Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Sports marketing’ Category

Women Co-Authors are “Disappeared” by NPR, and the World Shrugs

leave a comment »

Folks, I am really upset right now.

NPR recently interviewed two authors, Silka-Maria Weineck and Stefan Syzmanski, for their radio show “All Things Considered.” The reason? Well, it’s World Cup season (championship soccer, as the US would call it; championship football, as everyone else does), and Weineck and Szymanski wrote a book called It’s Football, Not Soccer (and Vice Versa): On the History, Emotion, and Ideology Behind One of the Internet’s Most Ferocious Debates. The book sounds fascinating, and I would’ve loved to hear what Ms. Weineck had to say…except that NPR host Anders Kelto scrubbed all of her interview, and then compounded his error by attributing their co-written book to Szymanski alone.

That is what prompted the following letter to NPR’s ombudsman.

You see, as a female author myself, I know that if I had written a book with someone, and then only my co-author was named after I’d done an interview also, I’d be going ballistic right now.

Ms. Weineck isn’t too happy, either. (Take a look at this article if you don’t believe me.) And I don’t blame her at all.

Anyway, here you go with my letter to NPR:

I am deeply unhappy that in a recent on-air segment for “All Things Considered” host Anders Kelto did not name both authors of the book IT’S FOOTBALL, NOT SOCCER (AND VICE VERSA), instead only naming the male co-author. Refusing to name the female co-author was wrong and shameful, and further compounding his error by refusing to initially name her in the printed piece on your website (which was later corrected) is extremely disheartening.

I look to NPR for balanced coverage. And if there are two authors of a book, the only way to get balanced coverage is to talk about — and to — both co-authors, unless one is not available. In this case, the female co-author, Ms. Silke-Maria Weineck, was indeed available, and had spoken to the on-air host for thirty minutes by her account (I read it at the Chronicle.com, BTW), and yet none of her quotes were used. So your host, Mr. Kelto, was willing to talk with Ms. Weineck, but apparently not willing to use any of her quotes. Or even properly attribute the book to both her and her co-author, Mr. Szymanski, for that matter.

I am extremely frustrated that Ms. Weineck’s voice was silenced. But I’m even more frustrated, as a female author myself, that another female author was marginalized and “disappeared” in this way.

I believe NPR should rectify this problem immediately by talking with Ms. Weineck and working out some way of compensating her for this egregious error.

And please, please, for the love of little green apples, never make this type of mistake ever again. Because it is sickening.

Now, to the men in the audience:

I know most of you would never behave as Mr. Kelto did. (Most especially, the male authors wouldn’t.) But this behavior still must needs be challenged, as it shows the problem we female authors still run into from time to time. (I can’t believe this is the only time NPR has done something like this, either, and they’re supposedly the “liberal bastion” of radio — or at least, by their own charter, are supposed to promote equality and fairness. And what could be more fair than properly attributing a co-written book to both authors?)

(Mind, if you only think about how much you would hate it, if only the female co-author were named instead of you, maybe you’ll understand…such is my hope.)

The reason I am writing this blog, though, is very simple. You men need to realize that the women in your life, especially the creative women, are often discounted or dismissed. (It’s always wrong, too. A creative person is a creative person is a creative person, whether the person is male, female, trans, queer, intersex, or Martian.)

Without realizing that simple fact, the good men out there cannot work against this type of abhorrent behavior. As I do hope you will do, because it needs doing.

And if you, too, want to write to the ombudsman and complain that the female co-author’s name should not have been “disappeared” from the broadcast? Here’s a link.

Advertisements

Memorial Day for Sale: NFL Teams Take Money to ‘Honor’ the Military

with one comment

Is Memorial Day truly for sale?

It sure seems that way, after finding out that 14 NFL teams have actually taken money to “honor” military veterans — including my own favorite team, the Green Bay Packers.

I found out about this last Friday (May 22, 2015) by watching Keith Olbermann’s ESPN2 show. As quoted from the website PoliticsUSA.com:

In a lengthy monologue on Friday’s broadcast of ESPN2′s Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann took NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to school over the recent revelation that the National Football League has taken millions of dollars from the US military to promote the armed forces of this country. Over the past few years, it has been estimated that the NFL has received $5.4 million since 2011 to ‘honor’ members of the military at games and other events. As Olbermann pointed out, the main issue isn’t that the league took money, but that it pretended that it was honoring the soldiers out of true patriotism rather than love of money.

