Sports Television Hits a New Low With LeBron James' Decision Spectacle

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJuly 9, 2010

GREENWICH, CT - JULY 08:  (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE)  Jim Gray of ESPN speaks with LeBron James at attends the LeBron James Pre Decision Meet and Greet on July 8, 2010 in Greenwich, Connecticut. Proceeds from tonight's 2.5 million dollar event will be donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Estabrook Group)
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

It was like staring at a car accident as you slowly drive past it. You didn't want to look. You didn't want to watch. But…well, sometimes, you know something isn't good for you, but you ignore the signs anyway. You just have to look. You can't help yourself.

I'm not sure who is to blame for this. King LeBron James? ESPN? Reality TV? Jim Gray? Okay, I just threw Jim Gray in there, but it would be nice to blame him.

Does anyone remember a couple of days ago when ESPN Vice President of Production, Norby Williamson made a statement that LeBron would make his decision in the first nine minutes of the show. What happened to that? I timed the goofy, weird announcement coming at around 30 minutes past the hour. Now, I wasn't that great at math, but I'm pretty sure 30 and nine are not the same amount of time.

This sorry excuse for a…a what? What do we call it? A news event? ESPN, of course, called it "THE DECISION." It was nothing more than a glorified episode of reality TV. It was an infomercial and reality TV rolled into one.

It was manipulative. It was contrived. It was commercial. It was, simply, the weirdest thing I have ever seen on television.

THE DECISION! I was trying to think of the reality show it most reminded me of. After careful consideration the show it most resembled was The Bachelor .

I can understand that once ESPN came up with this ill-conceived brainstorm and committed to it there would be a little "set-up" before the announcement. Fine, let Stuart Scott and the boys talk for a minute. Let them make their predictions. Even take one commercial break. But then go to Jim Gray and have Jimbo ask the freaking question.

I didn't count them, but I read this morning that Gray asked 16 questions of LeBron before finally asking him the only question that mattered.

This “television event,” for lack of anything better to call it, should not have been about ESPN and their predictions and their feelings and showing LeBron highlights.

In fact, it never should have been anything in the first place. But once it was, it should have been simply about LeBron giving his statement. Then have Jim Gray ask his damn 16 questions, and the people that care will stay tuned and listen. The rest of us will get on with our lives.

It was nothing more than a reality TV show designed at sucking as many viewers in as possible and then dragging it out for as long as they could.

ESPN normally gets things right. They are normally very good at what they do. This was not up to their standards. This was not up to anyone's standards. This was not how we cover sports. This was an embarrassment to ESPN, to James, and to all of us who sat through that hour of television cringing and wishing it would end.

I feel like I do after I passed that accident on the freeway and turn my head back around to the front. I feel bad for those involved, and I'm glad I'm past it.