Mr. Gilbert, the managing partner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was obviously peeved last night after Lebron James' decision to leave his hometown team after seven years, and sign on with the Miami Heat. (Or, as Mr. James chose to refer to his new team, "South Beach." Interesting distinction and perhaps indicative of his real lifestyle desire down there. I'm just sayin'.)
But it's okay to be ticked off. It's quite another to not have your staff suggest that you sleep on the sentiment before issuing a statement. For those who haven't yet seen the statement, it's quite a diatribe. You can CLICK HERE to read it.
Mr. James turning down his hometown team's offer was "heartless and callous," Mr. Gilbert said, and came after 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."
Wow. Two things struck me as the statement crossed the transom while we were on the air and just before sports anchor Rob Powers (in for Scott Clark) began previewing his sports segment (which conveniently allowed us to reveal the letter on air ? ain't email on the set a grand thing?!!!). The first is that many people likely agreed with most of what Mr. Gilbert said about Lebron James. The second is that he should never have said them publicly.
It's been quite an experience, watching the over-the-top James free agency spectacle. And by coincidence it's happened during a re-run on PBS of the fantastic Ken Burns' documentary on the history of baseball. It holds up, of course, the look at baseball, and how the players were so at financial mercy of the greedy owners.
Nowadays, the owners are still greedy, but the players have joined in the reindeer games, as nearly equal participants. The fans now foot the bill for both the out-of-this-world salaries and the equally extraterrestrial profits.
You gotta wonder if Mr. James knows who Curt Flood is ? the former St. Louis Cardinals player who challenged baseball's virtual slave mentality about contracts. Remember "the reserve clause?" But James should be thanking Mr. Flood; his case helped usher in new rights for ballplayers, and free agency.
As for Knicks and Nets fans, they may be mourning the decision by James to go to the Miami Heat, but, at least judging by his "performance" on ESPN last night, New Yorkers and New Jerseyites aren't missing much. Many observers agree he was uninspired and uninspiring, lackluster, dull and inarticulate. And the last time I looked, one player doesn't a championship team make. If it did, then Mr. James would already have played for one.
We'll have the latest on the affair-de-James, tonight at 11.
And thanks to all who sent in comments about the importance, or lack of same, of the James story. Some of your comments are at the bottom of this space.
Also at 11, for anyone who has yearned to own a piece of Roy Rogers history, we'll have a preview if a Christie's auction next week, at which some of Rogers' belongings will be sold off.
Included will be - drum roll please - the preserved remains of his beloved horse, Trigger. If you have a cool $100,000 to $200,000 lying around collecting dust, you might want to bid on Rogers' faithful steed, which was dolled up thanks to taxidermy back in 1965.
We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Jeff Smith, in for Lee Goldberg, with the weekend AccuWeather forecast. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11, right after 20/20.
PS: Now, for your comments about Lebron James.
Jim Kerner of Bergenfield, New Jersey, writes: "You ask me if I care? Heck no, funny you should ask!"
Lee Storm, from Madison, New Jersey, offers that, "Bill, I'm one of those who don't care about where James goes. In fact, some of the celeb gossip -- like the stuff with Lindsay (Lohan) is so low on my priority list, it's negligible. There are times I feel too much emphasis is put on Entertainment' news, which is what the publicists want, but which tends to give glamour to their every move, good or bad."
Neil O'Donnell of Middle Village, New York, chimes in that, "Hey Bill, I would love to see Lebron come here, but I cannot wait to see him dressed up like Claribel the Clown to lead this circus tonight. You are right, with all that is going around in our world today do we really need this. Ratings. Ratings. Ratings. Anyway? as always You guys ROCK !!!"
Susan Bosco of Flushing, New York acknowledges that, "I am one of the people who does not give a rat's backside about where Lebron winds up. He may be a nice person, and sure he's talented, but isn't it kind of obscene to bandy about such astronomical salary numbers when so many people are unemployed, and the economy has not yet recovered? Ah, for the days of Ed Murrow, and legitimate news."
Donna Stec of Westfield, New Jersey suggests that she is "100% certain that Lebron will NOT be sharing his salary with me so I quite frankly could care less where he goes to make a living. Between endorsements and basketball the money that this 25- year-old is making is insane. What is wrong with the sports world and the money they pay athletes????"
Len Rudner of Hawley, Pennsylvania, offers that he has "absolutely no interest in 'King' James' decision. As you so correctly put it, I don't give a rat's patoony."
And Jackie Copeland of Bridgewater, New Jersey says that, "I cannot control anything. Not the wars or the oil spill, but with the Lebron James story, it is not an environmental catastrophe, and that is livable."
Joan Langford Flanagan of New York City asks us if Mr. James was "really worth 9 minutes of news during the 11 p.m. (newscast)? WHERE IS THE NEWS?"
Suzanne Koelble of Union, New Jersey says that "the wars and the Gulf Coast oil spill are definitely top priorities and I'm not a person enamored with celebrities. But? movies, sports and the drama of the players take us away from everyday life for awhile... like a good book! Let's face it, these athletes and actors are WAY overpaid!!! How do you newscasters deal with the horrific stories you have to report everyday? We can turn it off. How do you escape it?"
And finally Rhonda Barnett of Queens says that she's a "Knicks fan but I am happy he chose Miami. For Lebron it's about the game -- loving it and winning -- and not about the money. Also sorry to say the Knicks are not a winning team and he (would have been) doing the same thing in New York that he was doing in Cleveland for the last 7 years -- trying to win a title all by himself without the right help. Now he has it with Miami Heat. Good Luck Mr. Lebron."