Jul 9, 2010

Yesterday, I wrote that I didn’t think there would be any winners in the proposed hour long show describing Lebron James’ free agency decision.

Being right has never made me feel so miserable.

Congratulations ESPN, you got me.  Me and the other 4 or 5 million people (i’m guessing) that watched the 73 minute spectacle known as “The Decision”.  An event that should have taken 5 minutes, or that maybe should have been accomplished in 140 characters (ala Kevin Durant via Twitter), ended up consisting of a montage of Lebron regular season highlights, re-hashed discussion by ESPN roundtable Scott, Wilbon, Barry, and Broussard, photoshop, and various commercials from Bing, Vitamin Water and the like.

And that was the first 22 minutes.

Of course, that went completely in the face of what ESPN head Norby Williamson had promised us; a decision with the first 10-15 minutes followed by 45 minutes of analysis and interview.  Although after seeing what began in minute 22, I was kind of longing for the Lebron James NBA team photoshop montage I had seen a few minutes earlier.

Enter Jim Gray.

I’m not sure how many questions Jim Gray asked, in part because I was watching the television in disbelief.  I simply couldn’t understand not only why Lebron was getting questions reserved for a high school athlete (“Are you still a nail-biter?”), but why there were so many of them.  Wasn’t he here to discuss his decision regarding his free agency?  Wouldn’t Gray have been able to ask more pressing and poignant questions if we all knew Lebron’s answer first instead of a piling on to a build-up which had been created weeks if not years ago?

Apparently not.

But eventually, we did learn of Lebron’s decision;  The Miami Heat (side note: the most interesting part of the show had to be Wilbon’s interview with Wilbon and Lebron being able to see Cleveland fans burning James’ Cavaliers jersey).  Of  course, a large majority of those watching weren’t completely surprised, since ESPN’s Chris Broussard had been correctly citing “independent sources” for the past few days regarding James’ decision and the ESPN/James partnership (it always will be impressive that Broussard had to rely on independent sources to confirm a show on his own network).  Scooping your network before their “scoop revealing” show, in which you are part of a roundtable of speakers.

ESPN conflict of interest quagmire complete.

Sure, some scholarships were given out via the University of Phoenix, and the Boys and Girls clubs of America (in the cities that were vying for Lebron’s attentions, no less) will reportedly receive $2.5 M dollars from the event.  But at the end of the day, was it worth it?  Did anyone come off in a positive light?  Lebron — who still came off as narcissist, especially with his 3rd person references to himself, ESPN — who either planned or agreed to an hour long format full of drivel for a 35 second statement, while simultaneously preventing their own employees from doing their job (or leaving them in the dark), The Sponsors — who seemed out of place (scholarships aside…University of Phoenix? really? Where did they even find the money?) or just a financial backer for a markedly arrogant endeavor, or Jim Gray — who was finally able to ascertain the answer to the years long debate; whether or not Lebron still bites his nails?

No…they didn’t.

Like I said earlier. You got me ESPN. Fooled me once, shame on me.

It won’t happen again.

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