Last night, millions of people were glued to their televisions, initially to see which NBA team/city basketball superstar LeBron James would pick to be his home for the next few years. But what ended up being the most compelling thing about "The Decision" was the egregious manner in which ESPN handled it. Perez Hilton has more shame. The LeBronathon broadcast will forever be known as the moment that ESPN completed its transition from sports network to what many of us already suspected it was: an entertainment channel.
ESPN touted the event as real-life drama and one of the most important news items of the year, which is a crock. That may be true for the gentleman with a basement full of inflatable Miami Heat chair (complete with built-in beer holders!), but even for diehard sports fanatics like myself, "The Decision" made me want to vomit—if only to remember what life was like before this game-changing event.
"The Decision" was part E! Television, part over-hyped mess, and all LeBron fellatio. But it also marked the a gloomy future for sports networks and officially rung in the era of athletes-as-celebrities. We've placed athletes on pedestals before, but ESPN knelt before King James and pledged an unholy allegiance to number 23/6—and expected us to do the same. We didn't.
Because LeBron came off as an egomaniac and ESPN looked like a lapdog. Sponsors were bought into the hype and jumped on board ("Decision Water!"). Halfway through the special, I was so disgusted by LeBron, ESPN, and Vitamin Water that I hoped LeBron would choose Miami just so I could hate him and his decision to widen the gap between the talent-rich and the talent-poor of the league and hurt the entire NBA (make no mistake, this is NOT good for the NBA). He did choose South Beach, letting the hopes of his home state dribble off his feet in the process, and diminished his brand that this special tried so hard to build up. The only way LeBron could have hurt his image more would be if he 360 Tomahawk jammed on a team of cancer-stricken orphans.
Sports is a big business, and ESPN has done its fair share to fuel that fire and over-saturate the media with its agenda (Brett Favre! Red Sox! Vuvuzelas!). Aside from a few good questions asked by Pardon the Interruption's Michael Wilbon, "The Decision" was little more than a collection of video highlights, back-patting, and ESPN belittling itself.
LeBron spent months agonizing about where to play. For us, "The Decision" was easy: Change the channel.