This disturbs me for more than one reason.

First, veterans of the armed forces deserve to be treated well without teams being paid to do so.

Second, that teams have been pretending they’re doing this out of the goodness of their nonexistent hearts rather than some sort of business-oriented motivation is incredibly hypocritical.

It is especially upsetting because fans are expected to be both patriotic and uncritical of the teams they follow. So when we see teams giving what surely look to be deserving shout-outs to serving military members (or honorable veterans), we think it’s genuine.

We don’t expect these “Hometown Heroes” shout-outs to be merely a matter of public relations.

But they are. And that’s wrong.

Olbermann isn’t the only high-profile person angered by this behavior. Arizona’s two United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are also appalled. In an article from the Washington Post, McCain was quoted as saying:

“I think it’s really disgraceful that NFL teams whose profits are at an all-time high had to be paid to honor our veterans,” he said Tuesday (via ESPN)..

Agreed. (To the Nth power.)

Taking money in order to salute these real hometown heroes is wrong. Just ask U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, as quoted in the Washington Post article:

“You go to a game and you see a team honoring ‘Hometown Heroes,’ and you think it’s some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Flake told ESPN on Monday. “Then you find out it’s paid for? That seems a little unseemly.”

This, right here, encapsulates why I’m so steamed.

Look. According to Olbermann (see his YouTube rant here), the Green Bay Packers took $600,000 from the Department of Defense for this practice.

But even if the Packers hadn’t taken any money, I’d still be upset.

As a fan, I’ve always seen military members get shout-outs. They are feted, get tickets to games, often are highlighted on the scoreboard, and the impression is that the teams are doing this because it’s the right thing to do.

Sure, it’s all public relations. We know this, deep down inside.

But we don’t expect that teams would actually be crass enough to require payment.

That these 14 NFL teams have done so is truly shameful. A recent editorial at Jacksonville.com said:

…the Department of Defense and 14 NFL teams deserve boos over revelations that the federal agency paid the clubs $5.4 million over a three-year period to feature military members during games. According to the Defense Department and the 14 teams, the payments were merely part of mutually agreed “sponsorship deals” designed to promote the military in a flattering, high-profile manner. But in truth, the deals were simply “crass” and “disgraceful,” as Sen. John McCain — a military hero who bravely survived captivity during the Vietnam War — so aptly put it.

(Preach it, brothers and sisters.)

Why the Packers ever thought it a good idea to take money to salute the military makes no sense.

NFL teams make money hand-over-fist. They do not need to take money from the Department of Defense or anyone else to salute the hard-working men and women who comprise the United States military.

That they did was absolutely reprehensible.

******
P.S. Because it’s come out that 14 NFL teams have taken money to salute soldiers, it makes me wonder…are teams in Major League Baseball also taking money for this practice?

Have the Milwaukee Brewers actually taken money over the years to salute these “Hometown Heroes” in order to put them on the big scoreboard in centerfield?

I sincerely hope the Brewers haven’t.

National Outrage Ensues After Ray Rice Gets Suspended by the NFL for Only Two Games After Domestic Violence Arrest

with 2 comments

Folks, there are some things as a human being that deeply offend me. Domestic violence against your life partner is one of those things.

Recently, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught hitting his then-fiancée, now-wife on camera at a casino to the point that she ended up unconscious from the blow. This was a senselessly stupid act in more ways than one, and he was quite properly arrested for it.

However, as he married his fiancée not long afterward (exactly one day after an Atlantic City grand jury indicted him, according to this New York Times article), and as Rice both pled not guilty and entered a diversion program as a first-time offender (this according to an article from Huffington Post), apparently the NFL did not think it needed to suspend Ray Rice for more than a mere two games.

Considering Rice’s suspension is less than your typical four games for using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs, this has caused a national furor. And not just from outraged female sports fans, either.

Take a look at this quote from this past Monday’s Shutdown Corner column over at Yahoo Sports, which points out that this particular suspension doesn’t make sense compared to other suspensions dealing with NFL players committing violent acts:

Cedric Benson once received a three-game suspension for assaulting a former roommate. Albert Haynesworth got five games after stomping on an opponent’s head in the heat of a game. Terrelle Pryor received five games in the Ohio State tattoo case before he ever entered the NFL. Tank Johnson was suspended half a season for illegal firearm possession.

