It's official: just as we previously hoped for, LeBron James has crossed over to the Dark Side, announcing via Twitter that he's "taking mental notes of everyone taking shots at me ... and I mean everyone!"
In other words, smack-talkers beware. Vengeance will be his. Likely starting with the guy who invented Comic Sans font.
Thing is, if the once happy-go-lucky James embarks on a 2010-11 payback tour -- as Chris Bosh has suggested -- he won't be the first athlete fueled by Haterade. Far from it. In fact, without naysayers, doubters and straight-up player haters, sports stars ranging from Clinton Portis to Michael Jordan to Tim Tebow -- yes, even our beloved football savior! -- probably wouldn't be motivated to get out of bed in the morning, let alone crush their sporting enemies underfoot.
All of which is why I'm proposing a new front office position: official hate coordinator.
Look, it's time to bring real and imagined slings and arrows in house. In fact, it's overdue. Back when bulletin board material was clipped out of newspapers and posted on actual bulletin boards, athletes in need of adolescent, me-against-the-disrespecting-world motivation could reasonably expect to stay on top of whom was saying what about them, and then plan in-game comeuppances accordingly. Indeed, insult-hungry jocks even had the time and luxury to make up slights, as Jordan famously did with unsuspecting chew toy LaBradford Smith.
In the here and now, there's Twitter. Sports talk radio. Satellite sports talk radio. Online message boards. 'Round-the-clock sports news. YouTube parody videos. In short, way too much stuff to effectively monitor without becoming utterly exhausted. James says he's taking "mental notes;" given the sheer scope and volume of anti-LeBron sentiment, I hope he has a backup hard drive somewhere.
That's where the hate coordinator comes in. Surfing the web, plugged into social media, trained in reading body language and able to listen to three podcasts at once, my proposed position will take the hard work out of self-fire-stoking, producing concise, comprehensive, team-approved Enemies Lists so that talents such as James can spend less time hunting for put-downs and more time, er, practicing basketball or something.
Think of it this way: Today's sports franchises already provide strength coaches, nutritious food and year-round training opportunities, the better to maximize physical potential. Shouldn't the mental side of the game receive the same care and consideration?