How much does the media outside Miami absolutely hate the Miami Heat? So much that they're raining on the parade of an 8-year-old boy who got to meet the players as part of a special birthday present. In fact, they're completely ignoring facts to paint this kid as a front-running fan with "terrible and ignorant desires." An 8-year-old. Really?
See, all Christian Liebert wanted for his 8th birthday was to see his favorite team play basketball. As a real Heat fan he even asked for the tickets in June when the idea that LeBron would sign was just Pat Riley's wet dream.
His parents secured choice tickets for a pre-season game between the Heat and the Orlando Magic in Christian's home town of Tampa, but the game ended up being canceled due to slippery floor conditions.
So his Mom wrote the team.
Moved by a letter his mother wrote about what her son felt like the night of the canceled game, team officials arranged for tickets for the Liebert family to see Saturday's game in Miami against the Atlanta Hawks, along with a hotel stay and some other souvenirs. The family sat courtside for a portion of the pregame, in the very seats the Heat players would occupy during the game. Several players and assistant coaches stopped to say hello, and Christian posed for some photos.
Nice story, right? Apparently some have problems with it.
Slate's Tom Scocca concedes that "It's not fair to criticize an eight-year-old child on the Internet," before criticizing an eight-year-old child on the internet by calling his birthday wishes "ignorant and terrible desires."
"This child's devotion to his sports heroes dates back to July of this year, to the moment they started looking like surefire winners," writes Scocca, even though the article he links to clearly mentions he asked for the tickets back in June. Hell, the kid is still excited even though he thinks the team won't even make the finals this year.
Whoops! Seems like someones ignorant and terrible desires to criticize all things Heat got in the way of checking the facts.
Yahoo! Sports' NBA blog Ball Don't Lie is actually indignant that the Heat gave free tickets to a kid who was "perfectly healthy."
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"But someone desperately needs to tell the franchise how to get the best publicity possible when they need it," writes Eric Freeman. "Everyone hates Miami because they seem like the bad guys. What better way to get some positive attention than by helping those most in need instead of those who just need help scoring some new tickets?"
Freeman also apparently missed the fact that the kid was a fan before LeBron joined the team. [Edit: He does admit to a bit of snark, but continues to wonder why they didn't give tickets to a sick fan.]
Yeah, OK, you could criticize the fact that the AP decided to run what basically amounts to a bit of pro-Heat propaganda. Sure, maybe this little story doesn't necessarily need to be covered by the nation's biggest news wire. And sure, the Heat probably only did something like this for the publicity.
There's bigger sins in journalism though than slopping together some puff piece, like, for example, completely ignoring facts to put an innocent 8-year-old boy on blast.