Now that’s what I call capitalism.
LeBron James got his publicity and his charitable donation, ESPN got its ratings, Miami got its borderline All-Star team and NBA fans got something to talk about post-draft.
Everybody’s a winner. Well, except for Cleveland, of course.
A lot’s been said since Thursday’s “The Decision” special on ESPN which took over an hour – more than 12 minutes per letter – to get LeBron to say the word everybody already knew was coming – “Miami.”
LeBron’s been heralded, loved, hated, booed, applauded, blasted and praised since he made his decision to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, so I’ll neither indict him nor praise him for his oddly-presented infomercial or his controversial decision.
Neither will I indict nor praise Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert, whose open letter to Cavs fans contained phrases like, “cowardly betrayal,” “shameful display of selfishness,” “dreaded spell and bad karma,” and of course, the guarantee that, “… the Cleveland Cavaliers will win an NBA championship before the self-titled former ‘king’ wins one.”
And I won’t commnt on ESPN’s use of the situation to turn a profit.
Yeah, that stuff has been talked to death.
I bring it up because I, like many of you, actually watched it unfold.
I knew it was a publicity stunt, I knew LeBron was going to Miami, I knew there were about 1,000 other things I could have done with that hour of my Thursday evening and I knew that, regardless of where LeBron ended up, it wouldn’t make much of a difference to me.
It got me thinking about the role sports play in our lives and the universal nature of athletic competition.
It made me wonder why we always seem to pay attention to the drama that unfolds in the wide world of sports.
It brought to mind the fact that most of America spent the early part of the summer riveted to a soccer team that most of America doesn’t pay any mind to during non-World Cup years.
It made me think of the very public spotlight thrust onto figures like LeBron, Kobe, Tiger, A-Rod, Shaq, Peyton, Manny and dozens of other high-profile millionaires most of us are on a first-name basis with even though most of whom we will never even see in person.
Nothing that happens to any of the aforementioned figures has any real impact on us, and when you think about it, that’s probably why we watch, why we care.
Most of the stuff going on in the day-to-day news affects us. Whether it’s crime, education, business or politics, most of the things going on in the world have a very real and very direct impact on our lives, for better or worse.
Only in the sports world can we invest in something that has no real-world consequence.
Sure, when a fan’s team loses a game, a series, a championship or a player, it’s a bummer. And when a fan’s team wins a game, a series, a championship or acquires the next up-and-coming star, it’s invigorating.
But again, it has no real-world consequence on our lives. We can sit back and watch our favorite sport and our favorite teams through victory and defeat with nothing to lose and nothing to gain in a risk-free distraction that, regardless of our level of financial and emotional investment, always delivers what it promises – a consequence-free distraction that will always give you something to talk about at the end of the day.
I guess that’s why we sat there and watched LeBron’s drama unfold last Thursday, why we always pay attention when Tiger’s on the course, Peyton is under center, A-Rod is chasing a record or there’s a championship on the line somewhere.
It also brings to mine the words of former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren, who probably said it best:
“I always turn to the sports section first,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1968. “The sports section records people’s accomplishments; the front page nothing but man’s failures.”
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.