Friday, July 9, 2010

LeBron James Meets Barnum and Bailey

So, were you also suckered into watching "The Decision" on ESPN last night?

I'll admit - I watched it. Even though pretty much everyone knew or suspected that LeBron was going to announce his intention to sign with the Miami Heat, I still felt compelled to watch if only to see if it was going to be as big of a joke as I expected. And it was a joke - a joke on the people watching, the city of Cleveland, ESPN and the media as a whole. We were all stupid enough to be captivated by a pro athlete announcing what team he's going to play for in a one hour TV special. That's gotta be one of the most egotistical displays in the history of ever. Yet the second King James made the offer to ESPN, the four-letter couldn't have said "yes" fast enough.

Look, I'm sure that last night's show (because it was strictly entertainment - no sports involved) probably did boffo ratings for ESPN. Really, what else are they gonna have on at 9pm on a Thursday night in July? WNBA? Poker? Billiards? Aussie Rules Football? Believe me, ESPN will be laughing all the way to the bank, but it doesn't mean they can't be embarassed by what went down last night.

LeBron was supposed to make his big annoucement within the first 10 minutes of the broadcast, but it didn't end up happening until about 9:30. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. I was also incredibly annoyed, especially because I had to listen to Schtu Scott, Chris Broussard, Jon Barry and Michael "How can anyone take me as a serious journalist anymore?" Wilbon drone on about a decision that wasn't a surprise. And who did LBJ have conducting the interview? None other than "The Always Exciting" Jim Grey, perhaps one of the most uncharismatic sports journalists in the history of the medium. What bugged me even more was that instead of just coming out and asking James where he was going to play, Grey asked a bunch of meaningless questions building up to the big announcement.

I don't begrudge LeBron for wanting to leave Cleveland. I don't even begrudge him for obviously being in cahoots with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to all go to Miami as the new Big 3. But I do begrudge how he did it.

When Kobe Bryant reupped with the Lakers, there wasn't any primetime TV special or anything like that, and Kobe has 5 championships to LeBron's none. The team just issued a press release the next day like it was no big deal. To put a Pittsburgh perspective on this, can you imagine Sidney Crosby doing something like this. Yeah, I know there are a lot of Sid bashers out there, but I don't know if any of them would think he'd pull a LeBron. It was all about stroking LeBron's ego and all of his "team" telling him how wonderful he is. Too bad LeBron's on camera charisma doesn't exactly match up to someone like Magic Johnson.

I'm telling you, I half expected Vince McMahon's music to start playing during the show last night and for LeBron to announce he was going to join WWE. It was a spectacle worthy of the inventor of Sports Entertainment. Maybe if The Miz had come out and cut a promo on LeBron (The Miz is a Cleveland native after all), it would have saved what was otherwise some of the worst TV this side of Big Brother.

Look, it was clear to anyone who's even a semi-NBA fan (such as yours truly) that LeBron was never going to win a championship in Cleveland. He never had the supporting cast he needed. For Kobe's 5 titles, he had Shaq and Pau Gasol to be his number two men. Jordan had Scottie Pippen, a Hall of Famer. Who has LeBron had? Mo Williams? Anderson Varejao? A well past his prime Shaq? Overrated Antawn Jameson? In Miami he'll have one of the best big men in the NBA and a guy who's already won an NBA title. They could and should win a championship going away. But they'd better win because the Heat have put all of their eggs in the LeBron/Bosh/D-Wade basket. It's going to be the Big Three and the Seven Dwarves.

The reaction in Cleveland has been expected - anger, cursing, rebuking, threats - and that's just from Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Gilbert has every right to be angry, but he comes off like a total jackass in his missive to Cavs fans. Unless LeBron promised that he would never, ever leave Cleveland, then I don't see how he's betraying the city of Cleveland. Pro athletes are mercenaries, plain and simple. Some do manage to rise above it, but most follow the money, the chance to win a championship or both. And for Gilbert to claim that the Cavs will win a title before LeBron does... um, has he taken a look at the Cavs roster for next season? They'll be lucky if they make the playoffs. Of course, wouldn't it be so ironic if the Cavs ended up meeting the Heat in the playoffs next season? I'd pay to see that. I also can't wait to hear how much heel heat LeBron draws when he returns to Cleveland for the first time as a member of Miami. It could be Vickie Guerrero-level heel heat.

Now does this whole debacle make me any more interested in the NBA? Nope. Of the four major sports, my interest in the NBA ranks fourth. Heck, if you factor in college football, it ranks fifth. On some days, I'd put it below NASCAR and the PGA Tour. Yeah, I'll watch when the Heat travel to Cleveland just to see LeBron get booed out of the building every time he touches the ball (ala Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh), but my interest will quickly wane. I just don't like basketball that much.

I am glad of one thing - now that LeBron has finally made up his mind, all of the endless speculation can now stop. Sure, there's going to be tremendous hype and build up to LeBron's first game as a member of the Heat, and ESPN is going to make me nauseous with how much it will make it seem like it's the greatest event in the history of ever, but I can and will do my best to ignore it. At least this part is over. Yet, why do I keep hearing circus music in my head?

Have a good weekend, folks!


1 comment:

  1. Pretty good J.D. Almost as if you were reading my mind.