And on Thursday evening, Superman left the building (again). Dwight Howard’s summer-long scorched-earth march to his eventual exodus to the City of Angels has a revitalized Magic fan base in an uproar, his ‘can-do-no-wrong-favored-son’ image in shambles and left the city of Orlando saddled with the task of coaxing attendance in the Amway Center, now America’s shiniest indoor swap-shop, just off the highway downtown.
The city’s tabloid-worthy divorce with its biggest star since Shaquille O’Neal has spurned a confusing flurry of emotions – a cognitive dissonance of sorts – between fervent anger and guilty remorse. The writing was on the wall for a year, but the Orlando-faithful refused to shed their ‘blue and white ignite’ colored glasses and read the fine print. After numerous trade demands and posturing that served to hold the city hostage; countless flip-flops as to his desire to remain in the city that built him his own certifiable castle to play in, Dwight is finally gone, and he’s left in his wake a trail of shattered relationships and bitter feelings.
Dwight Howard whining his way out of town has made the Lebron James Decision debacle actually seem respectable in comparison. From a PR standpoint, the public’s perception of Mr. Howard is now eons from the aloof and innocent guy he appeared to be two years ago; and under the bright lights of Los Angeles, where image is everything and the media will eat you alive: Dwight has some definite work to do.
His behavior amidst this calamitous ordeal should serve as fair warning to how quickly the tide can change on how you’re viewed by others. Dwight Howard was practically the ambassador of Orlando, serving as our beacon for national notoriety and relevance – not just in the basketball world, but in the professional and economic arenas as well. The construction of the Amway Center, a virtual ‘must’ to ensure that he stayed in town, brought many jobs and helped to rejuvenate a declining sector of the metro area that enjoyed the booming business associated with sold-out Magic games. All this seems for naught, now: as Superman has skipped town and Orlando fans have taken their frustrations to makeshift funeral pyres for Dwight Howard memorabilia, showing that even the most loved can become the most reviled in minutes.
The fact of the matter is Dwight abandoned his base. Maybe he outgrew town and has a desire for the celebrity-status that comes with Southern California. Maybe he soured on a team that he felt was not serious about contending and bringing a championship to Orlando. Maybe he just got tired of abhorrent I4 traffic. Whatever his reason, he’s got an uphill battle rebuilding the brand that is Dwight Howard; the good-hearted kid next door who puts his team before himself.
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