By Wendell P. Simpson
The LeBron James fiasco unfolded like an episode of the Jerry Springer Show with the former Cavs star/savior as both ringmaster and featured circus act.
This story about unrequited love and betrayal in Cleveland, is a prurient, lustful and sensational scenario in which Prince Charming is accused of being the ungrateful frog who turns his back on the old and decaying, but humble and worthy burnout of a hag that is The Mistake On The Lake and its crappy sports teams; and where the incestuous lust of a stage full of ‘family’ (read ‘fans’) boils over into abject rage.
First we have LeBron himself, who stages a media orgy called ‘The Decision’ in which he games an entire country focused on all the wrong stuff—including the sports pundits who are supposed to be so friggin’ knowledgeable—into making his story the Big One. And James played them all like Hendrix on a Stratocaster guitar; according to NBA insiders in the know, James decision to defect to Miami was made a long, long time ago in a head space far, far away.
Then jilted Cavs owner Dan Gilbert throws a fulminating public tantrum, a histrionic worthy of Joan Crawford, characterizing James as an apostate, a traitor and a cowardly narcissist who slummed his way through his tenure in Cleveland. That tirade drew a penalty of $100,000 from NBA Commissioner David Stern, and the ire of Jesse Jackson. The good Reb’ern compared Gilbert’s behavior to that of a slave master whose most prized field hand had escaped the plantation.
Then Jason Whitlock, the syndicated apologist for everything institutional, corporate and white castigated Jesse for racializing the affair, which sent the discourse further down the drain and into the toilet. And finally, there was the burning of James’ jerseys in effigy, the rueful wailing and vitriolic denunciations by Cleveland fans and the typical cadre of white blogger commentators and their ilk who decry and defame everything a black athlete does, and who believe that black sports players (and regular black folk, for that matter) have an obligation to show gratitude to entities that do not always behave in a way that recognizes how loyalty is a two-way street.
And on and on it went, ad infinitum, ad nauseum…
Here’s the bottom line: during a week where 17 people died in another Chinese landslide; where Louisiana Republican senator David Vitter comes out in favor of ‘birther’ lawsuits; where polls show the majority of Americans have lost all faith in President Barack Obama; and where the flim-flam men at BP hope their latest hat trick will do the trick in capping its epic catastrophe in the Gulf (yeah, ya’ll. The spill is still gushing), in the overall scheme of things, Lebron’s story is less than a pebble drop in an ocean of spectacular, life changing and historic issues. So screw LeBron James and his staged confessional and the Great Sports Hype Machine that burnt up any time at all on this story.
And, in the tradition of Jerry Springer’s ‘Final Thought”, I’ll just add this: what I originally intended to write in this space was a piece demonstrating how shows like Springer and Maury Povich, et al, were representative of an American society gone mad. As part of the research I asked a few friends to weigh in with their opinions of this television iconography. One describe it as a symbol of the beginning of the end of civilization and a sign that the apocalypse is indeed upon us; another suggested that people will chase down their 15 minutes of fame, no matter what the cost to their image or their soul; still another suggested that these shows are a perverse work of voyeurism, a look inside the tacky dysfunction of a messed up, discombobulated proletariat class.
Well, frankly, I think the fascination with James proves that they’re all right, that we are a self-indulged, self-important nation of voyeuristic self-aggrandizers whose obsession with all the wrong crap will ultimately doom us to irrelevance and redundancy.
And on that note, remember to take care of yourselves—and each other…