Greater Greater Washington

Development


Weekend reading: "Taking my talents to South Beach"

The inescapable news in the sports world last week was LeBron James' decision on where to play professional basketball. James spurned his current (and hometown) team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in favor of joining forces with multiple, talented free agent players in Miami.


"We are all witnesses." Photo by partie traumatic on Flickr.

The hoopla, as well as James' decision to leave his hometown for greener pastures raises several interesting points about sports, place, labor mobility, and the economic benefits from professional sports and athletes.

Talent migration: Richard Florida takes note of how LeBron and his compatriots took control of their situation in picking a new location to showcase their talents, framing the decision as an entrepreneurial coup in the controlled world of professional sports. The decision, he argues, isn't all that different than the ones that many talented and skilled workers go throughminus the media circus.

Most people attempt to optimize their interests within the constraints imposed by their existing environmentwhat the great economist Joseph Schumpeter dubbed the typical "adaptive response." But at critical junctures, certain kinds of entrepreneurs step outside the bounds of what is given and undertake to shape and actively construct an new environment of their ownwhat Schumpeter called the "creative response."

Miami offered the best place where these three savvy, talented, and surpassingly entrepreneurial young men could create their own kind of spacea more open-ended space, where they could realize their ambitions and dreams.

Teams tied to place: Florida's argument, however, doesn't do much to dispute the common criticisms of LeBron's decision (including one from the Cavaliers owner) that it was selfish and about ego more than anything else. While professional athletes may be individuals free to chose between teams, the teams themselves are rooted in place. Teams profit from their connection and emotional bonds with local fans. It's no surprise that fans see this as a direct insult to their sense of place. In Richard Florida's context, they are the ones attempting to optimize their interests within given constraints.

The narrative that ties teams and cities together is extraordinarily strong. The recent passing of New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner offered a chance to reflect on that complex connection between city, fans, team, and players:

The life of George Steinbrenner is a ramp across modern New York, a bridge that spans the whirlpool of one man's spinning psyche and the transformation of America's biggest, baddest city... He championed ordinary New Yorkers, then took them for every last penny...

He remembered the elation of the city when the Yankees won the World Series in 1978, a troubled time. "We put the trophy in the rotunda at City Hall," [former Mayor Ed] Koch said. "I knew, as the Romans knew, that the people require circuses and theatrics."

Economic impacts: Perhaps George Steinbrenner's crowning achievement as owner of the Yankees has been the creation of New Yankee Stadium, on the backs of substantial public subsidy. Plenty of economists consistently argue that stadium subsidies are not wise investments, but the emotional connection between team and city is difficult to quantify.

Likewise, there is a question of geography. Sports teams might not have an impact at the metropolitan scale, but many in Cleveland have seen a direct impact from LeBron James in the area immediately adjacent to the arena. A similar narrative exists for DC's Verizon Center and the subsequent revitalization of Chinatown.

However, accurately calculating all the costs and benefits of the intangible, emotional connection between a city and their team might be next to impossible.

There is no 'Next Big Thing': Aaron Renn uses LeBron's departure from the Midwest to take a long, hard look at the strategic decisions behind the move and the reaction:

In a sense though, Cleveland's disappointment was inevitable. LeBron James was never going to turn around the city. No one person or one thing can. Unfortunately, Cleveland has continually pinned its hopes on a never-ending cycle of "next big things" to reverse decline. This will never work. As local economic development guru Ed Morrison put it, "Overwhelmingly, the strategy is now driven by individual projects....This leads to the 'Big Thing Theory' of economic development: Prosperity results from building one more big thing."
The 'Big Thing' theory has usually been applied to things like sports stadiums and arenas, not the individual players that use them. Nevertheless, the comparison is illustrative. The push to keep a team or even a player by giving them a new stadium might not make economic sense, but losing that player can be painful. And even though a new stadium might not make economic sense for a metropolitan region, that doesn't mean the team itselfdespite being deeply rooted in a single placecan't also migrate to greener pastures and better opportunities. Unfortunately for Cleveland, that's something they also know far too well.

There are a few other items of note, only semi sports-related:

LeBron likes bikes: One thing LeBron does like is bikes. He's a partial owner of Cannondale and hosts a bike-a-thon for kids in his hometown of Akron, OH. Given the negative reaction in Cleveland to his professional decision to play basketball in Miami, it's unclear what will happen to events like this.

