When LeBron James was interviewed before returning to Cleveland to play against his hometown team for the second time since his departure, he was asked about eventually having his number retired by the Cavs.  “That’s something I don’t know and something I can’t control,” James said. “Anytime you get a jersey retired anywhere it is a tribute. I had my jersey in my high school retired and when that happened it was unbelievable. If that happens here, I’ll be grateful.”

Gratitude has not been LeBron’s strong suit when it comes to his former team, or for the people of Cleveland for that matter.  Had he remained in Cleveland, he would have had his number retired and most likely would have had statues erected in his honor.  Had he left Cleveland with a modicum of grace instead of publicly humiliating his former team, he may have been able to mend fences down the road and be honored as the best basketball player to ever wear a Cavs uniform.

Based on his performance on the court, LeBron absolutely deserves to have his number retired by the Cavs one day.  But since you can’t honor the player without honoring the man, LeBron should resign himself to the fact that the only way that his number will ever be retired in the NBA is if the Miami Heat choose to do so when his playing days are over.

Time heals all wounds, but people don’t often forget being disrespected.  When LeBron made “The Decision” to leave Cleveland, he burned a bridge that will never be rebuilt.  He instantly transitioned from the greatest sports hero that the city has ever known to the prodigal son who was no longer welcome in his hometown.

If the people of Cleveland were somehow able to forgive LeBron at some point, there would never be enough of a public outcry to have his number retired, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, has nothing but contempt for the former king of Cleveland.

After the Cavs defeated the Heat last night in Cleveland, Gilbert tweeted “Not in our garage!!” (a reference to LeBron and his entourage being stopped when trying to enter the garage underneath the Quicken Loans Arena before the game).

Long before his Twitter message taunting LeBron after the Cavs exacted their revenge by upsetting the Heat last night, Gilbert issued an open letter to Cleveland fans, which illustrates the depth of the betrayal that he felt after “The Decision.”

{Click here to read the letter}

Perhaps LeBron regrets how he left Cleveland.  Perhaps he has hopes of being welcomed back to his hometown someday.  But the reality is that his betrayal will linger for many years to come, and it would come as a total shock to see him honored in any way, much less something as monumental as having his number retired.

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The game of chicken that is being played between NFL owners and the NFL Players Association has taken a ridiculous turn.  You would think that decertified union would be powerless, but clearly the NFLPA’s decertification was nothing more than a legal technicality based on their attempt to prevent highly ranked college players from attending the NFL Draft in April.

Players only get drafted once.  Those who are invited to attend the draft with their families have earned the right to be there.  Most college players don’t get drafted at all, and only a small percentage ever get the chance to play in the NFL.  Making it to the top of the draft is an honor that should not be tainted by negotiations that have nothing to do with these players.

As it is, the NFL Draft is going to be very anticlimactic for the players selected because they will not do anything with their new team until the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is completed.

The irony of the request by the NFLPA is that the players who are likely to be hurt the most under the next Collective Bargaining Agreement are the ones who are being asked to take a stand against NFL owners.

When the posturing ends and negotiations begin in earnest between the NFL owners and NFLPA, it is no secret that a rookie wage scale will be put into place.  This makes fiscal and logical sense, but the fact of the matter is that the rookie wage scale is going to cost the players at the top of the draft millions of dollars in guaranteed money.

College players are not a part of the NFLPA, which technically is nothing more than a trade organization at this point since they are no longer a union.  It is unfair of the NFLPA to try and use this small group of players as leverage in contentious negotiations.  Quite frankly, even if the players succumb to the pressure being put on them, it will serve no purpose.

The NFL Draft is going to happen with or without the top players in attendance.  The fans who were planning on attending the event will still do so, and the television viewership will not be affected at all.

ESPN and NFL Network can easily allow their analysts to evaluate each pick and show footage of them in college with missing a beat.

Ultimately, the only ones who will suffer if the top players do not attend the draft are the players and their families who will miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Their attendance (or lack their of) will have absolutely no bearing on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Current NFL players should step up and tell the NFLPA to back off of this ridiculous request because it is making the players look bad in the court of public opinion.

