Joe-Pinions: Sports

12 July 2010 – Random Musings from the Weekend

Posted in Basketball, Cycling, Formula 1 by txtmstrjoe on 12/07/2010

  • Here it is, four days removed from the end of LeBron James’ free agency, and I’m still flabbergasted and annoyed with how cynical and farcical and completely unnecessary the whole affair was.
  • I don’t have a problem with Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh coming together in Miami, or whether or not they have had a years-long conspiracy to eventually do this (the Cleveland Plain Dealer suggested that the threesome hatched the plan as long-ago as 2006).  I DO have a huge problem with how LeBron James parlayed his free agency into the most desperate grab for universal attention imaginable, as well as ESPN’s decision to shred the very last vestiges of its image as a reputable “sports journalism” entity to further enable James.
  • LeBron James’ stunt revealed the very worst aspects of his character, in my opinion.  I have always seen him as arrogant to a fault – I’ve been watching this guy ever since ESPN first told of his exploits as a high school basketball phenom in Ohio; his hubris, however, went up and beyond the exosphere when he and his cohorts sanctioned “The Decision,” which was, quite frankly, the most distasteful public ball washing of any celebrity, superstar athlete, or any other figure of prominence that I can ever remember.
  • All “The Decision” did was expose LeBron James’ as someone with a massively underfed ego.  Whatever illusions there were that he is a likeable person were destroyed in an hourlong special intended to enhance the LeBron James brand.  Whatever soul the person may have possessed was sacrificed to the altar of the pursuit of the almighty dollar, immolated beyond all redemption.
  • Jim Gray‘s role in “The Decision” proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he has absolutely no credibility as a journalist left in his entire being whatsoever.  As an aside, was there ever a time when Jim Gray was a good sports journalist?  As with Jeremy Schaap, I find his work and his style to be totally devoid of professionalism nor understanding for the principles of journalism (at least, the principles that I had been exposed to, to whatever degree, when I was in college).
  • Speaking of “The Decision,” why did it take almost eight minutes into the program proper (not counting the fluff intro piece with that insufferable talking head Stuart Scott and his cast of muppets, Chris Broussard, Jon Barry, and Michael Wilbon) before Jim Gray asked the one question anybody cared about?  Instead of increasing the drama, all it did was expose the entire episode as a horribly contrived, hopelessly narcisstic co-exploitive play by LeBron James (and the company of buffoons advising him) and ESPN.
  • ESPN has been nothing more than a promotional vehicle for certain chosen athletes, sports and organizations.  Where in their history they used to broadcast with professionalism and with a certain respect for the craft of journalism (where spreading truthful information was the aim), these days they resort to flash, spectacle, slant, and selectiveness when it comes to who they want to cover.  
  • If it ain’t flashy or trashy, it ain’t gonna make it on SportsCenter.  If it casts any of their sacred cows (such as Michael Jordan’s alleged gambling addiction or Ben Roethlisberger’s reputed penchant for sexual mischief, for example) in a negative light and is front-page, red-letter headline news on other sports-oriented media, it may not be on SportsCenter at all, unless the public outcry is enough to force ESPN to mention such incidents in passing.  
  • Do you think I’m the only one decrying ESPN’s descent into the abyss as a credible sports news agency?  See what The Rock Report has to say about “The Decision”:

“The Decision” was by far the most embarrassing example of how ESPN has turned away from the roots of sports journalism.  How does a simple:  “In this fall, this is very tough, in this fall I am going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”  have to take a hour in the first place?

Now for some other sports-related thoughts from over the weekend:

  • Lance Armstrong had a disastrous Stage 8 – actually, a rather dreadful first week – in the Tour de France.  Stage 8 practically destroyed the cycling great’s drive for eight Tour victories.  Unless his major competitors (Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans, etc.) all run into major catastrophies themselves, it’s virtually impossible for Lance to recover the time lost in various spots of terrible luck.  If you’ve missed Tour coverage on TV, or if you simply want THE BEST TdF writeups around, make sure you read the armchair sports fan‘s excellent recaps.
  • Spain won its very first FIFA World Cup.  Strangely, the entire tournament failed to inspire me, which is the first time it has ever happened.  I enjoy the World Cup, but I couldn’t find the motivation to watch this particular tournament.
  • Mark Webber won the British Grand Prix yesterday.  The victory came amidst a raging controversy within his Red Bull Racing team, where the Australian accused his team of favoring his German teammate, Sebastian Vettel.
  • Red Bull had only two of a special front wing and fitted one to each of its cars on Saturday.  The new front wing apparently was a small but noticeable enhancement to the Red Bull-Renaults.  The team’s problems started when Sebastian Vettel broke his new front wing during Free Practice 3, which immediately precedes Qualifying.  Instead of fitting one of the older front wings to his car, Red Bull instead pulls Webber’s from his, effectively dealing the Austrian a double whammy.  Not only did he lose a performance advantage, but that very same advantage was now being used directly against him.
  • I used to think of Mark Webber as being a bit overrated as a driver, with a touch of the hooligan thrown in.  What I mean by him being a bit of a hooligan is that sometimes Webber’s defensive tactics tend to be a bit risky.  Weaving while trying to stay in front of your rival is one thing; weaving AT your rival when he’s got part of his car next to yours is not what I would consider a legitimate tactic.  
  • But back to me thinking Webber was overrated:  I’m now ready to shed that tag that I hung on him.  His performances over the last two and a half seasons have convinced me that he has matured into one of Formula One’s current best.  He may not have absolute top-drawer driving talent like Lewis Hamilton does (or Sebastian Vettel, to a bit smaller extent), but he definitely has honed and sharpened his abilities to the max.  I think of him as a super-developed version of someone like Damon Hill or David Coulthard, although I feel that Webber does have a bit more natural ability than Hill did.  
  • I certainly have always appreciated Mark Webber’s no-BS approach to his racing.  He strikes me as someone absolutely honest and forthright, completely unafraid of speaking his mind and even sometimes doing so to the horror of his team and its backers.  He’s very much an old-school racer in this regard, a reminder of the great old days of Lauda and Keke Rosberg.
  • Final note:  Derek Fisher is returning to the Los Angeles Lakers.  As the great man himself said, “Let the hunt for six begin.”

One Response

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  1. Beate Oera-Roderick said, on 15/07/2010 at 07:35

    It’s hard not to be utterly delighted for Webber, especially after the latest demotion. The more Red Bull want Webber to win, the more I find myself rooting for Webber, and I have a feeling I’m not alone.

    Good summary!

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