Stuart Scott recently conducted a chat on ESPN.com in which he discussed his feelings about LeBron James and the role ESPN played in the NBA player’s move from Cleveland to Miami.
I excerpted a selection of Scott’s comments from the chat and responded to his remarks in bold.
Scott: As a free agent LBJ owed Cleveland nothing. That’s not disrespect, it’s just his right based on rules and bylaws established before he set foot in the NBA. Narcissistic? Star athlete has big decision, ubiquitous sports network is there to cover it.
Me: ESPN didn’t cover it, ESPN created it. Without ESPN, “The Decision” wouldn’t have existed.
From what we now know, the prospect of such an ESPN-enabled production may have been the main reason why James dragged out his choice for so long - causing such acute consternation to the people of Cleveland.
Scott: That’s what we do. … I am proud of the dozens of people who worked on that show. And for all the criticism it received, a 7.6 cable rating is ginormous.
Me: So ratings are the true barometer of the artistic and/or journalistic merit of a telecast? If there was more than one nationally televised outlet covering “The Decision”, think ESPN would’ve gotten that same number?
Scott’s response points to the core of ESPN’s business model: Monopoly.
If ESPN didn’t have a sports media monopoly, Around the Horn would’ve been canceled in a week. (If you want to watch something sports-related on national television at that time on weekdays, you have no where else to go. Hence, Around the Horn gets respectable ratings.)
Any sliver of competition from another national sports network would, at the very least, cut into Around the Horn’s ratings. Any decent sports-related show would obliterate them.
That’s my opinion, but how many people do you know with a high school G.E.D. would defend the legitimacy of Around the Horn’s ratings? If I’m wrong, then I have more faith in the American sports television viewer than they deserve.
Scott: Cleveland’s owner was an idiot for saying what he said and the way he said it. If LBJ had told Cleveland his decision before he made his announcement it would have rendered his announcement null and void because it would have leaked out.
Me: What Scott really meant:
“If LBJ had told Cleveland his decision before he made his announcement ESPN wouldn’t have been able to artificially embargo the news from the public, thus forcing a captive audience for the ESPN-produced “Decision” show.
“All of which resulted in ginormous ratings.”
Scott: People who hate LeBron, God bless ‘em, but you hate a basketball player? What for? Did he hurt your family, take your job away, rude to your kids? C’mon. Have perspective. And I’m not talking about you, because you are the one Cleveland fan who doesn’t hate him. But, grown men and women who burn his jersey–really?? Fold it up and put it in an archive.
Me: Ever notice how philosophical and contextual people get when there’s no other defense for a person’s thoughtless actions?
Most people inside and outside of Cleveland don’t hate LeBron because he left the Cavaliers. They despise him because of the despicable way he dragged out his decision. In fact, outside of Cleveland, the disdain for James has absolutely nothing to do with the Cavaliers.
So long as he needlessly and narcissistically dragged out his choice - as enabled by ESPN - James could’ve been leaving the Raiders or Yankees and people would still be criticizing and mocking him.
The NBA is a business but James made it personal … with Scott and ESPN riding shotgun.
So ESPN shouldn’t be surprised if the LeBron debacle harms its business relationship with the NBA, which by all accounts, is a distinct possibility.