New York and Barcelona are boring: Mayor Bloomberg and others were on hand to see the final push of the tunnel boring machine for New York's 7 line extension. Second Avenue Sagas notes the challenges of urban tunneling, even with the advanced technology available today. A few weeks ago, The Transport Politic took an in-depth look at Barcelona's massive subway expansion, also making extensive use of tunnel boring machines operating in dense urban environments.

Paris, automated: Jarret Walker, of the Human Transit blog, offers some observations from Line 1 of the Paris Metro. The line is in the midst of an upgrade to fully automatic, driverless operation. That's no small feat for a line initially built in 1900.

Cross-posted at City Block.

Alex Block is an urban planner in Washington, DC. Alex's planning interests focus on the interactions between transportation, land use, and urban design. He also blogs at City Block and currently lives in Hill East. 

Comments

Add a comment »

The last item is missing a link, the URL is as follows:

http://www.humantransit.org/2010/07/paris-the-new-old-m%C3%A9tro-line-1.html

by Alex B. on Jul 18, 2010 10:40 am • linkreport

Florida keeps blathering on and has made a lot of money advising places that he now says she meet their Darwinian ends. I can't imagine why you'd want to quote a bullshit artist like him.

by Rich on Jul 18, 2010 6:25 pm • linkreport

James is black and Cleveland fans, and most Americans, are racists -- that explains the way he's been treated. We heard a lot about James' decision to leave Cleveland (technically, he was traded), but we heard nothing of all the players who were shipped against their will to new cities and towns, without notice, overnight, sometimes finding out in the paper the next day where they were going to work next. "Where is the outrage?", indeed.

And teams are 'tied to place'? Please. The only things that keeps franchises around more than a year or two at a time is that they've become experts at externalization and extortion -- getting new stadiums and profits on the backs of taxpayers.

Cry me a river, Cleveland. Go build another bus route.

by Peter Smith on Jul 18, 2010 10:03 pm • linkreport


Fun times in Cleveland v. 2

edit: Economy no longer based on LeBron James...at least they're not Detroit!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZzgAjjuqZM

by ed on Jul 18, 2010 10:12 pm • linkreport

@Peter Smith

Sorry, I don't buy the racism angle. Bill Simmons on ESPN compared this moment to his youth, when a very white Roger Clemens spurned the Red Sox via free agency to go to Toronto.

The bottom line is that professional sports profit off of the emotional bond between fans and the team. You're right, some teams have relocated - but since the advent of free agency, teams are not nearly as mobile as individual players. Likewise, teams will always rely on at least some semblance of a connection to the local city and local fans. In my opinion, what irritated Cleveland fans was not just the fact that he left, but how he chose to go about that decision. His TV special was pretty much a slap in the face to Cleveland fans, all while LeBron was making the case for fans of him (as an individual) to choose loyalty to the person instead of loyalty to the team, to the city.

LeBron basically asked Cavs fans to choose between rooting for him as a player or rooting for the team that represents their city - I'm not surprised most of them have sided with the city. Even in a league like the NBA that thrives on individual stars more so than team identity and team rivalries, that bond between a sports team and the area they represent is very strong.

by Alex B. on Jul 18, 2010 10:15 pm • linkreport

Cry me a river, Cleveland. Go build another bus route.

That's ironic to be coming out of the mouth of someone who lives in a region which is as grand as it is thanks mostly to the public teat.

Let he who is without blatant government support cast the first stone.

by MPC on Jul 18, 2010 10:29 pm • linkreport

That's ironic to be coming out of the mouth of someone who lives in a region which is as grand as it is thanks mostly to the public teat.

i should have said 'cry me a burning river'. har. i'm just more than a little bit bitter about this BRT thing, and Cleveland's system is still the signature US system. at this point, I'm beaten. now, i can only hope to 'choose my battles' and try to get bikes access on remaining road space. a couple of the NYC BRT-type routes will have protected bike lanes - that's good news. they'll be confined to one side of the street, but at this point, i'll take what i can get.