Eventually, a deal will be worked out regardless of what happens with the NFL Draft.  Those who choose to succumb to the unfair NFLPA pressure will ultimately regret the fact that they allowed themselves to be used as pawns in childish game.

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When LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh decided to join forces to become the NBA’s supposed version of a super power, they thrust themselves into the national spotlight as a team to either be loved or hated.  Not much room for middle ground.

Aside from the New York Yankees, who are hated by non-Yankee fans because of their continuous success and ability to outspend the rest of Major League Baseball, there is no other professional sports team that is as hated as the Miami Heat.

LeBron started off the disdain for the Heat with his ill-advised “reality” special, simply referred to as “The Decision.”  Before people even had the chance to accept what the Heat had become, they added fuel to the fire by referring to themselves as “The Heatles.”

“If you’re gonna talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk.”

Although the Heat have the sixth best record in the NBA, they are currently on a four-game losing streak, much to the delight of even the most casual basketball fan.  Their record against the five teams above them in the NBA is an embarrassing 1-10.

The team that some predicted to win 70 games this year, still has not found a way to compete with the other top teams in the league, despite having played 63 games together.

After last night’s one-point loss to the Chicago Bulls, head coach Eric Spoelstra said that there were tears of frustration by some of the players in the locker room.

If Spoelstra revealed the fact that some of his guys were crying after the game to endear the hated Heat to the masses, it failed miserably.  The Heat got no sympathy from the media or basketball fans. Instead, what they received was a healthy dose of deserved mockery.

Is a four-game losing streak in the midst of an 82-game season worth crying about?  If not for the brash predictions and self-indulgent titles, would anyone even care that any team has lost four games in a row in the NBA?  Has the sports world ever celebrated regular season losses in any sport with such glee?

The Heat (once again) have adopted an “us against the world” mentality, which is comical because they are the ones who created this atmosphere in the first place.

“I do chuckle a little bit when they complain about the scrutiny they get,” said Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. “My suggestion would be if you don’t want the scrutiny, you don’t hold a championship celebration before you’ve even practiced together. It’s hard to go out yourself and invite that kind of crowd and celebration and attention, and then when things aren’t going well, sort of bemoan the fact that you’re getting that attention.”

Van Gundy’s Orlando Magic basically overhauled their entire team in December in order to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference, and yet they are a mere three games behind the Heat in the standings.

The Heat would be wise to stop worrying about what basketball fans and the media think of them, and start worrying about what they are going to do to right the ship and live up to the lofty predictions that they made before ever playing a single game together.

Any attempt to garner sympathy from the masses is an exercise in futility.

“The Heatles” have been “talking the talk” since they joined forces in the summer of 2010.  If they want the mockery to stop, they’ll need to “walk the walk” under the heat of the national spotlight.

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Blake Griffin is a great dunker.  There is no arguing that.  In the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Griffin had two memorable dunks, but only one of them was great, and it was NOT the one with the car and the choir.  That dunk only served to prove that the NBA planned on Griffin being in the finals and winning it all along.

Not since Curly Neal, Meadowlark Lemon and the rest of the Harlem Globetrotters toured with the Washington Generals, has the outcome of a basketball “contest” been so anti-climactic.

Griffin was the Harlem Globetrotters to Javale McGee, DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka’s Washington Generals.  McGee, DeRozan and Ibaka never had a chance, which is a shame, since they all were impressive in their own right.

When Griffin’s very ordinary second dunk in the first round scored a 46, even the most casual fan had to suspect that the fix was in.  That dunk followed Ibaka’s creative and impressive dunk which only scored a 45.

Once Griffin was in the finals, with the fans deciding the winner, there was no way that anyone else was going to win unless Griffin totally missed his dunks.  The whole contest ended up being a mockery.

Griffin’s coach, Kenny Smith, served no purpose on the court other than to ramble on endlessly.  During the early round, his puffery about Griffin not needing props like the others ended up looking downright stupid when Griffin rolled a car onto the court for his final dunk.  The car was bad enough, but the choir that came onto the court as Griffin’s supporting cast turned a supposed sporting event into a joke.

