Last night was a trip straight to the roundball circus.
ESPN's one-hour LeBron James "The Decision" special was so absurdly ridiculous, so over the top, that it was hard to keep a straight face during the show. The joke was on all of us, though, because none of us will ever get back the 30 or so minutes we spent waiting to see where LeBron was going to end up. Nope, those minutes are gone forever.
Along with ESPN's promise that we'd know within 10-15 minutes of the start of the program.
The least ESPN could have done was employ someone to point out the absurdity of the television special airing on its network.
Instead, ESPN played it completely straight -- a tone-deaf network running on relevancy fumes -- as if LeBron James were about to walk out and give a State of the Union address or announce his vice-presidential running mate. Indeed, when you get right down to it, this event was staged just like a presidential address on a matter of incredible national importance. The Gulf oil spill meets the King's coronation.
ESPN used to be about bringing the fun of sports to your living room. Now the network takes itself so seriously that intelligent sports fans are often left slack-jawed, astounded at the seriousness with which a sports network covers the events that we watch to escape from the serious things in our life.
1. It took 29 minutes for LeBron to announce his decision.
Including four commercial breaks.
Were you like me, sitting on your couch cursing the fact that you'd missed the ability to watch an entire episode of a show you actually watched on your DVR?
I knew it was going to drag on, but nearly a half hour, really?
2. Greenwich, Conn., has a Boys and Girls Club.
Money magazine called Greenwich the richest community in America. In 2007, the median income for a family in Greenwich was $169,000 a year.
What's a disadvantaged kid in Greenwich? Only one of their parents is a doctor.
So, given the Kabuki theater nature of the entire process, the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club was the perfect location.
3. ESPN treated us as if we didn't know who LeBron is.
How many needless highlight clips did we receive of King James?
I counted at least five.
Which was so helpful. Because clearly everyone who had tuned in to see the team LeBron picked had no clue what LeBron had been doing for the past seven years.
Or the past two months since his NBA season ended.
James has always been anonymous and under the national radar when it comes to attention. Thank God, ESPN was here to inform us of his past.
4. Worst graphic of the night: LeBron in the five jerseys of the teams that believed they had a shot with him.
Seriously, this is part of the special?
Photoshopping LeBron into the different teams jerseys so we'd know what he looked like in them?
Was there anyone out there who lacked the mental capacity to picture LeBron in their team's jersey?
I wanted to shoot my television when this graphic came on.
5. The amount of predicting where LeBron was going to go.
I understand the value in having your reporters acknowledge their sources and make predictions when you have 24 hours of programming to fill.
But do you really need to turn to the panel of ESPN reporters and ask for their predictions when the entire premise of the show is actually finding out where LeBron is going to go?
The time for predictions was over. This should have been about actually finding out the results. Maybe, just maybe, you ask once. But five times?
6. Stuart Scott should be fired.
Screw LeBron's salary; how does Stuart Scott have a job?
Did anyone else expect him to attempt a chest bump of the television screen when he finally got to "interview" LeBron?
If there's any one person that is a perfect representation of the awfulness that has become ESPN, it's Stuart Scott. From his old man hipness, to his exaggerated bonhomie with the players, to his absolute unwillingness to realize what a caricature of a legitimate journalist he is, Scott represents everything that is wrong with ESPN.
What's more, I've been watching Stuart Scott for a decade and I've never heard anyone, anywhere admit to liking him.
Being polarizing is fine when you're an opinion-maker, but he's not, he's the host, the pivot that is supposed to allow others to present their opinions.
Put it this way, how many people hate Mike Tirico with every fiber of their being?
Hardly anyone, right?
That's because Tirico is actually good at what he does.
During this entire monstrosity I kept wondering why ESPN hadn't put someone who would realize how ridiculous the situation was and make fun it. Say, Scott Van Pelt. Or what Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick would have done back in the day.
You know, when sports was still fun.
Whenever ESPN decides to remake itself, firing Stuart Scott should be the first move.
7. Jim Gray's asking of questions other than the one everyone wanted.
We finally get to LeBron and then Gray drags on his question with questions about how the decision was made before we actually know what the decision was.
Why not go straight to the money question and then follow-up?
Wouldn't this have been the decent thing to do given that we were already well over 20 minutes in?
Otherwise, the questions lack punch.
When did LeBron make up his mind? How many people knew? One hand or two hands? Was he still biting his fingernails? All of these things are fine, but they're follow-up questions to the one that everyone actually wanted to know.
8. LeBron wearing boat shoes and acknowledging how "humbling" the entire experience had been.
A one-hour special that has never occurred in the history of professional athletics is humbling?
9. LeBron announcing for "South Beach."
Has any player ever announced for a particular neighborhood in a city before?
I loved this.
Because it was the ultimate slip, a sign that not only had Cleveland lost out, it had ultimately lost out to the glitz and glamor of a lifestyle that LeBron claimed he was above.
The Heat don't even play in South Beach.
It's the equivalent of a player announcing for Los Angeles by saying, "Hollywood."
Those two words told us more about LeBron than anything. After years of thinking about it, LeBron didn't even have the decency to announce for a team or a city, he chose a neighborhood.
10. What is the value of LeBron's $30 million Akron mansion today?
A mansion, by the way, that features bas relief statues of James playing basketball.
If ESPN wanted to actually be entertaining and nod toward the absurdity of its telecast, it would have cut to an economics expert discussing how much LeBron's house would sell for if he put it on the market tomorrow.
Perhaps interviewed several Ohioans and asked what they would give for it.
Instead, we got Stuart Scott chest-bumping the teleprompter.
11. Alas, poor Ohio, I knew him, LeBron.
Does anyone else think the state of Ohio needs to retire from competing with all southern locales?
Jobs, championships, weather, the state of Ohio is always going to lose, the perpetual Charlie Brown to the south's Lucy.
This was just the latest version of Florida owning the state of Ohio.
It's become painful to watch.
12. LeBron's brand took a major hit.
If you're so interested in building your brand, why turn off millions, as LeBron did, by the way you picked a neighborhood to play for?
I'm not sure who is advising LeBron, but we have an athlete taking much less money to try and win a championship. Spun correctly, that's a unique story that flies in the face of the argument that modern-day athletes are all about the money.
Instead of making his decision on Twitter or his website, LeBron proved that while he may not be all about the money, he is all about the attention.
How much more attention could an athlete receive than LeBron has received in the past two months, or since he left high school for the NBA?
The moment he made his announcement, I turned off the television. I knew where LeBron was going, but I cared much less about him as a player than I did when he walked off the court in May.
In fact, LeBron did the impossible, he made Kobe Bryant seem down-to-earth.
Maybe that's the ultimate takeaway here, I always thought there was a bit of a wink and a nod with the King James nickname, an acknowledgment of how ridiculous it was.
King James is the most popular translation of the Bible, the method by which we all understood the tenets of Christianity. In calling himself King James, LeBron offered a metaphorical translation of basketball's mysteries, nirvana on the court. It was a grossly exaggerated name, a nickname so absurd that he had to be in on the joke, right?
On Thursday night, we found out the answer.
He thinks he's King James.
So does ESPN.
The ultimate joke is on the fans, like you and I, who cared enough to watch.
LeBron's laughing all the way to South Beach, where Stuart Scott will meet him in the shade of the palm tree with a chest bump and a pina colada.
It all makes me want to smother myself with the cooler side of the pillow.