i live in the Bay Area, CA (specifically, San Jose) -- not sure any of its 'grand-ness' has anything to do with the gubment. i wouldn't think Uncle Sam financed this weather or these mountains, but maybe you have a different pov. Uncle Sam did, however, finance Tesla to a certain extent -- I'll give you that. i can't be held responsible if Tesla is ultimately 'successful', tho -- i've been rooting for their demise for as long as they've existed.

that said, i'm pretty sure Cali and DC contribute more Federal tax dollars than they receive. and our (Bay Area) unemployment rate is right up there with all but the worst areas in the US.

as far as 'public teat' -- i'd rather we keep that phrase to the Tea Party boards. it's not that it should be outlawed, it's just that it's not all that helpful to the discussion. teat, boondoggle -- all the usual useless 'boo' words. let's use specific examples and numbers.

Let he who is without blatant government support cast the first stone.

i'll be surprised if someone tells me this alleged 'he' exists.

as for the other comment -- that Bill Simmons stuff -- wow. can't believe what he and those people are writing. i have a very uneasy relationship with sports, especially professional sports -- how could you not? that was just something I had to learn. Mr. Simmons and many-a-Cleveland sports fans, apparently, do not see things the way i do. their worldview -- inasmuch as it relates to, or is consumed by, sports -- is scary to me.

the racism thing is real. people burning Lebron's jersey -- the owner likening him to a traitor when the country is at war. similar to the treatment Bonds (vs. McGwire) got -- syringe thrown at him, etc. same treatment Obama (vs. Bush) gets. A vast percentage of Americans -- maybe even a majority -- don't believe that racism exists, or believe it's not that harmful, not that pervasive, etc. if you don't want to see it, you won't see it.

and people talking about 'loyalty' is a joke -- it's about as useful as talking about 'patriotism' -- that is, not at all. people talking about 'loyalty' in the same proximity as 'professional sports,' though, is really incredible. i mean, i get if you're five years old, and you don't quite understand why your favorite player is going to a new team (Hey kid, you can head down to the sports store and pick up his new jersey -- if your wacko mother/father will let you.), but once you hit about six years old or so, you need to start learning that the world is a more complex place than 'Cleveland good, Everyone else bad.' Kids are very capable of understanding these things, but sadly, many of their parents are not.

by Peter Smith on Jul 19, 2010 3:17 am • linkreport

People are racists because they've burned his jersey? I remember seeing another jersey burned recently - that of Brett Favre, when he decided to play for Green Bay's archrivals in Minnesota.

And the loyalty thing is not a joke. You're right, of course, that people shouldn't expect that much from professional sports, but professional sports directly profits from that connection that fans make with the team and with the players.

by Alex B. on Jul 19, 2010 7:57 am • linkreport

like i said, if you don't want to see the racism, you won't see it -- even if it's right in front of your face.


by Peter Smith on Jul 19, 2010 8:13 am • linkreport

Racism may be a factor, but I doubt it is much of a factor at all. To even focus on that is a waste of time as far as I'm concerned. Had Lebron simply signed w/ Miami, w/o the hoopla, people would have accepted his decision easier. I think most people, even if they disagree w/ his decision to go to Miami, understand the decision considering he's joining two other top 10 players in the league. Most people understood that the guy had given Cleveland almost everything he's had for 7 years.

Lebron may be charismatic and is very talented, but he seems insecure and his ego and contrived personality got the best of him. He's not Jordan or Kobe as far as on/off-court personalities go. He's a jovial guy and should act that way instead of trying to act like some serious, business-like guy while announcing to Jim Gray where he's playing with a bunch of kids around him.

by Vik on Jul 19, 2010 10:01 am • linkreport

I think Ta-Nehisi Coates gets the LeBron issue just right:
http://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2010/07/cleveland-aint-racial-kid-they-only-hate-you/59621/

Key part: 2) I think the reaction to LeBron leaving would have been a lot different had his camp passed on Jim Gray's offer. You have the right to break up with your girlfriend. But if you do it on the Jumbotron, don't expect her to wish you well.

by Dizzy on Jul 19, 2010 10:07 am • linkreport

i think there are a bunch of 'key parts' of Lebrongate.

One, Paxson gave away Carlos Boozer, who was supposed to be Lebron's Pippen. Goodbye, championships. That's on Cleveland, not Lebron.

