With LeBron James announcement, ESPN goes the route of E!
There were film clips and competing outfits, predictions and a lot of breathless hyperbole. There were swinging transition graphics, nerve-jangling theme music, there was even a magic map. Frankly, all that was missing from “The Decision,” ESPN’s utterly nutso crazy hour-long coverage of LeBron James’ announcement of what team he will play for next year, was Ryan Seacrest.
Fifteen minutes in and still no word from “the King” (somewhere Lisa Marie Presley wept, and speed-dialed her lawyer), although we were given a chance to watch him live, sitting in a chair, a feat host Stuart Scott seemed to find downright astonishing. “There he is,” Scott said, his heartbeat all but visible through his shirt, “the King, in person.”
“This is like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” Scott said, and I’d add "you could say that again," except that he did. Again and again and again, apparently oblivious to the fact that what we've never seen before is starry-eyed sports analysts acting like they've never met a sports star before. The real reason the NBA is never going to be the same has much less to do with James’ decision (22 minutes in and we still didn’t know) than with the fact that ESPN’s new coverage model has less to do with sports analysis than the habits and characteristics of your average “Twilight” fan.
At one point, Michael Wilbon said, with a completely straight face, that James’ decision will drastically affect the state of Ohio's state of mind, “especially given that state’s depressed economy.”
How about James wins even an NBA championship first, then he can worry about salvaging the ravaged Midwest.
Twenty-five minutes in -- after Jim Gray shamed himself and every professional interviewer on the planet by asking five solid minutes worth of such blatantly time-killing questions as “How’s your summer?” “When did you decide?” and “Are you still a nail biter?” -- came the actual announcement. No, James has not figured out how to cap the BP oil geyser or even how to perfect the reffing at the World Cup, but yes, he will be playing for the Miami Heat.
And that sound you heard may have sounded like Floridian applause, but it was really the bang of Ohio’s economy plummeting even deeper into recession -- and people at ESPN wondering what exactly they were going to do with the next half hour. "When LeBron said Miami," Scott asked a colleague, "what was the very thing that went through your mind?”
Me, I’m thinking that it’s too bad everyone in Hollywood is exhausted from Emmy nomination day because this would be a great time for a big musical number from the cast of “Glee,” or better yet, Neil Patrick Harris.
Because I’m fairly certain we can look forward to LeBron hosting the Oscars before we're all too much older.
-- Mary McNamara
Photo: LeBron James on ESPN. Credit: Associated Press / ESPN