Where is the consistency? Is there any scale at all here?

And when you consider that someone who’s used marijuana and been caught using typically gets a four-game suspension for a first offense, this particular two-game suspension becomes even more baffling.

Look. I know that pro football is a very violent game. I know that the men who play this game have a good amount of aggression in them — they have to have it, or they could not possibly play pro football at a high level. And there are very, very few men like the late Reggie White who are as gentle off the field as they are near-murderous upon it.

Even so, it’s wrong that a man like Ray Rice gets only a “piddling two-game suspension” (paraphrased from the words of Frank DeFord, who’s on record as asking if Roger Goodell is truly good enough to lead the NFL) for hitting his then-fiancée when someone who takes Adderall without first getting a therapeutic use exemption (or whatever the NFL calls it; I’m using MLB terminology as I’m much more conversant with that) gets a four-game suspension?

How can the NFL possibly justify only a two-game suspension for Rice under these particular circumstances? How is taking Adderall or smoking Mary Jane worse than hitting your fiancée?

Also, this sends a terrible message to any female fan of every NFL team. That message goes something like this: “We don’t care about you. At all.”

Because if they did, the NFL wouldn’t have come out with this stupid, pointless, ridiculous and utterly senseless two-game suspension for Rice. Instead, they would’ve ordered him into counseling — tougher and more stringent counseling than he’s already paying for on his own. They would’ve suspended him at least the same four games for any other first-time offense whether the police pressed charges or not, or allowed Rice into a diversion program or not. And they would’ve then gotten some counseling — big-time, major counseling — for Rice’s now-wife. (Remember her? The woman Rice hurt badly? The woman the NFL doesn’t want to talk about, because they seemingly want to see this as a “victimless crime” because Rice already is in counseling and he’s already married his then-fiancée?)

Right now, the NFL’s message is really bad. It says that their players can hit any woman they please and knock them out, and they will do almost nothing. Then, after giving the player what amounts to a mild slap on the wrist, the NFL will turn around and say what a tremendously wonderful human being the guy in question is (in this case, Ray Rice), and how this was an aberration and will never happen again.

And how do I know this is their message? Because their actions speak much louder than their actual words; they say, loudly and clearly, that domestic violence just doesn’t matter to the NFL. Or Rice would’ve at minimum received a four-game suspension, and quite possibly longer than that.

That he didn’t, my friends, is just wrong.

MLB’s Refusal to Allow Competitor Pink Bats for Mother’s Day, Breast Cancer Awareness is Shameful

with 4 comments

Folks, regardless of how poor my health is right now, there are some things that make me sit up and take notice.

Take this article from Yahoo Sports’ columnist Jeff Passan, which discusses major league baseball’s stalwart refusal to allow any pink bats with logos on them unless they’ve been acquired from Louisville Slugger itself, which has paid MLB a premium to be the only bat company allowed to put logos on them.

Mind you, the pink bats are to show support for breast cancer awareness, and are to be used this coming Sunday — Mother’s Day.  Players started using pink bats back in 2006 to show their support for their mothers, wives, sisters, etc., who’ve had breast cancer.  And while these bats back in 2006 were made by Louisville Slugger, there was nothing initially in the rules that said players couldn’t use bats made by other makers — which makes perfect sense.

Because this wasn’t supposed to be about the bats.  It’s supposed to be about breast cancer awareness.

As Passan says (from the above-mentioned article):

Raising money for charity is often a painful process, and if a company like Louisville is willing to donate money – more than $500,000 since the inception of the program, it claimed on its Twitter feed – that is a great victory. At the same time, Louisville’s insistence on including the no-label clause for its competitors does more harm to the point of the day – increasing awareness – than its donation does good. The money is simply not worth the aggravation for any of the parties involved, particularly Louisville, which used its Twitter account to spin corporate gobbledygook about all the good it has done.

From a business sense, of course Louisville doesn’t want its competitors putting labeled pink bats in stores and claiming they’re just like the ones major leaguers swung. Then again, for such good friends of cancer research, Louisville seems far more concerned with ensuring a monopoly on that market than painting the batter’s box pink with every bat possible, manufacturer and label be damned.

