Thanks, ESPN. Thanks a lot.
You sucked us in. You spit us out. LeBron James is going to Miami, as Newsday's Alan Hahn reported early yesterday morning. What a shock.
But then, what else were we going to do? Watch a rerun of "CSI," "Antiques Roadshow" or "Bethany Getting Married?" Hot summer night, nothing else on 500 channels. Maybe a bloated, stuffed hour of LeBronathon wasn't so bad after all.
Unless you're perhaps a Knicks fan or a Cavs one (or Nets...), LeBron James actually came off pretty well, and that was not a foregone conclusion. He was poised and determined. ESPN's Jim Gray asked the right questions. King James had the right answers. His mom guided his decision, and so did his heart. Not once did he mention that he wanted to be a billionaire. But then, he didn't have to.
What about Cleveland, Gray wondered.
"I never wanted to leave Cleveland," James said. My heart will always be around that area."
He actually sounded sincere when he said that. He did stumble, understandably, about whether he'd still live in Akron: "You're going to have the real friends who love me for who I am."
Still, 'Bron, maybe time to put the Akron castle on the market.
It was a wild media day leading up to the Event, and James' reputation did not weather the day well. The arrogance, the chutzpah to demand an hour of primetime on ESPN! People were angry. Even Katie Couric:
"Talk about the audacity of hype," she sputtered on Thursday night's "Evening News."
No, Katie. This was hype about the audacity of talk. Talk, talk talk, and endless talk on ESPN, which must have a hound in this hunt. More on that in a bit.
Thursday night's special was preceded by an hour, maybe two, of conversation, analysis, disputation, and baldashery by ESPN's esteemed team of reporters, anchors and analysts.
"We have this blanketed everywhere," Stuart Scott said.
Analyst Michael Wilbon urged caution about the Decision. Jon Barry said he should go to Chicago. Chris Broussard said the Heat had James in the bag. Stuart said no one in the history of sports had commanded this sort of attention, forgetting Tiger.
Anchor Linda Cohn noted, "has it been the beaches of Miami and his two best friends all along? We'll find out in twenty minutes..."
And then, after that, another 20 minutes.
Long before LeBronathon began, everyone not associated with ESPN seemed inclined to blame him – an outsized ego who couldn’t simply let this all go with a simple press release.
But maybe the larger issue - if this is even an "issue" at all - is ESPN, and the Disney empire, which has pumped this thing up for reasons almost too obvious to spell out: ABC's longtime rights contract for the NBA.
This is called "synergy," or the importance of gimmickry and hype and hooey if it gets people to actually get excited about an important and hugely expensive program franchise even weeks after the actual season ended. Maybe, in other words, this was ESPN's idea all along, and if there is one king maybe even more powerful than James, it's King George Bodenheimer.
What does The King think about synergy? Maybe Robin Roberts will ask him during her exclusive interview tomorrow morning. She's co-host of "Good Morning America."
That's owned by ABC, but you knew that.