[This post is the second of two about the conundrum that is LaVar Ball. The first one is about his relationships with his children (Lonzo, LiAngelo, LaMelo) and their futures. The second is about LaVar in a broader sense, with a particular focus on apparent the cultural impact of his actions.]
LaVar Ball is a self-promotor. He always has been and always will be. He isn’t the only one either. Sports is littered with “larger than life characters.” Muhammed Ali, Chad Ochocinco, Don King and Dennis Rodman are all sports figures that made as many, if not more headlines, in their personal lives than their professional lives. However, not all press is good press. Unfortunately, Mr. Ball has not grasped that concept, or does not care too.
I cannot completely blame LaVar for his actions, after all we just witnessed the unlikely rise of Donald Trump from real estate magnet to reality star to President of the United States. LaVar Ball is a byproduct of what I call “The Donald Trump Phenomenon.” Throughout the election cycle, Trump said whatever he wanted, when he wanted, and the press covered it nonstop. Not a day went by where CNN of Fox News were not covering his latest exploits or soundbites. Trump learned to control the media this way. Whenever there was a potentially negative topic about him, a new, more outrageous quote quickly swept it away.
Similarly, LaVar Ball has been able to deflect criticism from his son. His recent comments about UCLA’s inability to win due to the “lack of footspeed” among the white players is exactly the type of comment that changes a narrative. Now, instead of pundits and analysist talking about Lonzo’s poor performance, the conversation has shifted to whether LaVar’s comments were racially insensitive.
In the big picture, I’m not worried about LaVar Ball’s comments, I’m worried about other parents seeing the potential success of his kids and following his “example.” Little league sports are already full of parents living vicariously through children, but the increasing number of overbearing parents is threatening to remove the joy from youth sports. Honestly, most parents will admit to thinking like Ball. Most parents believe, however incorrect it may be, that their kid deserves more playing time, passes thrown their way, and time to shine. However, these parents follow are willing to respect the decisions of coaches and save their gripes for the car rides home. Not LaVar. He will sit front and center and talk over the coach. Imagine what the next little league season will be like if every parent acts that way.
Mr. Ball and his sons have burst onto the scene, and it does not look like we’ll be getting rid of them any time soon. All we can do is buckle in and hope that LaVar is an anomaly, and not an indication of the next wave of overbearing sports parents.
Let’s be great.