The main reason this issue has come to a head a day before Mother’s Day (and the usage of the pink breast cancer awareness bats) is because Max Bat sent some pink bats to Minnesota Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nick Markakis (among others).  And when Plouffe found out he wouldn’t be allowed to use his pink breast cancer awareness bat because it has the Max Bat logo prominently displayed (in pink), he quite rightfully got upset and said something on Twitter that he later deleted.  (Mind you, Plouffe was not rude; he was just being honest, and Passan’s article has the screen captures to prove it.)

Look.  This may seem like an extremely obvious thing to say, but here goes: These special pink bats are for breast cancer awareness.  So why should anyone care about what specific company makes them?

Isn’t the fact that Plouffe and Markakis want to honor their mothers, both of whom are breast cancer survivors, by using pink bats in a baseball game far more important than whether or not Max Bat makes their bats?

There is no excuse for MLB to allow corporate greed to rear its ugly head on a day that’s supposed to be about breast cancer awareness.

Which is why as a concerned baseball fan, and as the granddaughter of a breast cancer survivor, I call upon MLB to allow any and all of its players to use whatever regulation pink bats they have — whether they’re Louisville Sluggers or not, whether Louisville Slugger paid for the “exclusive use” of the LS pink bats or not, and whether they have logos prominently displayed or not — in order to support the cause of breast cancer awareness.

Because refusing to do so is not just cowardly.  It’s downright shameful.

Brian Sabean Goes Ballistic re: Posey/Cousins collision; also, a Ben Sheets update

with 2 comments

What on Earth has gotten into Brian Sabean?

Sabean is the General Manager of the San Francisco Giants, and is mad as Hell over the 5/25/11 collision between Florida Marlins catcher Scott Cousins (who was trying to score a run) and Giants catcher Buster Posey (who was trying to block home plate and keep Cousins from scoring).  Posey sustained a serious injury and is now out for the season; for more on his injury, check out this article.

Now, I can understand why Giants fans — and most baseball fans in general — want Buster Posey to play, not see him sitting on the DL with a long-term injury to deal with.  He’s an exciting young player and fans love him.  I also can understand why the Giants, and Sabean in particular, would be angry that Posey was injured, especially as some others, including Mike Matheny, seem to believe that Cousins was most definitely at fault in that collision and that Cousins may well have been trying to injure Posey (even though Cousins insists he wasn’t and has apologized several times; check this article out if you don’t believe me).

But why this sort of incendiary rhetoric, all available at this link?

Sabean did not pull any punches during an interview on KNBR on Thursday, calling Cousins’ targeted hit “malicious” and saying he didn’t blame Posey for refusing to return an apologetic phone call.

“Why not be hard-nosed?” Sabean said. “If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy.”

Asked if perhaps those words were too harsh, Sabean didn’t back down. In fact, he left little doubt that the Giants are bent on getting some on-field vengeance.

“He chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s going to get, pal,” Sabean said. “We’ll have a long memory. Believe me, we’ve talked to (former catcher Mike) Matheny about how this game works. You can’t be that out-and-out overly aggressive. I’ll put it as politically as I can state it: There’s no love lost, and there shouldn’t be.”

Now, the Giants have apologized for Sabean’s comments, which to my mind is way too little, way too late, especially as Cousins has been getting death threats; see this link for details about that.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Joe Torre, who now works for Major League Baseball, wants to talk with Sabean (see this link for details).  Torre is a well-respected former manager and catcher, and knows the game as well as anyone living; Sabean should listen to Torre, who I hope will tell Sabean the equivalent of this:  “Shut up.  Shut up now.  Don’t be any more stupid than you have to be; you’ve already said more than enough as it is.”

Torre telling Sabean off is the best thing to do — but in case Torre’s message doesn’t take, I hope Torre will exercise his authority and suspend Brian Sabean as a fine, no matter how hefty, will not do.  Sabean’s comments should not be tolerated, no matter how frustrated Sabean is, and no matter how much Sabean appreciates Posey’s play (or Posey’s positive effect at the box office).

Now for something completely different, as I’d like to pass along some good news regarding Ben Sheets. 

