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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lebron James and The Pillaging and Plundering of Cleveland’s Soul

(the following article was refused by the Cleveland Plain Dealer)

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.  It’s a different kind of place from the rest of the country in my mind.  Two things are ingrained in the people who work and live there that are not found in too many places in America: a sense of fairness and a sense of respect. I worked in a steel mill in Eastern Ohio one summer while going to undergraduate school with every color, ideology, and creed but the dirt, the sweat, the pollution and the pain knew no color or race.  These were hard working men like my dad and so many who built this great nation with steel made on machines borne in the early 1900’s for companies who would not modernize. These men kept the steel production going as long as they could on such inferior equipment and then watched as their retirement plans and pensions were destroyed by these companies whom they had given everything to.

There was no respect paid to the men and their families by the companies or the government who allowed such plundering to occur. These men labored in these mills under extreme poisonous environmental conditions, their lives cut short by many of the carcinogens which they took in during their working years.  I have the greatest respect for the people of these areas because they encompass the best of America.

Now a different type of psychological plundering, pillaging and disrespect has taken hold in Cleveland-The Lebron James Fiasco sponsored by David Stern and the NBA and brought to you by ESPN and rest of the sporting world. What occurred with Lebron James’ signing with the Miami Heat can only be described as a disgrace on a monumental scale.  The sad part is the number of cities, networks and so called “journalists” that participated in this Dog and Pony Show all at the expense of one city----Cleveland. ESPN has been criticized before for their cozy relationships with athletes where ESPN ends up being part of the news rather than reporting the news.

The aftermath of this spectacle includes an owner, who probably went overboard in his criticisms of James, a commissioner in Davis Stern that is clueless to what has just transpired, and another bad mark on sports and sports journalism in America and a city, Cleveland who just had their soul ripped from their bodies.

James has right to go anywhere he wants to play basketball including Miami with his friends.  The criticism of him “tanking” or “choking” in this year’s playoffs against Boston are groundless.  What probably did happen however, that no one wants to talk about and it’s observable for the last two years is that James’ legs went!  Yes, I know you will never hear this from the so called “pundits” on the NBA or ESPN because they build all of these stars into “Supermen” and unfortunately, the fans and often the players themselves believe it.  As a biologist and one who played a lot basketball over the years it doesn’t take an anatomist and physiologist to look at James’ highly muscular physique which is partially genetic and partially due to his workout regime to see that such muscles require a tremendous amount of oxygen and because James handles the ball so much he expends an enormous amount of energy. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if you are only twenty-five years old you only have so many games in your legs and your body each year especially at such a high level of competition. What most of the experts failed to pick up while watching these games was that Boston made James work really hard to get many of his shots. In those games James’ shots were often flat and his quickness diminished a normal sign of leg and muscle fatigue.  Was this the point where James realized he couldn’t win because he needed a lot more help to get to a championship level because he didn’t have enough left in his body to carry the team? James will most likely never admit that he didn’t have enough left in the tank because that would diminish his stature as one of the Supermen of the NBA but a close look at his mechanics and shots in the late rounds of the playoffs appear to tell a different story.

But what will diminish his fame and reputation no matter how many championships he wins in Miami or elsewhere is the manner of his leaving Cleveland not the fact that he left.  There is arrogance in recent years in among athletes in Professional American Sports that puts them above the game they are part of, and unfortunately it appears mainly in black athletes.  This is something that seriously needs addressed but I doubt if Stern or anyone in the major sports will take it on until it’s too late. James basically held “A Jesters Court.”  Unfortunately, for Cleveland they were the butt of the joke, intentional or unintentional-- it doesn’t matter.  Stern allowed this spectacle to happen but it’s reflection on the NBA is that their character is forever ruined.  No one should be above the game itself.  No one should be allowed to insult your former employer and in this case the fans that supported James.  Has anyone in the history of sports ever seen anything like this circus?  No! The egos involved here is one of the things that’s wrong with sports in America today.  Did Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Jim Brown, Michael Jordon, Clyde Frazier, Mickey Mantle or any of the greatest athletes who have played sports pull a stunt like this?  The argument that these are different times is nonsense.  This was a classless act and lack of sportsmanship on the part of James and his cohorts.  They all put their egos, and self gratification above the game they played and the athletes in all sports that had come before them.  James disrespected the city of Cleveland and the fans who embraced him. James’ lack of sense of fairness in how this should have been done is astounding and those who advised him on this did not have his, Cleveland’s, or the NBA’s best interest in mind.  The people, city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio who are hard working deserve more respect than that and so did the NBA.  Instead they got the absolute worst possible scenario carried and promoted by ESPN and the sports world for a few extra bucks!   When James is 45 instead of 25 he will look back on this day in sadness.  You play the game whether it’s on an outdoor play ground as kid or at the NBA level to get the respect and fairness you don’t always find in everyday life.  But James forgot those principles and instead failed to do the same for the city and team that allowed him to play the game!

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