So, where were you when LeBron made the Decision? It certainly was one of those momentous times rarely seen in the human experience. Years from now, people will remember exactly where they were when the NBA’s Bestest Player Ever made his fateful choice, much like they do for other seminal events such as 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination. Or not.
I had no interest in where LeBron James chose to receive millions for playing basketball. The next time I actually watch a game featuring him from start to finish will be the first. I haven’t watched more than snippets of any NBA game in years, much less one featuring the self-absorbed man-child best known for dominating regular-season performances, but who always seems to come up small in the crunch time of the playoffs.
I was, however, transfixed by the spectacle surrounding what used to be the routine shuffling of NBA prima donas from one city to the next. ESPN really out did itself this time, devoting an entire evening’s worth of programming to LeBronapalooza. My favorite moment came during the three-hour LeBronCenter preceding The Decision. Anchor Linda Cohn, wearing an orgasmic facial expression that brought to mind teen-aged girls in close proximity to the Beatles back in the 60′s, announced that ‘All America’ was on the edge of their seats in breathless anticipation of where LeBron would play. Actually, Linda, I was in my recliner in a pose about as far from the edge as could be obtained.
By the time the entire on-air staff of the Entertainment and LeBron Programming Network had weighed in on the ‘twists and turns’ of the ‘Amazing LeBron saga’ I was rapidly losing interest. When Jim Gray began probing career lows by attempting to drag out the proceedings for at least a couple more commercials by interviewing the semi-literate James [in keeping with the general tone of the show, ESPN parent Disney should have had Mickey Mouse hosting], I was wishing for the entire spectacle to be done. After all, ‘CSI: Miami’ was on my DVR and I find the babes that Horatio always has around him a far greater South Beach diversion than anything the Heat might accomplish.
LeBron is not the first person to ever decide to leave Cleveland. The city has long been the poster child for the declining Rust Belt. He is very likely not the first to decide to relocate from Cleveland to the more temperate climate of Miami. Most making the trek, however, do not have entire evenings on ESPN devoted to the decision.
For all of the accolades and praise heaped upon the Great LeBron James, it was occasionally pointed out that the guy has never actually won a championship. Critical times in most any NBA playoff game involving his former team always involve James folding like a lawn chair. His most memorable moments always seemed to have involved him sulking off the court following yet another loss. The little matter of his having failed to actually win anything was generally glossed over, however, in the LeBron-fest to which we were treated.
Exactly when did an ability to generate a media circus and draw attention to one’s self supplant actual winning? We are informed that ESPN’s over-the-top homage to the ‘Best Player Never To Win A Championship’ garnered higher ratings than did the Lakers-Celtics Game 7 [Well, I didn't watch Kobe win another ring]. I have an instinctive and healthy dislike for any player or coach who runs his mouth and lusts after media attention like Tiger does skanks. When did this become a greater measure of success than the actual winning of championships?
Recently Kentucky coach John Calipari received much media attention with his claim that having 5 Kentucky players chosen in the first round of the NBA draft, 4 of them one-and-done players, constituted the ‘greatest moment’ in the history of the Wildcat program. As those who had played on and watched the multiple championship teams produced by Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall and even Tubby begged to differ, it was exceedingly hard amid the hype to notice that the number of NCAA championship teams produced by Calipari currently numbers 0, although he does lead the country in the all-important category of most Final Four appearances vacated.
Getting a bunch of players drafted might assist Calipari in garnering television face time and assist in his convincing other wunderkinds to spend a few weeks in fairly-close proximity to the Kentucky campus before heading off to chase NBA millions and his landing another job when he runs away after the NCAA investigators show up as they always do, but I’ll take winning.
Which brings us to the ACC’s new television deal with ESPN. It is a whopper, almost doubling the current take. It will enable ACC AD’s to pay for quite a bit of stadium bling, further inflate coaching salaries and afford all of those ‘other’ sports about which Boss Hoo Craig ‘Tubby, all it took was algrohing algroh to bring Mike Smith back in line’ Littlepage likes to crow. The cash will be useful.
One does have to ponder, though, exactly what is ESPN paying for? Unlike the deals previously signed by the Total Sports Leader with the SEC and Big Twelve For Now that guarantees those two leagues most of the prime spots on both the mother ship and the Deuce, the ACC’s deal carries no football guarantees other than Labor Day and a handful of Thursday night games. Unless ESPN has vastly overpaid for a bunch of ACC games on the Net-only ESPN3, it does seem like a ton of money for not a lot of games.
Then, while watching the over-the-top LeBron- fest, it hit me. When was the last time we had witnessed such an incredible and inane amount of hype? That would be last year before the Virginia Tech- Miami football game, when ESPN lost all sense of proportion and dignity in declaring the Canes the Backest Team Ever the week before they were splattered all around the walls of Lane Stadium.
Since, surprisingly enough, ESPN tends to generate the largest amounts of hype for properties it just happens to televise, the network of Goofy were paying for the rights to bring celebrations of Canes’ Backness to entirely new levels for the next dozen years. They certainly couldn’t scream out the Backability of the Canes for a team that would be televised on Fox, now could they?
Prepare for an entire month of August devoted to the Backness of the Canes . There will be LeBronapalooza-styled celebrations of the Canes being Back every night of the week. Even LeBron will be asked to weigh in with his opinion of the Canes being Backer than Back. The Entertainment, LeBron and Canes Network will again Back over the top.
This, of course, is good news for fans of Virginia Tech football. We have noticed over the last 15 years or so that the more ESPN hypes the Canes as being Back, the worse Tech beats them. Tech’s football roll should continue.