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PARASILITI: LeBron-a-thon chewed us up and spit us out

July 13, 2010|By BOB PARASILITI

They got us again.

We sit there and say we won't ever be duped again, but it didn't work.

It never does. We sports fans proved again how gullible and vulnerable we actually are.

On Thursday, LeBron James turned his choice of NBA employment into a telethon event. Hidden in the guise of a fundraiser for The Boys and Girls Clubs was the King's decision to make Miami his next castle and unearth his hometown roots with Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.

The announcement shocked and upset so many people on so many levels, but none more than we who actually took time to watch it.

In the words of Britney Spears, one of the great philosophers of our times -- OOPS, we did it again.

For the better part of two years, we have been primed for the moment of James' announcement. It was to be the big news that was going to change the face of the NBA for years to come.

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In reality, it was that and so much more.

It was the first domino falling in a chain reaction of greed and self-centered intentions for a handful of players. It was the duel at High Noon -- or 9 p.m. Eastern time -- between a small number of franchises trying to elbow to the top of the heap.

To them, it was business. To sports fans, it was like closing a ride at an amusement park.

In Cleveland, the park closed.

My mom, who lives in Cleveland, told me stories of how fans are devastated over James' decision. They had a LeBron-fire to burn anything carrying his likeness or name. Fans, Cavaliers officials and news outlets have mourned his move with feelings of betrayal and anger.

It hurts more because he spent his entire life in Northeast Ohio. James was truly one of their own.

It was as painful as a divorce, and a good portion of Cleveland's winter economy will be like alimony heading to South Beach.

Others can say it is overdramatic.

Ask Baltimore fans what they were feeling when Mike Mussina left for the New York Yankees. Or Green Bay's faithful when Brett Favre turned up in New York and, even worse, Minnesota.

The yelps of anger have been the same over the years, just with different accents.

Sports are many things. They are fun, fitness and fantasy for all who participate. They are the cream-of-the-crop theory at its purest form because very few reach the levels of guys like James.

But for many of us, sports are our escape from reality.

We watch games and get wrapped up in the athletes like they were characters in a soap opera. We live and die with every play and cheer with every victory.

Head to public gathering places, there are usually three main topics of conversations -- significant others, politics and sports. There is always a great debate or greater complaint when our current politicians or favorite athletes leave us feeling taxed and let down.

Sports allow us to have socially accepted gangs. We wear our colors and battle for a larger piece of the turf called favoritism.

It's all about being a fan, no matter how fragile and misguided it may be.

We fans are convinced professional athletes are supposed to be our role models. In many cases, they live that Cinderella dream of living happily ever after with success, money and the girl, and they ride off into the sunset clutching all three.

And yet, most of them fall well short of that fantasy.

As much as we want athletes to be our perfect storm, we want them to be the poster children for morals, good habits and loyalty.

See LeBRON, B5

The truth is our heroes are nothing more than young men who have handlers helping to make their decisions. They possess more than their fair share of God-given talent and want to be cheered and recognized wherever they go -- and bristle when they are booed -- because of it.

The problem with the athletes we worship is they are no different than we are. They do all the things they enjoy -- sometimes to an excess because they are given privileges and can afford it. They are still like most of us. ... They are working for their next paycheck.

The only difference is that their stubs have a few extra zeros.

The bottom line is, we expect more from our athletes.

But after Thursday's circus with LeBron James, should we have expected any less?

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