Even the camera crew didn’t seem to know what to do with the choir, as they missed Griffin’s running start while showing a choir singer on camera.

While Smith was somehow able to orchestrate a pre-dunk standing ovation for Griffin which surprisingly included the judges, it doesn’t seem like everyone bought into the hype.  Charles Barkley openly mocked what was going on, serving as the voice of many fans watching on TV.

It came as no shock to anyone when Griffin was announced as the winner of the contest.  The obvious favoritism that was shown towards Griffin has turned this competition into an exhibition going forward.

LeBron James has resisted showcasing his skills in the dunk contest, but if he ever changes his mind and participates, they should just present the trophy to him before he or his competitors attempt their first dunk, since the presentation is nothing more than a formality anyway.

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By this time next week, all Major League Baseball players will have begun working out with their respective teams.  This year, the beginning of spring training has been overshadowed in the news by the contract status of Albert Pujols.

Puljols is arguably the best player in the game today, and is in the process of making his case for being considered one of the greatest players to ever play in the big leagues.  Like most other professional athletes, Pujols wants to be paid what he thinks he is worth.

At the age of 31, Pujols is looking for a 10-year deal in the neighborhood of $300 million.  Maybe he’ll get close to that much, maybe he won’t.  It doesn’t really matter much, because he will be heavily compensated either way.

Ultimately, the rising cost of player salaries gets passed through to the fans in the form of higher prices for tickets, parking and concessions at Major League stadiums.

Baseball used to be considered “America’s Pastime” largely because it touched the lives of almost every American in some way.  It was more than a game.  It was something that Americans bonded over.

When I was a kid, I would play baseball for hours on end because I loved the game.  My brother and I would make up different scenarios as we played, but one stood out above all others…

“It’s the bottom of the ninth…game seven of the World Series…two outs…three-and-two count…bases loaded…”

Most kids back then dreamed of making it to the big leagues for the chance to actually turn a lifetime of fantasy scenarios into reality.  Not once did we ever fantasize about the money that we would be making if our dream ever came true.  In all honesty, we would have gladly done it for free.

No one expects today’s players to play for free.  In fact, we fully expect that Major League Baseball players will earn millions of dollars to play the game that we all love.  Though we may not fully understand why they make so much money, it has never stopped us from rooting for our favorite teams with the same passion that we did before players earned small fortunes.

In 1990, Robin Yount was the highest paid player in baseball.  He earned $3.2 million.  By way of comparison, Alex Rodriguez earned $33 million in 2010 as the highest paid player in baseball.  Even the average player salaries are significantly higher.  In 1990, the average player earned just under $600,000.  In 2010, that number increased to $3.27 million.

The cost of attending professional sporting events has sky-rocketed along with players’ salaries.  Is enough ever going to be enough?  Is there a breaking point where fans will no longer be able to afford to attend baseball games and miss out on the opportunity to create lasting memories with family and friends?

Pujols deserves to be in the same salary range as Alex Rodriguez.  However, if his enormous demands are met, MLB salaries will continue their ascension into rarefied air.  And if this current pace continues, Major League baseball stadiums are going to be filled with more corporate attendees than dedicated fans.

Major League baseball caters to corporations and people with a lot of discretionary income.  While the average fan probably finds a way to make it to a game or two each year, even the most die-hard fan very likely ends up watching most games on television.

Thankfully, those of us who want to share the baseball experience with family and friends (without having to take out a loan to do so) have the option of attending Independent and Minor League baseball games.

Independent and Minor League Baseball both cater to all baseball fans, not just the wealthy ones.  In fact, it is probably just as cost-effective for a family to attend an Independent or Minor League Baseball game as it is for them to go to see a movie in the theater, and the experience is infinitely more memorable.