Two, where were all the objections to Lebron doing the The Special _before_ The Special?

Three, doing The Special was wrong. It was wrong on Gray, on ESPN, on Lebron, on Lebron's advisers, on the Cavs/Miami/New York/etc., Stern and the NBA, the organizations and the fans, on everyone who consented to it. It was wrong because the world is not a perfect place, and the Cavs had taken Lebron for granted for years and allowed their fans to believe they'd done Lebron right, so their expectations were up -- it only set up a situation where fans were going to be disappointed. That's on everyone, but mostly on Gilbert and the Cavs. Everyone wanted a piece of Lebron -- he's only 25 -- no amount of world experience can teach the lessons that only time can teach. All the 'grown-ups' failed Lebron, failed the Cleveland fans, failed everyone who felt victimized by this. It reminds me of the last Ohio athlete that was failed by the grown-ups -- Maurice Clarett. Lebron should apologize for participating in The Special, without apologizing for any of the nonsense about 'humiliation' and all that mumbo-jumbo. Like, 'oh - you upset the white people who did so much for you, so now you'd best apologize.' Whatever.

Four, The Establishment is bent because an athlete -- and a black athlete at that -- finally got over on them for once. It could set a very bad precedent. The great part, though, is that ESPN is on the wrong side.

Five, the whole 'girlfriend' thing, besides being creepy, is not applicable. If your girlfriend consents to finding out, on national tv, whether you're going to keep her around or not, then your relationship is seriously twisted, and needs to end. It becomes like The Bachelor, with a cruel twist (the Bachelor is only semi-single), and the Bachelor is only one of myriad people who are to blame for the ordeal. There are lots of reasons people want to be together -- they should not, I would argue, be coerced into being together -- extortion doesn't seem to a dignified basis for a relationship, personal or business -- it's not something we should encourage or condone.

Five, if you think it's bad losing a single player, try losing your entire team. Seattle fans would like Cleveland fans to please keep things in perspective.

Seventeen, Lebron likes bikes, and that's all that really matters.

:)

by Peter Smith on Jul 19, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport

"Five, if you think it's bad losing a single player, try losing your entire team. Seattle fans would like Cleveland fans to please keep things in perspective."

Yeah, pretty sure Cleveland has been down that route as well.

by charlie on Jul 19, 2010 11:15 am • linkreport

Yeah, pretty sure Cleveland has been down that route as well.

sorta. Cleveland got to keep their entire history -- i'm guessing that meant a lot to fans, but i really have no idea. Seattle has to 'share' their history, and had to give up the trophies/banners/etc.

by Peter Smith on Jul 19, 2010 11:37 am • linkreport

If LeBron was white and the exact same scenario played out in 2010, I think the same reactions are evident. Racists introduce an additional element of racist reactions because he IS black, but they hardly define the reaction.

The girlfriend is entirely applicable. Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but the fact is there are emotional connections between sports fans and sports teams and professional athletes. You can sneer at it and belittle it (a bigoted approach, to be sure) but the fact remains. Kids, adults, intelligent people, dumb people, rich people, poor people, white people, black people, etc. All of these are sports fans. Some of them care deeply. So when a guy who has already brought a lot of joy (yes, I said joy) to these people and promises even greater joy in the future leaves on national television, that's like a public breakup and will not result in good feelings. No doubt the owner went overboard. But I thought Simmons' analysis was spot on. I'm not particularly a LeBron fan, not particularly a Cavs fan, heck, not even particularly an NBA fan, but LeBron definitely lost stature in my eyes based on this circus approach to his free agency and choice of Miami, which will probably require the least of LeBron as compared to his other options.

And the inane exaggeration of the tendency of pro sports teams to move really hurts credibility, I think. Yes, teams move. Often? Regularly? No. THis is why it's still such big news when it happens.

Some people's lives are consumed by sports. Other people's lives are consumed by poetry. Others, by Civil War battlefields. Jeez, what difference does it make to you?

by Josh S on Jul 19, 2010 1:58 pm • linkreport

Peter,

I have no tolerance for people who put (project?) thoughts into other people's heads. You can see what you want in Cleveland's reaction to James' leaving (especially if you assume erroneously that Cleveland is a racist city), but James' race is not a significant factor.

