are going to agree with what I've said. Many of you will probably think that I'm planting my flag in a super easy stance... "Respect women! I own that, this is my novel idea!" Yeah, it's an easy stance, but tell me why it is so often unseen? Women are meant to be loved, appreciated, cherished, respected, listened to, and understood, but all too often it seems that men fall short of that. It seems far too often women are treated as nothing more than sexual objects that are meant to be summoned on command, dismissed with a wave, and are meant to only speak when spoken to. It's time to wake up. It's 2017. Lavar Ball has really thrown a lot of support away with his actions on The Herd on Wednesday, and I hope that all of you will take the time to evaluate how it is that you feel about the women in your life. Take some time to appreciate them while they're around, often times they are the best part of a man's life, and like I said earlier, I can't tell you what to think, but I'm going to ask you if you'd like to.