As previously reported, Sheets had a huge surgery on his elbow last year and his prospects for playing at all in 2011 looked dubious.  While I’m not sure if he will be able to pitch this year, I did find one Web site, here, that says Sheets is rehabbing in Arlington, Texas as of March of this year — and Sheets wouldn’t be rehabbing so seriously if he wasn’t at least going to try to make a comeback ASAP.

Sheets being in Texas makes perfect sense for a wide variety of reasons.  Sheets’ home is in Louisiana, so Texas isn’t all that far away, comparatively; better yet, it’s where his former Milwaukee Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux now makes his home (as the pitching coach for the Rangers, naturally).  It also seems that Sheets is comfortable with the doctors in Texas and that his rehab is proceeding well.

All I can say is this — good for you, Ben, and I truly hope you’ll be like Chris Capuano this time next year.  (As in, you’ve made it all the way back, you’re pitching as well or better than ever, and your second major rehab stint will have gone successfully.)

Narrative fail: why Lauren Froderman from SYTYCD is no “sex bomb.”

with 25 comments

Full disclosure:  I have watched the reality TV program “So You Think You Can Dance” for several years now — since season two.  Which is why I believe an attempted framing of the narrative failed this season.

Lauren Froderman is eighteen years of age, a recent high school graduate, and is from Phoenix, Arizona.  She also is the season seven winner of “So You Think You Can Dance,” and was extolled as “a perfect female dancer” time and time again by Mia Michaels, choreographer and judge.  She also was told again and again by Nigel Lythgoe, executive producer and judge, and Adam Shankman, well-known producer and judge, that she had “become a woman” on the show and was the epitome of sexiness when she danced.  She also was told that she was the “best female dancer” they’ve “ever had on the show” time and time again.

Um, excuse me.  No.  She.  Wasn’t.

Look.  I’ve watched SYTYCD every season since Benji Schwimmer’s year and win (season two), and I know what dancers have been through there.   Alison Holker, one of this year’s All-Stars (dancers from previous seasons who did not win, but impressed the judges, and were brought back to dance with this season’s eleven finalists), was probably the best all-around female dancer they’ve ever had — and she was in season two’s cast.  Other excellent female dancers have included Heidi Groskreutz (season two), Lacey Schwimmer, younger sister of Benji (season three), Chelsie Hightower (season four), Katee Shean (season five), and this season’s Ashley Galvan.  All of them, without fail, were more mature as dancers than Lauren Froderman, and projected more sexuality and sass, perhaps because nearly all of them were older than Lauren Froderman.

This doesn’t mean Lauren Froderman can’t dance.  She can.  She’s very good, but she’s also rather juvenile — she has almost no figure because she’s so young and she’s danced herself to under two percent body fat, no doubt — and she looks like she’s maybe fourteen years of age no matter how much makeup they put on the poor girl.

Now, did she work hard enough to win SYTYCD?  Of course she did.  SYTYCD is brutal, as shown by the fact that two dancers this season came up with severe injuries (Alex Wong, Ashley Galvan) and two more had injuries which, while not season-ending, didn’t help them (Lauren Froderman was injured two or three weeks from the end with a concussion and severe dehydration but danced anyway, while Billy Bell had to take a week off due to a knee problem). 

Lauren Froderman is as deserving as anyone who survived this year’s SYCYTD ; the problem is, why was it that there were no female dancers available who were up to the weight of Alison Holker, Lacey Schwimmer, et. al.?  And why was it, with the exception of Alex Wong and Billy Bell, that so few male dancers were up to the weight of past male contestants such as Travis Wall (runner-up, season 2), Danny Tidwell (runner-up, season 3), Will Wingfield (season four), or Ade Obayomi (season five), one of this year’s All-Stars?

The main problem I had with this year’s SYTYCD was the blatant manipulation by the judges Lythgoe, Michaels and Shankman.  We knew from the first they wanted Alex Wong, which didn’t bother me so much as he was excellent; then after he was injured, they hitched their wagon to Kent Boyd, who was charming and likable but also extremely young at eighteen years of age, but they obviously were also rooting for Lauren — especially as she was the only female contestant left standing around the top seven dancer mark. 

I don’t mind rooting, but I do mind blatant favoritism, and it gets old to hear “you are everything,” as Michaels said over and over again.  Because when that’s all a judge can say, it means someone isn’t doing their job to give constructive critiques to help these young dancers —  it means instead that someone is attempting to frame the narrative.