There are other advantages that Independent and Minor League Baseball have to offer as well:

  • The quality of play on the field is excellent because the players play with passion.  They are either working towards making it to the big leagues or playing for the love of the game when their Major League career has come to an end.
  • It’s not about the money.  You’ll never hear about contentious contract negotiations or demands for trades.
  • Intimate stadiums create a sense of community amongst fans who get to know each other because they see the same faces on a regular basis.
  • Because the stadiums are much smaller, every seat offers an outstanding vantage point, and the chance of catching a foul ball is much more likely than it is at a Major League stadium.
  • Between innings there are contests and games to keep kids engaged.
  • Team mascots roam the stadium to interact with kids, pose for pictures and sign autographs.
  • Concession-stand prices are much more reasonable than they are at Major League stadiums and often times even less expensive than movie theater prices.
  • Parking fees are minimal, and some teams even offer free parking.
  • Traffic usually flows very smoothly in and out of Independent and Minor League Baseball stadiums because there are far fewer cars to contend with.

Independent and Minor League Baseball both give fans of all ages and income brackets the chance to share bonding experiences that will last a lifetime.  Baseball purists, and nostalgic fans who long for days gone by, will be hard-pressed to find a better way to create lasting memories and bonding experiences with family and friends than attending Independent and Minor League Baseball games.

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Unless you are one of the four people featured in the “never missed a Super Bowl club” commercial, the odds are highly likely that you fall into the opposite club – “never been to a Super Bowl.” With Super Bowl tickets extremely hard to come by, or afford for that matter, most people have no choice but to watch the game on television.

Imagine that you have decided to pony up the thousands of dollars that it takes for tickets, travel and expenses to fulfill the dream of going to the Super Bowl.  Imagine that you take vacation time from work to seize what may very well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see your favorite team play in the game.

Now imagine being told upon your arrival at the $1.5 billion stadium where the game is being played that your seats don’t exist because they weren’t installed to proper safety standards.

The only way to avoid feeling sympathetic to the fans who were burned by the NFL, Cowboys Stadium and Jerry Jones, is to allow jealousy to overrule logic.  While it may be hard to feel bad for someone who was able to afford to go to the Super Bowl if you are struggling financially, imagine how would you feel if it happened to you.

The Super Bowl is the biggest event of the year…EVERY YEAR!  Nothing in the world is even a close second.  It is the only time that people actually sit and watch every commercial as if it were a movie that they paid to see.  It is the only time that people who have absolutely no interest in the game tune in to be a part of what has become a cultural event.  It is not a holiday, but if it were, it would rank right up there with Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

So, when the Super Bowl was awarded to Dallas (a.k.a. Jerry Jones) for the first time ever, it was reasonable to think that all worst-case-scenario contingencies would have been addressed beforehand.

To say that Dallas’ first Super Bowl was a bust would be an egregious understatement.  While the fault for everything that happened cannot be pinned solely on poor planning, much of it can be.

Record-breaking cold temperatures certainly put a damper on the week leading up to the Super Bowl.  It was unfortunate, but it didn’t have to be as bad as it was had proper plans been put in place.  Unfortunately, the solution for clearing roads in the DFW area is to wait for the temperature to rise above freezing.  It usually does.  This time it didn’t, so the weather helped to contribute to a disastrous Super Bowl week in North Texas.

However, the unusual arctic-like temperatures had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that 400 ticketholders had no place to sit in the stadium, or the fact that another 850 ticketholders were forced to squeeze into areas that were anything close to what they paid for or expected.

The seating issue comes down to only two things:

[1]          GREED – Jerry Jones wanted so badly to break the all-time Super Bowl attendance record that he even sold standing-room-only tickets for people who wanted to stand outside of the stadium to be a part of the action.  Why thousands of people would spend hundreds of dollars to stand out in the cold and watch the game on television is beyond anything that I can comprehend, but that is neither here nor there.

Jones also wanted to fill the stadium with people paying to stand on the “party pass” levels, but was not given permission to do so.  If he wanted to fill those areas of the massive stadium, he had no choice to but have temporary seats installed due to fire safety concerns.

[2]          HUMAN ERROR – There is absolutely no excuse for the NFL, Cowboys Stadium and Jerry Jones to sell tickets for seats that were not guaranteed to exist.  With the money that is generated by the Super Bowl, arrangements should have been made to have the best people in the world flown in to build the temporary stands.  These people should have been working around the clock to make sure that everyone had a safe seat to go to upon arriving at the game.