Here are the facts from Cleveland's perspective:

1. James likely knew he was not going to resign in Cleveland three years ago. Bosh, Wade, and James talked about doing this three years ago, that's why all three only signed 3 year contracts then.

2. The Cavs were not a scrub team -- they had the top season record and were favored to get into the finals the last two years and were odds-on favorites to win it all this year. Cavaliers ownership did everything James wanted -- built new facilities, catered to LeBron's whims, and proved his willingness spent tens of millions of dollars OVER the cap to bring players to the team. They were on the cusp. If he signed in Cleveland, he would have won championships.

3. The Cavs were forced to make decisions and trades that favored winning in the short term versus building for the future because James only signed a three-year contract last time and would not commit to Cleveland. He refused to recruit players to Cleveland (like he's doing now in Miami).

4. James did indeed give up in the Boston playoff series, a series that the Cavs were heavy favorites, and he had a couple of awful games a year earlier against Orlando too. He already had his foot out the door mentally.

5. Nevertheless, James went through the charade and had 6 teams make pitches to him, including Cleveland. He let Cleveland fans grovel for him to stay for weeks.

6. By failing to make his decision that he was leaving known to Cavs management when he knew, he handcuffed the team's ability to sign other free agents as it waited for him.

7. He went on national TV to announce his decision, humiliating the city in one of the most hyped reality TV shows ever produced. Keep in mind that this guy is FROM the metropolitan area and was considered a home-town hero. The ESPN "Decision" garnered over 6 million dollars (only a fraction was given to charity).

As for the angry reaction, you guys don't understand the insane fixation Cleveland has on its sports teams. As poor taste as it is, what is racist about that target shirt? The same shirts were around when Art Model moved the Browns to Baltimore. Art Model is not black.

by Cleveland View on Jul 19, 2010 7:37 pm • linkreport

If LeBron was white and the exact same scenario played out in 2010, I think the same reactions are evident.

ok -- all i'm asking for is just a modicum of evidence that this could be true. just show me the Favre t-shirts with the rifle targets superimposed over his image. or show me the letter from the team owner with the not-so-veiled death threat.

Racists introduce an additional element of racist reactions because he IS black, but they hardly define the reaction.

so we should ignore the virulence of the reaction? pretend it's not important?

Racism may be a factor, but I doubt it is much of a factor at all. To even focus on that is a waste of time as far as I'm concerned.

we disagree. if you're not black, it's probably not a big deal to you, personally. if have a black spouse, or black friends, it's very important to you. if you are black, then i suspect it defines your existence, especially if you're not rich. I agree that pointing out racism all the time is tiresome and even boring -- so let's make sure racism doesn't ever become acceptable. it's now (still) generally unacceptable in polite society to say racist sh*t -- that's because so many of us go out of our way to denounce it when it happens. that's the way it needs to be.

i'm with Chris Rock:

There ain't no white man in this room that will change places with me -- and I'm rich. That's how good it is to be white. There's a one-legged busboy in here right now that's going: "I don't want to change. I'm gonna ride this white thing out and see where it takes me."
And the inane exaggeration of the tendency of pro sports teams to move really hurts credibility, I think. Yes, teams move. Often? Regularly? No. THis is why it's still such big news when it happens.

you think? or you know? if you're going to use words like 'inane', then you'd better well know, not just think.

As I already said, teams move whenever they can get a better deal. They'd rather just stay in place to get that better deal, but if they have to move, they'll move. Ask the Arlington Cowboys. Most times, teams are able to extort politicians and fans, so the moves aren't necessary. Right now, the Golden State (Oakland) Warriors are threatening a move to either SF or San Jose. The local SJ paper said, 'Go get them, quick!' -- steal Oakland's girlfriend. Nice. Who do you think is gonna pay to lure that girlfriend here? Me and the rest of the lemmings. The SF 49ers have been threatening a move to Santa Clara for years -- getting more and more from SF taxpayers each year. But they might just move anyways. Why not? There will always be people who are willing to overlook the crimes of the powerful ownership and management, and look instead to take out their angst on the relatively-powerless athletes. Lebron changed the equation momentarily, and it upset a lot of people. They deserved to be upset.