At any rate, Lauren Froderman is a very good, highly competent dancer.  She’s not great at ballroom, but she was good at everything, and was exceptional in her own specialty, contemporary dancing.  (AKA “fall, roll, fall, flail.”  That’s all it looks like to the uninitiated.)  She didn’t need the judges to tell her she was the sexiest woman who ever walked, or need the judges to tell her that her butt was the best part of the season (this happened again and again) — all she needed was for the judges to praise her dancing for its consistency, not all that other stuff.

I consider what judges Lythgoe, Michaels and Shankman did in extolling thin-as-a-board Lauren Froderman as the epitome of female sexuality a failure to frame the narrative, because while Lauren Froderman was a deserving winner, she did not exude sexuality or maturity as a dancer — she’s far too young for any of that — and the judges telling her that she did was a major disservice to the poor girl.

One final thought on this subject.   Season Three’s winner was a gal named Sabra Johnson, who was spunky and cute and a good dancer in a wide variety of styles.  But she hasn’t made a mark on the dance world since then, partly because she probably won too early in her development.   It’s possible Sabra listened to the hype, which was similar to the hype Lauren has been dealing with for the past several weeks — it’s also possible that Sabra’s development as an artist stopped because the competition messed with her head.  (As a former competitive musician, I understand this aspect.)  I can only hope that Lauren will realize as she matures that SYTYCD is only part of her life, part of her eventual career, and come to a more realistic self-image: that of an outstanding dancer, but one on the spunky and cute side rather than a “sex bomb” like Anya Garnis (yet another of this season’s All-Stars, from season four).

— Note: Dancers are athletes.  Even Gatorade has recognized this.  Which is why this post ended up in sports figures and sports marketing as well as the others.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 13, 2010 at 3:14 am

Framing Your Own Narrative — or, why LeBron James’ “The Decision” ESPN Program Failed.

with 2 comments

We writers know all about the dangers of framing our own narrative.  Sometimes, our best assumptions regarding plot, characters and story just do not work.   And that is exactly why LeBron James needed a writer/editor in his entourage, to keep him from making his disastrous mistake in coming up with his recent one-hour ESPN special entitled “The Decision.”

As most know, LeBron James is a highly paid athlete.  He is from Ohio, and he’d played for his hometown NBA team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, since he was drafted out of high school.  He is now twenty-five, and he’s been told for years how good he is, how kind and generous he is, and how he may even be the best player the NBA has ever had.  (A debatable assumption, one I do not agree with.)  And he’s been highly marketable, even likable — the best liked player in the NBA in many senses, someone who had fans throughout the country and possibly even the world due to his play on the court and his generous nature outside of basketball.

So perhaps it’s more understandable that LeBron James would think it was OK to announce his decision on where he’s going to play basketball next year on national television in a live special that was aired on ESPN.  All the revenue from his one-hour program was given to charity, something James and his people requested and ESPN agreed to do.  James was even allowed to pick his own interviewer, Jim Gray, something unprecedented in the history of sports journalism to the best of my knowledge.

Note that LeBron James, at this point, had not announced his decision, which is why the program became entitled “The Decision.”  (I know it’s basic, but humor me, please.)  And James figured that no one would get upset with him when he announced that he was going to play for the Miami Heat alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (Wade is a perennial All-Star and Bosh is just under that caliber) — James only saw what he wanted to see, and nothing more.  His plot, story and characters were all laid out — and yet what was the outcome?

As ESPN ombudsman and former NBC Sports executive Don Ohlmeyer put it here http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=ohlmeyer_don&id=5397113 :

It was billed without irony as “The Decision.” But for those who thought ESPN could agree to televise live LeBron James’ announcement that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat — ultimately served up with ample hype in the form of an awkward, uncomfortable, staged one-hour network special — and still be free from public controversy, it might as well have been called “The Delusion.”

As has been well documented, Team LeBron proposed the exclusive special to ESPN with the following conditions: (1) Veteran broadcaster Jim Gray, who has no current association with ESPN, would host the segment in which James announced his plans; (2) The network would yield the hour of advertising inventory to be sold by James’ team with the proceeds directed to the Boys & Girls Club of America; (3) The network would produce the entire show and pay for all production costs.

