Sunday, April 30, 2017

Fathers and sons

Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, for just a second. Let's say LaVar Ball -- a ridiculous man of whom the Blob has said little because too many have already said too much -- really does think he has the best interests of his sons at heart.

And so all the nonsense about how his oldest, college freshman Lonzo, is already better than Steph Curry. And how he could have mopped the hardwood with Michael Jordan back in the (mythical) day. And how he's going to build an athletic apparel empire around his three sons.

That's fine. That's just Dad inviting public scrutiny to himself and not his boys, which is actually kind of shrewd. And it indicates he does intensely love his sons, and wants them to succeed beyond their wildest dreams -- or, in this case, his wildest delusions.

He's the latest upgrade of the Sports Dad From Hell, and we've seen a few of them. Some, like the fathers of golfer Sean O'Hair and tennis player Mary Pierce, have been true Sports Dads From Hell, letting proxy ambition curdle into obsession and abuse.  Some, like the father of former NFL quarterback Todd Marinovich, have just been flat-out weirdos. And some have been completely delusional -- like, yes, LaVar Ball, and also Earl Woods, who once famously his golfer son was going to change the world like no one in history had changed the world.

Instead, his son became the greatest golfer in history, perhaps. The Gandhi part we're still waiting for.

Here's the thing about Sports Dads From Hell: Their kids eventually grow up. And there is almost always that moment when Dad has to acknowledge that. And with few exceptions -- Earl Woods being one -- they never do so willingly.

Maybe you missed it the other day, but three big-hitters in the athletic apparel industry announced they would not be doing a deal with Lonzo Ball when he's drafted into the NBA in June. Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are all giving Ball a pass, an unusual course of action when you're talking about a lottery pick, which Lonzo is.

So why are they passing on him?

Because Dad screwed it up for him.

He walked (swaggered?) into meetings with all three companies insisting that they license his fledgling Big Baller Brand, one of LaVar's many pipe dreams he's built around his sons. He wasn't asking for an endorsement; he was asking for three of the largest apparel companies in the world to enter into a co-branding arrangement with a guy who was basically running a startup out of his garage.

 It's not hard to imagine the reaction he got.

Polite demurrals to his face, no doubt. Outright guffaws once he left the room.

In any case, all three companies turned him down. So Lonzo has no chunky deal to go with the chunky contract he's going to sign. And if he didn't come right out and say "Dad, what the hell are you doing?" just yet, that day is no doubt coming soon.

Because, listen, once Lonzo has his money, Lonzo becomes his own man. And if it's not a dead certainty, it's clearly a distinct possibility that sooner or later he's going to want to cut the cord all children eventually cut with their parents. And it take no imagination at all to see how that will play out.

There will be a come-to-Jesus meeting. Lonzo will thank his dad for everything he's done for him. But it's time he hired an agent. It's time he put a professional in charge of his dealings, because this isn't playtime anymore, this is the real world and it's time, as the Bible says, to put childish things away.

Such as, for instance, LaVar's gaudy dreams of a sports empire built around his sons. And which he, of course, would run.

"We've said from the beginning, we aren't looking for an endorsement deal," LaVar told ESPN the other day. "We're looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they're not ready for that because they're not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn't ready for Uber, either."

Or maybe LaVar Ball just isn't ready for reality.

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