Tag Archives: Sunday Column

I CAN RELATE, LEBRON

I can relate to LeBron James.

I’m old and white. I’m not worth hundreds of millions of dollars. I stink at basketball and nobody cares where I choose to ply my trade. But, here’s what I do have in common with James: When I was in my early twenties, I left my home in the Rust Belt and headed for Miami.

He left Akron. I left Pittsburgh.

It was late January when my two buddies and I piled in a car and headed South. It was cold, gray, with periods of snow, slush, salt and cinders.

The feeling I had when I got out of the car a day and a half later and saw palm trees and felt the warm breeze made the trip worthwhile. Whatever followed would be gravy.

We spent the first two weeks going to the beach every day.

We had arrived in paradise and couldn’t believe we had wasted the first quarter of our lives living in Hell.

Then we got jobs. It took about two weeks to realize that not everybody in Miami was on vacation. We left for work in the morning and when we got home around six o’clock it was dark.

Just like Pittsburgh.

It took us three months of that to realize that living in the Sun Belt isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You still have to sit in rush hour traffic twice a day and work at a job you may not like.

We went home.

Maybe, after earning a quarter of a billion dollars and winning two NBA championships, James came to the same conclusion.

There really is no place like home

On Friday, when he made his announcement on SI.com, it was 75 degrees with 46% humidity in Cleveland. In Miami it was 90 with 68% humidity. In Miami, everybody except the tourists wanted to be inside the same way everybody in Cleveland wants to be inside in February.

Good for LeBron James and good for Cleveland.

James did something that athletes are rarely smart enough to do. He made his decision based on something other than money. When you are half way to your first half billion dollars, you have the luxury of never having to make a decision based on money again. Very few players take advantage of that luxury.

In his statement to SI.com, James wrote, “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball.”  Nine out of 10 times in professional sports, the translation of that statement would be. “I went for the cash.”

I don’t get that feeling this time.

James seems to genuinely want to return to his roots. And this is no small thing for Cleveland. And not just because it’s been 50 years since one of its major pro franchises has won a championship.

Cleveland is like so many northern cities that have been destroyed by bad government and are desperately trying to encourage natives to stay and new businesses to relocate.

This is about so much more than basketball.

LeBron James just told the world that he could live anywhere and he chose Cleveland. (Okay, maybe he actually chose Akron.)

That’s even better.

Good for Akron.

Good for Cleveland.

– So, Sidney Crosby played the entire post season with a sore wrist. There were reports that Crosby’s inner circle was upset with the Penguins for leaking the news early in the week that Crosby could be having surgery on his right wrist that was injured some time in March because he didn’t want to appear to be making excuses for his un-Crosbylike performance in the playoffs.

A sore wrist explains a lot.

People who have watched him for the last nine years were stunned by the sudden loss of accuracy with his shots and his difficulty making and accepting passes.

Maybe this will nip the “Peyton Manning of the NHL” narrative in the bud. That was a ridiculous narrative to begin with since, before this season, among players with 60 or more playoff games, only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux had averaged more post season points per game than Crosby.

– I will never ridicule or question another Pirates off season pitcher signing again.

– There are few things more ridiculous than people in the media blaming LeBron James for the circus surrounding his decision to return to Cleveland. That was a media circus. Not a LeBron circus.

– James’ decision may have helped the Browns by taking the spotlight off of Johnny Manziel. Johnny seems to like the spotlight.

– Dave Littlefield drafted Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Tony Watson.

– While channel surfing last weekend, I stumbled upon something called Pro Footvolley on Root Sports. It’s two person beach volleyball with a soccer ball. No hands allowed. It’s bad enough that the human race has descended to such depths that a sport like that would exist but, professional? On television?

SOCCERNISTAS AND AMERICA

J. Steigerwald column for 7.05/06.14

I’m still proud to be an American.

Our soccer team losing to a team from a country that is 1/22 the size of Texas is no reason for any American to hang his or her head. We fought the good fight. The Americans played four games and won one.

They tell me that, in soccer, that’s pretty good.
The Soccernistas in the media would have you believe that the awe-inspiring 1-2-1 performance by our guys has already established soccer as America’s next big sport.
They don’t like to point out that “our guys” aren’t really ours the way, say, the US hockey team at the Winter Olympics was our guys.
The coach is from Germany. Five key players were born and raised in Germany. The German coach cut Landon Donovan, who (they tell me) is the best American player ever. Several other players are American only for the purpose of playing in the World Cup.
And that was no accident, apparently. The German coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, started with a plan to make the American team as un-American as possible.

Here’s Sam Borden in the New York Times Magazine back in June:
“….Klinsmann believes that, if the United States is ever going to really succeed at a World Cup, a specific and significant change must occur within the team. That change does not necessarily have to do with how the Americans play; rather, it has to do with the American players being too American.”

How would that little piece of news had gone over with the huge crowds of American flag-waving people gathered in front of outdoor screens around the country?

We’ll know that soccer has really arrived as an American sport when there are enough kids who were born and raised in America to fill out a competitive national team’s roster.

Does it qualify as ironic that crowds, who were gathered more out of a sense of patriotism and the opportunity for a party than because of any real interest in the sport, were cheering for a team that didn’t want to be “too American?”

– Meanwhile, what could be more American than college football? Big changes could be coming to a college football program near you. The Ed O’Bannon class action anti-trust lawsuit wrapped up last week and it’s in the hands of U.S. District judge Claudia Wilkening. A decision, which will probably be appealed, will be coming down in a few weeks.

The suit would like to bar the NCAA from preventing college football players from profiting from the use of their names, images and likenesses.

The NCAA’s defense was the same tired, old, phony story about maintaining amateur purity.

When the suit began, a sports attorney and former owner of a major professional sports franchise told me that he expected “a crater where the NCAA is now.” He said it would be the end of the NCAA as we know it.

I asked him, on the condition of keeping him anonymous, how he felt now that the case has been heard. He said, “ I haven’t followed the testimony closely enough to predict the outcome, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. (NCAA President) Emmert and his cohorts are like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the final scene where they fought off their pursuers not realizing there were scores more awaiting them.”

“The NCAA as we know it is dead. It’s just a matter of who and what, individually or collectively, delivers the kill shot”

“The big conferences will have complete authority and the NCAA will be figuring out how to fund the hundreds of millions of dollars of judgments against it that await.”

As much as I would like to see the NCAA disappear, because of one of the plaintiff’s main arguments, this will only make it easier for the NFL and NBA monopolies to use colleges as a free minor league system and will increase the number of unqualified “student” athletes.

The plaintiffs claim that because the top level NCAA schools are the only places where these athletes can sell their services, they suffer economic harm.

They should be able to sell their services where baseball and hockey players sell theirs – to professional teams who can develop them in the minor leagues.

– The headline on the Washington Post read: “Bryce Harper is still just 21 years old, but he needs to stop acting like he is 12.”
Harper, who plays for the Nationals, is having some trouble dealing with what comes with being his sport’s next super-duper star at a young age. He has complained about his spot in the batting order and publicly second-guessed his manager.

Makes you appreciate Sidney Crosby.

– The Penguins are grittier and tougher than they were last week. Check back in May to see if it matters.