by Frank LoBuono
LeBron James. Carmelo Anthony. Are they household names? If they weren’t before, they sure as hell may be now. They are superstar basketball players who, after months of speculation, signed mega deals with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks last week. The suspense, aided by almost nightly reports on their potential signings, made the anticipation palpable. The signings of Anthony and James were so important that it was reported not only within the nightly sportscast but was actually deemed significant enough to interrupt the regular nightly newscasts! Really? Yes, really. Oh, the DRAMA!
James, widely considered the best player in the game, returned to his roots, Cleveland, Ohio. Perhaps, you may recall that a similar situation occurred four years ago when he left Cleveland to play for the Miami Heat. The media, lead by ESPN, built the suspense of his signing to epic proportions. It included a disastrous press conference when James uttered the now infamous line, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach”. Apparently, for the right money, his talent will play out just fine in Ohio, beach or no beach. Anthony, one of the league’s top scorers is a native New Yorker who has professed a desire to be part of bringing an NBA championship to New York. I’m sure that both men have the best intentions and money played no part in their final decision. And if you believe that, I have a few NYC bridges to sell you.
However, it is not the money that galls me, it’s the hype. In today’s sports world, athletes are paid what the market can bear. In the case of these two players, their skills, at least in the minds of their respective teams, are worth the money. Otherwise, they would not have gone to such great lengths to sign them. However, the HYPE is another matter. Being in the business, I know how difficult it can be to fill a 24- hour cycle. It’s hard so it tends to get filled up with crap. And this is just another example. They even have a name for it: HYPERBOLE. If you were to believe the news/sportscasters the moves made by James and Anthony were the most important decisions of the year, perhaps even on the level of releasing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay. No, really.
Sport is big business. Owners make big money. Coaches make big money. Players make big money. And big money is big news. But let’s put it in perspective. One anchor from a major news network called the James decision to return to Cleveland “the answer the whole world was waiting for”. Really? The whole world? With everything going on at our borders and in the Middle East, the whole world is waiting? Get real!
Both men said that it’s not about the money. It’s about “winning” or “community”. Well, that may be the case but neither man is signing for nothing! Both signed for MILLIONS – more than you or I could ever imagine earning. In fact, pundits are saying that the contract signed by James is one of the best in all sport today. So, THERE’S your community; a community made of millions – of dollars, that is!
The long suffering city of Cleveland, the so-called “mistake by the lake,” rejoiced as if the second coming had happened. For many, it did. But is this city really that lacking in cultural, community, and civic pride to hail the signing of a basketball player as THEY answer? Really? There were ecstatic street celebrations. Fans cheered James’ new found maturity. They were all willing to forget the transgressions of the previous episode.There were “live” reports on virtually every major network in front of the arena where the Cavaliers play. Today, days after the signing, the story is still making headlines. Really? Cleveland? Is THAT little happening there that you need LeBron to save you? He will raise the team AND the city from the level of mediocrity they seem to be suffering from?
In contrast, New York, the greatest city in the world, reacted positively (mostly) with strong coverage. However, it did not see “Melo” beyond his role as a basketball player. In fact, some expressed displeasure with the signing. The coverage certainly did not raise Anthony to the level of savior as Cleveland did with James. But I suppose that goes with the territory; New York is, well, The Big Apple, with all the cultural and civic activities any one place can offer. Cleveland is still looking for an identity beyond “The Mistake on the Lake”.
I mean this as no insult to the people of Cleveland. I hear it’s actually a sweet, little city. However, to elevate any individual, especially someone from the world of sports, to the level of a messiah is just plain lame. I also get the premise that a team can raise a city. It has happened before and it can happen again. However, in the end, it’s still a matter of perspective.
Frank LoBuono has lived in Nyack for over 30 years writing and covering Rockland County in print, on TV and online. He works as a cameraman and an editor for a major TV News organization. You can read his blog at Talk-Frank.blogspot.com.