By Lanford Beard
Updated January 12, 2012 at 06:08 PM EST
Credit: Paul Battaglia/AP

In an essay for this week’s Sports Illustrated, writer Jack McCallum discusses the outpouring of vitriol for Kris Humphries — who was recently named the NBA’s most disliked player — in the wake of his 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian. McCallum asserts that fans, who’ve taken to heckling Humphries with cardboard cutouts of his ex during his games, are choosing Kardashian over the Nets forward and urges his readers, “to plant your flag on the correct side in this culture war, which is not the Kardashian side.” With all due respect to McCallum, I’m not so sure basketball fans are taking sides at all in this sideshow.

McCallum writes that the boos have “nothing to do with his team’s 2-7 record through Sunday or Humphries’s play — a steady diet of unspectacular double doubles. It has everything to do with the dissolution of his 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian.” Agreed. However, we would argue that perhaps it’s not so much that the fans are “in favor of a Kardashian,” as McCallum suggests, but a case of their being emphatically anti-Humphries. But why?

On the most basic level, the fans feel entitled to belittle an athlete who so willingly exposed himself in a reality circus. He abandoned “actual work… something for which he is held accountable on a daily basis” in favor of red carpets and navel-gazing. So when they hold up cardboard cutouts, it’s not to pledge their allegiance to the Kardashianation, but rather to send a very pointed message to Humphries: “Dude, you’re pathetic!”

Moreover, in the past two months since Kim & Kourtney [Ko-starring Kris!] Take New York, our own Darren Franich has seen time and again that Humphries is in reality (and “reality”) not a particularly likable person. From farting in his wife’s face to doggedly insisting on outing someone on national television, he’s proven to be a lethal combination of abjectly immature and pushy know-it-all.

If he were a star in the NBA, maybe he could still pull it off, but as a solid but unspectacular player, he doesn’t have a lot of room to make such high-profile mistakes. He’s not LeBron. He’s not Kobe. He’s not going to tear your team’s heart out with 40 points or a last-second jumper. He’s that guy from the Kardashians, so fans relish the chance to cart a cardboard cutout to the arena and get their heckle on. They want to rattle Humphries, and he’s low-hanging fruit, ripe for the picking.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Do you think sports fans are truly on Team Kim, or are they simply turned off by the version of Humphries that’s been portrayed on TV?

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