The reason it's such a big deal when entire teams move is because...it's a BFD. And it's such a BFD, that it's almost impossible to move a team more often than once every few years. But the extortion is there -- every. single. year. Moving a team means the loss of millions in tax revenue, hundreds (at least) of jobs, etc.

The San Jose Sharks just extorted a new parking garage out of me and the rest of the lemming San Jose taxpayers. You may not have a problem with that, but I do.

Incidentally, the reason Clevelanders hate Modell is because he extorted y'all, and then moved the team anyways. Y'all were played for fools. I'd be bent, too.

Some people's lives are consumed by sports. Other people's lives are consumed by poetry. Others, by Civil War battlefields. Jeez, what difference does it make to you?

People need to dedicate time to being citizens. Citizenship has responsibilities and obligations attached to it. It's not OK to just be completely consumed by your Lebron-loving, or your Civil War Re-Enactments. Not being an active citizen has very real, negative consequences for the quality of our lives, and those of all of our descendants. This place doesn't belong to us -- we're just visiting.

and injustice is wrong, and we all have a moral responsibility to stamp it out. says me.

I have no tolerance for people who put (project?) thoughts into other people's heads.

i have no tolerance for people who have no tolerance. besides, i'm not the only one talking racism -- if you talk to the leading scholars of our day, they'll tell you things you've never heard before -- like the fact that racism enables war and occupation. and that you don't have to be burning crosses on folks' front lawns to have deeply held racist beliefs. and that those racist beliefs are incredibly damaging to individuals and to society as a whole. i mean, DC is like ground zero for race-based politics. most/all cities are, but a crack-smoking black mayor keeps getting re-elected and white people everywhere are like, "But I don't understand?!" -- well, start paying attention and you just might someday.

especially if you assume erroneously that Cleveland is a racist city

Cleveland is probably not any more racist than any other US city.

They were on the cusp.

Cleveland was on the cusp of being bounced out of every playoffs for the next ten years. No matter how great Lebron is, chances are he would not have been able to win a championship by himself. Not even Jordan won championships by himself. Y'all let Boozer go, and didn't replace him, and that demonstrated to Lebron that y'all weren't serious about winning. I'm happy Lebron left -- I don't like great players getting taken advantage of. Ditto for Duranchula -- can't believe he's stuck in Oklahoma City for the next few years. It's a crime. All of those great players from the past who never won -- they should have had a chance to win the big one. Fortunately, things have changed, and now players have slightly more control over their destinies.

As poor taste as it is, what is racist about that target shirt?

There's a history of being black and being assassinated/murdered/lynched in America. Unfortunately, all too many Clevelanders and Americans alike would ask the same question. It's very sad.

The entire reaction to Lebron was chauvinist and racist -- it's clear as day. Lebron is 'stupid' and 'ignorant' and 'selfish' and all the rest. A black player goes to a new team to make more money? He's selfish. A black player goes to a new team to win a championship while making less money? He's selfish. So typical.

And you guys won't change. The same anti-black rage is going to play out again in the sports world soon enough -- the same one that plays out on the streets and in the courtrooms every day -- and you'll once again deny that it's racism, or that it's a serious problem, or you'll say that it doesn't explain the full reaction, or whatever. Not sure what else I can say -- read Black Like Me, read some history books, read some stories about black first graders being handcuffed, unarmed black guys getting shot in the back while they're face-down on the ground -- just do something to understand the world that's going around you. And i'll try to keep track of your humanity, even though you dismiss the dehumanization of others.

by Peter Smith on Jul 19, 2010 10:02 pm • linkreport

@ Peter Smith

Favre jersey, on fire:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1BBhSqsKWE

Also, you can't compare a team moving within a metro area (like the Cowboys moving from Irving to Arlington) to a team leaving completely.

Teams really aren't all that different from other corporations. Lydia DePillis made that point today as well, drawing parallels to the recent Northrop Grumman courtship in this region:

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2010/07/19/florida-watch-lebron-james-edition/

by Alex B. on Jul 19, 2010 10:41 pm • linkreport

Favre jersey, on fire:

i asked for the death threat letter from the owner, and/or the rifle target superimposed over the likeness of Favre (or whatever white person you want) -- these are the examples of where nutso-fandom moves to racist, dangerous hate.

