I knew there had been something missing in my life the moment I heard the report on ESPN about Jesse Jackson’s comments on the LeBron James circus.
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” goes the old Joni Mitchell song, and with Jesse Jackson, his recent media low profile has engendered a longing for those glory days when it seemed like every time you turned around, the race-baiting, professional grievance monger was lecturing white America — usually in near perfect iambic pentameter — about some perceived sin against his sensitive constituency. I write, of course, of the national press and their über delicate sensibilities regarding race and their penchant for granting unquestioned “moral authority” to crooked charlatans like Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Jackson burst back on the national media scene with a vengeance when he weighed in on the LeBron James controversy. His response to this excellent rant from Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert proved that, while a little rusty with his racial metaphors, Rev. Jesse had lost none of his talent for over-the-top, exaggerated, bombastic remonstrances.
I will not rehash the entire LeBron James episode. Wagner operas are shorter. Norse sagas are more interesting. However, a bare-bones summary for those who may have hidden in a cave expecting the return of the Hidden Imam might be in order.
LeBron James is an NBA superstar who, following a seven-year-stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, became a free agent on July 1. Since the end of the NBA season, ESPN, Fox Sports, Comcast SportsNet, and every other national and regional sports network, website, blog, and magazine tracked the story of LeBron’s decision making process as NBA teams lined up like obedient little children for the chance to sign the self-proclaimed “King James” to a gazillion-dollar contract.
James made his free agency quest into a spectacle that even the Romans would have been ashamed to put on. At stake: a possible NBA championship for the lucky team — if they didn’t go broke signing the mega-star to begin with. In the end, there appeared to be four or five teams with a chance to land him. The long-suffering fans of his hometown Cavaliers did everything save sacrifice a virgin to keep him in Cleveland.
Cleveland has not won anything in any sport since forever. They have also been victimized (if you hear them tell it) by a series of spectacular and serendipitous occurrences that have regularly denied their professional franchises a shot at immortality (“The Drive,” “The Shot,” and “The Hit“) As the hype went beyond the stratospheric and assumed Olympian proportions, the city of Cleveland began to, well, lose it. When the frenzy reached its peak over the 4th of July weekend, there were actually prayer vigils to keep the superstar in a Cavaliers uniform, as if God would take pity on the city and allow the bitter cup of being reminded of their past failures to pass from their lips. Ordinary people let on that if James left the city, they would be bereft of hope.
James finally went on national TV for an hour to make his ten-second bit of news: which team had he chosen? Having been adored, worshiped, and cheered to the rafters by fans, as well as pampered, catered, and deferred to by management, James announced his decision to play in Miami for the Heat.
This set off owner Gilbert, who was informed of the decision by James just a few minutes prior to the rest of us mortals:
As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.
This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his “decision” unlike anything ever “witnessed” in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.
Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us.
The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.
There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you.
You simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.
Now, one could argue that Mr. Gilbert is a classless git who can’t take losing gracefully. Others might say that this rant, which deserves to be read in its entirety, is the best missive from an owner of a sports franchise in the history of professional games. It captures the essence of fan rage over their feelings of loyalty being tampered with by an egotistical athlete who toyed in the most spectacularly cruel fashion with their emotions right up to the last possible minute.