And Ohlmeyer’s column goes on to quote many journalists who were very upset at James’s action (along with ESPN’s questionable ethics in televising it), some of whom I’m going to quote below:

David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun: “ESPN led the way Thursday night in some of the most debased sports coverage I can remember seeing. The hype was shameless, the lack of perspective colossal.”

David Barron, Houston Chronicle: “LeBron James hijacked ESPN, selling the network on an hour-long glorified infomercial preceded by three hours of breathless hype and numbing repetition.”

Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News: “The truth is, how does anyone believe anything else ESPN reports about James from this point forward?”

Now, obviously, this isn’t what James had expected.  Nor was it what most of the people at ESPN had expected, with the possible exception of Mr. Ohlmeyer (who, if he’d been asked, would’ve given an immediate thumbs-down to the whole charade).  But it’s what James should’ve expected!

Listen.  Cleveland is an economically devastated area.  They don’t have too much to cheer about, and being able to cheer for a native son who happens to be an exceptionally gifted at the game of basketball playing for the Cavaliers was one of the most hopeful things many Ohioans had to look forward to, bar none.

What James did in framing his own narrative is to forget about the external factors going on all around him — the bleak hopelessness.  The utter despair.  The futility of an area that has a 9.5% unemployment rate as of June 2010 according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, the most recent statistics available.

Note by any objective standard, by someone who wasn’t surrounded by “Yes Men,” this narrative — someone who’d grown up in Akron, OH, leaving his hometown team for the bright lights and big city of Miami, FL — would be a non-starter.  And by any objective standard, James’ decision would’ve been made quietly and privately as most NBA player decisions are (no one really cared where former Milwaukee Bucks guard Luke Ridenour went, for example, though Ridenour was an essential cog in the Milwaukee Bucks’ surprising playoff run earlier this year)**, which means some of the criticism being leveled at James now wouldn’t have happened.

I’m sure it’s not really fun for LeBron James, a man with an enormous ego, to hear from NBA analyst and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, this (from http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=5391478):

“There would have been something honorable about staying in Cleveland and trying to win it as ‘The Man’ … LeBron, if he would’ve in Cleveland, and if he could’ve got a championship there, it would have been over the top for his legacy, just one in Cleveland. No matter how many he wins in Miami, it clearly is Dwyane Wade’s team.”

Or, how about this from Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a Lakers standout for many years, and also a Hall of Famer, who said this to Bloomberg News reporter Barry Rothbard:

Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson said he never would have joined with Larry Bird to win a championship the way LeBron James is teaming with Dwyane Wade(notes). […]

“We didn’t think about it cause that’s not what we were about,” said Johnson, whose Michigan State squad beat Bird’s Indiana State team in the 1979 National Collegiate Athletic Association championship. “From college, I was trying to figure out how to beat Larry Bird.”

Or how about Michael Jordan himself, who said this at http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=5391478 :

“There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry [Bird], called up Magic [Johnson] and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team,'” Jordan said after playing in a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada. The interview aired on the NBC telecast of the event. “But that’s … things are different. I can’t say that’s a bad thing. It’s an opportunity these kids have today. In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys.”

In other words, LeBron James’ attempt to frame the narrative failed with his own peers or at least those he truly wants, some day, to be among — Hall of Fame caliber players.  They saw this as a sell-out, in short — they saw this as a player who’d proven he wasn’t enough to win with a good supporting cast around him take the easy way out and join a team with two other superstars in order to win a championship — something most of them would not have countenanced under any circumstances.

So we see what’s happened in retrospect: James’ “story” has taken a marked detour.  From a beloved near-demigod playing for his hometown team, James has become a carpetbagging, narcissistic athlete who will do whatever he wants for fortune and glory — something which should be a cautionary tale to us all.

The moral of this tale, if there is one, would be for James to run his decisions by someone who is outside himself and outside his circle of “Yes Men,” for the same reason fiction writers have first readers.  Because someone who could’ve told him, “No, you don’t do this if you want your fans to still love you,” and “No, you definitely don’t go on ESPN in order to announce you’re leaving economically depressed Cleveland for Miami” would’ve saved James an inordinate amount of grief.

—–

** Note:  Ridenour went to the Minnesota Timberwolves this off-season, quietly and without fanfare.

Written by Barb Caffrey

July 25, 2010 at 4:27 am