Also, you can't compare a team moving within a metro area (like the Cowboys moving from Irving to Arlington) to a team leaving completely.

true - they're not the same thing. but the extortion is still there. staying in the same metro area is good for owners, and could still be good-ish for citizens, depending on whether or not you're a fan. so let's say you're a SF supervisor (what SF city councilors are called) -- do you pay up and give the 49ers new and wider roads and other free stuff, or do you say, 'Screw you, move to Santa Clara (20 mi south)' and threaten to sue them to give up the 'San Francisco' name? Do our councilors have that much power? Probably not -- it'd be political suicide. Thus, the extortion kicks in. It's not right.

so, part of this drama is that Lebron is just a black kid, so he must submit to the will of his predominantly white fanbase and team ownership, whereas the team ownership gets to make daily, cold calculating decisions about the players, management, etc. -- no sympathy, no loyalty, etc. -- the owners are allowed to do it because they're rich, and white.

oddly enough, if more owners were black, i think they'd get away with a lot less. the racism would kick in and the predominantly-white fanbase would do the whole, "Who does this uppity owner think he is, threatening to move our team?!" Most/all the area sportswriters and news outlets, who are also mostly white, would jump on board, too. This is part of the dynamic with Obama right now, with the rise not just of the most virulent and violent racist groups, but also with the growing casual acceptance of racism into the mainstream. So, oddly enough, if you want better-behaving team ownership, allow some black people to own teams. Even thinking about all this is morally-murky, but I suspect that's the way things would play out. We could probably study it -- there's probably enough info available. We need access to some race/class scholars, since that stuff is so central to everything we discuss here.

i don't have any problem with the teams/corporations analogy -- whatever helps people to understand their nature better is fine by me. i have a problem with teams/corporations because they're so often able to impose their will upon us. it's not right, and it needs to be challenged.

i'm more than a little bit surprised that we haven't seen a 'corporate accountability'-type movement in the US yet. it's kinda weird. the CSR stuff is a joke. there's really just...nothing. a couple of good books and films here and there, but no movement like the bike movement, the women's rights movement, global social justice movement (anti-globalization), etc. -- nothing talking directly about the nature of corporations and how we can and must wrestle power back from them. i'll be sure to let y'all know when i start one -- it's gonna be a _very_ big tent, and it's gonna be us -- every color/race/creed/etc. vs. them (the corporations). see, can't we all get along? :)

by Peter Smith on Jul 19, 2010 11:33 pm • linkreport

At this point, I feel compelled to remind everyone that Peter Smith has a... uh... very different outlook on things than most people. For instance, he advocated throwing John Catoe (and unnamed others) in jail over the Red Line crash (using the fact that Egypt is jailing people as a rationale), declared that "Cars, to me, are fundamentally anti-human because they travel at speeds that humans were not meant to travel at", stated that no one would leave DC if it raised the income tax rate from 8% to 18%, declared fare inspections on transit to be a violation of the Constitution and the presumption of innocence, etc., etc., etc.

In short, y'all are wasting your time, folks. You live in alternate realities.

by Dizzy on Jul 19, 2010 11:43 pm • linkreport

Peter, I don't need a Favre target. Here's a guy actually shooting a Favre jersey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUv5oNmy13I

by Alex B. on Jul 20, 2010 7:38 am • linkreport

Peter, I don't need a Favre target. Here's a guy actually shooting a Favre jersey:

fair enough. i'll assume that's a favre jersey. that's some pretty twisted stuff. it still lacks the totality of the anti-Lebron stuff -- like the pseudo-death threat from the owner of the team. the problem is how to tell if it's just Jersey Shore-type YouTube bravado, or the next nutter about to go crazy. yet another incident in Oakland last night -- where there is no racism -- sniper trying to take out cops. a cop executed in Chicago. you can dismiss racism all day long, but it's not going to go away. we shouldn't ignore it.

and let's keep in mind that Gilbert was fined. why weren't Packers managers fined? why were they able to control their hatred? what if Favre were black?

lots of white people think Jesse Jackson comes out and says stuff because he's just trying to be involved -- they have no idea of his history with the true King back in the day. they don't know and they don't care. domestic terrorism? never heard of it. Jesse lived it. he knows that Dan Gilbert probably put Lebron in real danger. all it takes is one nutter, and there are tons of people out there with real grievances who are just looking for a scapegoat. many/most white people dismiss Jackson -- he's the wrong color, does a bit too much truth-telling -- which is why it's even more important for us white folks to speak out against racism when we see it.

the white guys will remain largely unscathed.

let's see how much drama the big, white center gets for following Lebron to Miami.

a rich white guy who owns a team filled with mostly black players -- and the rich white guy tells a departing black guy that he's stupid, cowardly, etc. yeah - i can't imagine why anyone would see racism there.

