What makes Allen Iverson so good, I ask you. Is it because he is the greatest athlete? The quickest? The best leader?
Before you can answer, I press on: the answer to all of the above is no. Iverson is the best basketball player on the planet today because he is the most creative.
"Creativity…" you mutter, "…isn't that for artists and such? Iverson is talented and he's fearless — I mean, he should have been in a body cast for most of last season — but the closest he comes to creative is with the tattoos and cornrows, and frankly that's one big cliche as far as I'm concerned."
No, really, I reply, the secret to Iverson's greatness is his creativity, his ability to improvise. The tattoos are just another means of expressing the creativity lurking inside.
What is professional sport media all about? It's about the creation of the mythic hero. When Iverson was still seen as the bad boy of the NBA, there was little chance he would be a sport media star, since the gangsta doesn't jibe with the traditional notion of the mythic hero. This past season, the NBA desperately tried to sanitize his image and Iverson himself reached new levels on the court — suddenly all was well. Here was the warrior, a tiny body slammed to the hardwood about a half dozen times every evening, as routine as the teevee fan at home slamming the fridge door with a coldie in hand. Here was something worth aspiring to, a modern hero.
Never a word about his creativity. Never a mention that this man is an artist as well, as Braveheart was referred to as a warrior-poet. Those aspects of his brilliance are always neglected, since they don't mesh well with the image of mythic hero. Artistry is too, well, artsy. Half of Iverson is being ignored.
Of course, the mythic hero star system exists outside of sport as well. The entertainment industry in general is rife with those worshipped for their physical gifts (beauty, athleticism) rather than their whole person. But brilliant producers such as Moses Znaimer (CityTV, etc.) and Zev Shalev (U8TV) have sensed the shifting tides and begun to make the media more about the individual and less about the star system. That is, it is less about "I watch because I want to attain your [unattainable] level" and more about "I watch because I can relate to you in some way."
How long will it take for sport media to become more human? Do we want it to become more human? Can you relate to any professional athlete? Who will become the Znaimer or Shalev of the sport media industry?
Who will recognize Iverson's creativity?
Who will recognize yours?