Is Orlando too Smallville for Supermen past and present?
Anyone who knows the comics’ mythology of Superman knows that he’s left Earth before, long enough for the inhabitants on the planet to mistake him for dead. Heck, his whole story is based on having to leave. Leaving his home planet Krypton; leaving his Earth hometown and his adoptive family, Smallville and the Kents; leaving his office at The Daily Planet to fight crime; leaving his greatest love, Lois Lane, time and time again. Going away is something that Superman has become an expert at doing.
But this isn’t about The Last Son of Krypton. In fact, this is about someone who really has no business assuming the Super identity at all. This is about a young man whose most telling attributes in the present are is being less than strong in voice, possibly backbiting, and maybe a failing manipulator. In addition to being the greatest center of the generation, an NBA superstar, and one of the best athletic talents that’s ever been seen on a hardwood floor, Dwight Howard has now become a deserving ridiculed joke.
All because he wants to be remembered well in his eventual flight from Orlando. Manhood is a tough thing. It comes with it a lot of responsibilities and a standard of being independent, which regardless of the various times of the world, isn’t easy. Being 26 years and being a multimillionaire comes with it tons of weight – the weight to be responsible, to do well, to placate and appease, to be strong…but those are qualities most befitting for a man. Maybe Howard hasn’t really reached the peak of manhood yet. Perhaps, he is still a child.
I’m sure Howard knows the following verse from 1 Corinthians 13:11 of the Holy Bible: “When I was a child, I thought like a child, and acted like a child; but when I became a man, I put away those childish things.” Children gossip, children often tattle and tell tales, children often are indecisive, and children are susceptible to becoming petulant.
One of the most important aspects of being a man is owning up to what you do and standing up for what you believe. That’s called maturity. Take away the worldly aspect of manhood and narrow it down to the scope of being a man in the NBA. Outside of the mundane routine of playing, practicing, and preparing for the nights’ entertainment, it’s all about being accountable. If you can’t be accountable for your actions in the league, your chances for being an all-around success plummet. Your word should be your bond, but hey, when you change your mind about that (and we all have the right to do so, no matter our depth of our commitments and obligations), that’s what the agents are for. The agents and publicists can handle all of your handiwork, your PR, your brand management, but a high level of consistency in word and in action are concentrated in view of your integrity in the public, and a perceived lack of it does way more harm that being honest. Honesty divides your lovers from your antagonists; people-pleasing sometimes creates haters from your own supporters.
Is the NBA version of the son of Jor-El fighting against himself?
For all of Howard’s vacillations regarding his future in Orlando, he has shown very little consistency both word and action. For all of his worries about being regarded as the next Shaquille O’Neal or the next LeBron James, which is to be read as the next big star to leave his team for bigger and better, he has been the most destructive and the most cowardly – how befitting is that for a supposed Superman? I wonder if Howard realizes that Shaq himself is very sparingly blamed for leaving the Magic. The understanding is that he got paid more, and then he won championships. It made his flight and the collective opinion about his soaring through to the skies to the city of Los Angeles change historically – simply, the story wasn’t over when he left. Shaq had more career left to fill out, and so the narrative also filled out accordingly.
In the case of our dear King James, it’s well-documented that the former high school phenom left under dubious conditions which stained his reputation. Like Howard, he was concerned about his brand and so the execution of his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers became much more pronounced in light of the pageantry of his exit – but in the end, James stayed true to what he wanted. He wanted to leave, and he said so. He stood by it (for the most part). He took his beatings like an archetypical man would. The waffling didn’t come through the media, it didn’t filter through “sources” who said that he said this and that. Sure, there was speculation, and sadly, James made his decision without allowing the Cavaliers to acquire “fair market compensation”, but that’s the gamble of a player-team contract. You win and you lose there, but when decisions are made and they are final, the people who bear witness to the happenings accept them and move on (albeit slowly at times). If James wins multiple championships, perhaps his “Decision” is remembered differently, but the distinguishing factor about his choice to leave, when contrasted with Howard’s dilemma, is that he didn’t act preemptively in loss prevention, because he knew that leaving alone was going to come with its own troubles. For Howard to attempt to address a non-mutual divorce with his fans was a pre-meditated act that essentially sabotaged his relationship with them and his team from the get-go.
The point is, Howard hasn’t reached his manhood here, let alone anything of the slightest measure Kryptonian. Instead of letting it out that he’s displeased with his team, his coach, his city, and whomever else, he could’ve all along sought discreetness. It’s not a secret that many players are unhappy with their situations, contract to contract, year to year, season to season, month to month, week to week, and day to day. What makes all the difference is how you handle displeasure – do you seek the glory of your fans in weakness, or do you seek integrity in your own strength?
Crucifixion is a hard thing to bear, be it literal or figurative. Whether you’re hanging from a real cross or you’re hanging painfully from the Mentions in your Twitter feed, hate and disrespect in all forms hurt the heart of a person. As faithful as Howard has been, he said in his press conference (when he decided to opt-in on his contract at the March 15 trade deadline) that he had been praying and essentially seeking the counsel of God about what he should. Nothing wrong with that, especially if your life can change drastically with the ease of a phone call…but would God stand for deceiving your business partners (teammates) and your employer after you decided to make an agreement to uphold your end of the span of time of your work agreement? Where is the integrity there? Where is the faithfulness and truth and valor of your beliefs when you can’t even stand upright with your friends and your supporters, the people who have facilitated your rise into stardom and immense riches?
I hope that Howard learns soon that the gravity of his cowardice is the greatest source of his current pain. He has been responsible for his professional person for eight years as a privileged member of the NBA. Decisiveness is a pillar of success, on the court and in brand management. Rapper Lil B The Based God says that “you can’t be a leader if you’re scared to make decisions”, and so the question is, “What kind of leader is Dwight Howard?” Is he a leader at all? Leaders make decisions that are best for whatever situation is in front of them and they assess how it affects those who are affected by said decisions. They take the lumps associated with their choices, because that is the price of risk. If Howard is afraid to take on risk, maybe he shouldn’t leave Orlando.
Oh, and just one more thing: Superman may have left Earth, but he never destroyed the place that adopted him. Smallville nor Metropolis was never left in ruins because of Superman’s cowardice, because he had no cowardice in him. The Magic recovered when The Diesel went to Tinseltown. Hopefully Howard will recover when he has to make a man’s decision regarding his location of his home. I doubt it would be too hard for a real Superman.
“Be strong and courageous; do not be discouraged, do not be afraid.” — Joshua 1:9