Jim Brown says Gilbert's letter was sorta racist but not really. Brown says you "just don't talk to African Americans" like that, given the history of racism in our country, but that it wasn't racism. To me, that is racism, by definition. You write something with ad hominem attacks to demean another human being, you know that human being is black, you know history of racism in America, in Cleveland, and of the NBA - you know the context, and you write it anyways -- because you can. You know the blowback, at worst, will be a fine, because most white people will back you up, because now we live in a 'post-racial society' dontchaknow? I guarantee other players around the league were like, 'W.T.F.' Think any good black players will want to play for Gilbert? No. They may go there if that's their best business opportunity, but they'll know the deal.

And Gilbert was trying to deflect attention and blame away from himself. You know what they say -- a good offense. It seems to have worked, more or less, but let's see what happens these next few weeks as people calm down. Gilbert was very loyal to fire his winning coach. Maybe some writer will dare hold Gilbert to the same standards he ascribes to Lebron?

I think the only thing that makes some white people realize how pervasive racism is, is when they see the Tea Party/Republican signs showing Obama as a monkey being hanged and all that fun stuff. Outside of that exceptionally-shocking stuff, racism just doesn't exist to most white Americans, and if it does, it's largely seen as 'harmless'. Sad, but true.

by Peter Smith on Jul 20, 2010 8:59 am • linkreport

funny tidbit:
Cleveland newspaper, ‘The Plain Dealer’ posted the below note on its website:

Note for commenters:

“We understand your anger, but please show that Cleveland has class: no racism, no vulgarity, and leave his family out of it. Commenters who cross those lines may have their accounts temporarily or permanently suspended”.

Reminds me of this passage:
If you gave an order that Santiago wasn't to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would he be in danger, why would it be necessary to transfer him off the base?
:-D

here's what the Cleveland Plain Dealer was actually saying:

Cleveland, you know as well as we do that we have no class -- you saw our cover today, but still, we need to 'play the game', so no racism, no family stuff, etc.
i have run blogs before and had my fare share of racist comments come in, but i also worked at a newspaper for a while -- it was basically non-stop from at least dozens of separate commenters - crazy, over-the-top, virulent, racist, death threat-type comments. and they were identifying themselves -- not anonymouses. that just confirmed my real-life experiences, not that i ever had a doubt, but it was still a bit surprising.

@Dizzy -- thanks. i like to go back and check out what i've written in the past. I'm hoping we eventually get an easy way to see 'profiles' on this site so we can all easily see what we've all written. i think we should all be held accountable for what we say. echo chambers are boring, and you don't learn anything. from this thread, for instance, i better understand now that sports towns like Cleveland are particularly susceptible to the chauvinism fostered by their professional sports franchises, and that 'the crazy' is not reserved solely for black athletes.

by Peter Smith on Jul 20, 2010 9:30 am • linkreport

@ Peter Smith - you know, there's a lot more to the world than potential racism.

The reason a lot of folks in Ohio are angry can be distilled into a few points, many of which Cleveland View hit on (hey what's up buddy?)

1) The guy tanked in the playoffs.

2) He kept the entire franchise hostage for years, and now it seems as though he did so knowingly over the course of a number of seasons, planning all the while to leave in 2k10.

3) He left the city in one of the most arrogant, self-congratulatory manners possible. Compare that with DC's own Kevin Durantula, who recently extended his contract with OKC for 5 years, and announced doing so with a simple Tweet. Not an hour-long smug-fest with Jim Gray and Wilbon.

This is why people are mad. Sure - there might be a small number of people who are mad because they are racist. But to paint that picture with such a wide brush is extremely obtuse.

FWIW, I wrote about LeBron's departure here: http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=30751

by Denny on Jul 20, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or

Support Us

How can our region be greater?

DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC