LONGSHOTS: James gang steals the show
by Dave Long
Weíve had a few days to reflect on the insanity of the Lebron James spectacle, so what do we all think of it now? Thereís a few things Iím ambivalent about. A few others Iím hazy on and thereís a few things Iím crystal clear on regarding his joining D-Wade and C-Bosh in Miami next year.
What Iím most certain about is that the sporting culture has simply gone around the bend to give this kind of attention to some guy taking a new job. And if the numbers who watched ó drum roll please ó The Decision on ESPN are any indication, itís an awful lot of folks, thatís for sure. And if you think this is once in a lifetime you have a short memory. It was just, what, three months after Tiger Woods went on programming-interrupted TV to beg 300 million people he never met to forgive him for acting like an ass to his family. And the ratings were even higher then.
As usual for me, like with Tiger, itís how they went about doing it rather than what they actually did. Well, in Tigerís case it was a double dip of abhorrent behavior and creating a PR facade positioning him as something he wasnít. But in LeBronís case he did nothing wrong. He was doing what athletes from Reggie Jackson to John Lackey have been doing for years ó exercising collectively bargained rights at the conclusion of a contract he fulfilled with distinction.
But when the ego-driven HOW HE DID IT part comes walking through that door, thatís a slam dunk of a different color. It may be I just donít get the surreal world celebs live in. Or maybe itís a generational thing where I was nurtured by grown-ups who knew the hardships of the Depression and WWII and heís come of age in the AAU culture where gifted athletes have their butts kissed by grown-ups from the time they are 14. But Iíd see a TV spectacle announcing where I was headed as embarrassing. Thus seeking out a network to do that takes a hubris thatís hard for me to fathom ó even if he was right that there are an astonishing number of knuckleheads out there shallow enough to see it as must-see TV. Now that Iíve probably insulted half those reading, letís examine all the elements that have been part of the story.
Miami vs. Cleveland: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 the highest on the Common Sense Residential meter, he gets a 78 for choosing to live in party town Miami during the winter over Cleveland. I mean, what would you do?
Class Factor: This gets a zero on the How to Treat People You Worked With meter. He was paid millions by people who catered to his every whim. He owed them a face-to-face meeting to say he was headed south. A thanks for the opportunity would have been nice as well.
Self-Absorption Factor: Off the charts ó 16. And thank god ESPN wasnít around when Jackson signed with the Yankees or that Deion Sanders didnít think of it when he signed with the Cowboys ícause that would have been truly nauseating.
Weasel Factor: Could they have picked a bigger stooge to play an actual interviewer than Jim Gray? As unlikeable a guy as there is on TV ó a full 10 on the Now I Get Why Some Kids Get Stuffed in Lockers Back in High School meter.
Desertion Factor: He already re-upped once to get a title for hometown Cleveland. Plus he didnít go away to college at 18 and experience life somewhere else. So I think this is his version of that and I donít think he should be begrudged for it ó sorry, Dan Gilbert, itís a 1 on the Benedict Arnold meter.
How Long Will They Hate Him in Cleveland: They still hate Roger Clemens here and Bill Belichick in Cleveland, who left in the mid-í90s, so itís at least an 8.8 on the Itís Going To Be A Long, Long Time meter.
The Biggest Idiot in the Whole Mess: My nomination goes to redundant ABC analyst Mark Jackson, who according to Dan Shaughnessy used Lebronís comportment in The Decision as ďa teaching moment for his children.Ē What? Thatís dumber than anything he said during the playoffs, which is quite an accomplishment, so itís a 10 on the Wow, Guess Anyone Can Be a Parent meter.
New York, N.Y.: It gets a full 10 on the Give Me a Break meter. On the front page of Fridayís New York Post it was ďLeBUM!íí The back page: ďSON OF A BEACH!íí The Daily News said ďWHO CARES!Ē a day after ďDONíT SCREW US!Ē It take hubris even greater than LeBronís for a city to act jilted after itís celebrated ripping the heart out of other sports communities, using its economic power to buy away their best players every year since 1975 ó donít you think?
Who is the Chicken and Who is the Egg? The media says its coverage reflects the publicís interest. But Iím not sure thatís the case. Itís more like William Randolph Hearst saying prior to the Spanish-American War, ďYou furnish the pictures and Iíll furnish the war.Ē We saw that in the steroids story, where the media was outraged and polls showed fans couldnít care less. Same thing here ó the mediaís obsession made it much greater than it would have been, except in Cleveland and Miami. So the media gets a 10 on the Hype meter.
Sure Things That Didnít Pan Out As Planned: Rick Pitino, Dice-K, CMGI, Charlie Weis to Notre Dame, Antoine W. retires a zillionaire ó need I say more? Until I see the supporting cast it gets a 4 on the Nothing is Certain meter.
The Introduction Ceremony: I know it was a kickoff to sell tickets, but it made the Pitino coronation seem like first holy communion. Fridayís disco night in Miami got a 57 on my Unchecked Adulation Makes Me Want to Barf meter. Yuck!
Irritation Factor: Once again the flavor of the month is anointed the ďgreatest ever,Ē as Gary Washburn dubbed the Wade, Bosh, MeBron trio in the Boston Globe. As my e-mail said to him the next day, guess you never heard of West, Baylor and Chamberlain! Or Bird, McHale and Parish, Magic, Kareem and Worthy or Jordan, Pippin and Rodman. So this one gets a 10 on the See When Theyíve Actually Won Something meter.
The Cowardly Lion Factor: Since I look on sports as competition and not entertainment, hereís the one that matters to me. If LeBron is to be considered the greatest to ever play as he says he wants, you canít go to someone elseís team to win your rings. Canít see Jordan, or Russell or Tom Brady going somewhere else to piggyback on someone else. Thus he is abdicating his throne, giving him a zero on The A-Rod meter and a new nickname: the Queen of Miami.
Dave Long can be reached at email@example.com. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.