EVERYTHING in the NFL is about the bottom line.  The bottom line is the reason why the NFL is less than a month away from a potential work stoppage.  Being that the NFL is so focused on the bottom line, it should come as no surprise to them that they are being sued.

The bottom line is that the NFL, Cowboys Stadium and Jerry Jones were ill-prepared for the biggest event of the year.

The bottom line is that the people who were directly impacted by their ineptitude deserve to be compensated beyond mere financial restitution.

The bottom line is that they collectively robbed their fans of a moment in time that can never be replaced.

The bottom line is that they should have been beyond generous once the error was made, instead of gradually increasing their compensatory offer as they were scrutinized by the media.

If the powers that be were smart, they would have offered to reimburse each displaced ticketholder the full amount of the cost of their trip.  They should have offered them an all-expense paid trip to next year’s Super Bowl, and another all-expense paid trip to the Super Bowl of their choosing in the future.

The NFL should not have treated their compensatory offer with the same approach that they are using in their negotiations with the NFL Players Association.  Their offer should have been all give and no take.  It should not have come with strings or a mandate forcing people to choose from “Column A” or “Column B” as if it were a Chinese take-out menu.

Based on the way that things were handled, it should come as no surprise that a lawsuit was filed.  The only surprising element was that the dollar amount was so low ($5 million).  It may sound like a lot of money, but when you take into consideration that this is a class action lawsuit with approximately 1000 litigants, the numbers don’t seem unreasonable.

The NFL should settle this lawsuit quickly and fairly to all who were affected by their lack of proper planning.  If a jury was able to justify awarding a elderly woman nearly $3 million against McDonald’s for spilling coffee into her own lap while driving, it’s not hard to imagine that they will rule heavily against the NFL on this justified lawsuit.

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When the college football season ended with two undefeated teams this year, it seemed as though there would at least be discussions about creating a Division I (FBS) playoff system.

Defenders of the BCS will claim that Auburn deserved to win the national title because they played a more difficult schedule than TCU.

Under the current system, Auburn absolutely earned their championship, but that doesn’t mean that they would have necessarily won if a playoff system existed.

It was reported this week that college football conferences will rake in $170 million from this year’s bowl games.  Even the non-automatic qualifying conferences made out well (earning $24.7 million) due in large part to TCU’s participation in the Rose Bowl.

BCS officials pointed to the new television contract with ESPN as the main reason that the revenues were so high.  This should come as no surprise since almost every bowl game was shown on ESPN.  The only games that appeared on other networks were the AT&T Cotton Bowl, Ticketcity Bowl, Hyundai Sun Bowl and the Outback Bowl.

Even though the Outback Bowl was shown on ABC, they and ESPN are both owned by The Walt Disney Company, so in actuality there were only three bowl games that didn’t fall under the ESPN umbrella.

Many ESPN sportscasters and college football experts expressed on-air that they are in favor of some kind of playoff system.  It seems a bit ironic that the money being paid out by their employer is actually making it easy for college athletic directors to stick with the status quo.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is in the exploratory stages of putting together a 12-16 team playoff system.

Under Cuban’s plan the bowl games would be able to run concurrently with the proposed playoffs.  Cuban has said that college athletic directors have shown interest in his proposal and that his next move is to approach school presidents.

Cuban is proposing to pay these schools an unspecified amount of money every five years in exchange for their promise to play in the newly-created playoffs if their school is selected.  It sounds good in theory, but it might be difficult to turn into a reality.

Whether a playoff system happens or not will all come down to money.  Based on the amount of money paid out for this year’s bowl games, it is going to take a lot of cash to inspire college athletic directors and presidents to agree to any changes.

Contrary to what BCS supporters may say, this is not a matter of what is best for the student athletes.  Simply put, playing in bowl games is the most lucrative option that is currently available to schools.

Anyone who believes otherwise should take note of the fact that college athletic directors and school presidents are in charge of both the football and basketball programs.

March Madness, by far the most exciting part of the college basketball season, takes place from March 15 – April 4, 2011.  College football could easily complete an eight-team playoff in the same exact time span.

Unfortunately, the powers that be now have 170 million reasons to continue under the current system, so it is doubtful that a college football playoff is going to happen any time in the near future.

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