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Marla Ridenour on Sports

The day The Fumble got company

By Marla Published: July 8, 2011

This is the day The Drive and The Fumble got company.

And probably got upstaged.

Hearing LeBron James' voice replayed saying "I'm taking my talents to South Beach'' Thursday night on the radio still made me a little sick to my stomach.

After years of praising James for his poise and maturity despite his rocky upbringing and the lack of a father growing up, it's still hard for me to comprehend that he broke Cleveland's hearts in an hour-long television special last July 8.

I still wonder how his friends sold him on the idea. Did he fall for their pitch that it was all about the money raised for the Boys and Girls Club, which he continued to mention months after the fact? Since he was never recruited to play college ball, did the free agency frenzy so feed his ego that it robbed him of his sensitivity? Did he see the ESPN format as the perfect launch for his global iconship?

Or was it merely a massive marketing miscalculation not seen here since Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore? Yes, Modell knew the fans would be angry, but he never dreamed the backlash would be so great that he'd never be able to set foot in this town again.

It may take James his entire NBA career to repair the damage to his reputation that one-hour special wrought.

After being idolized for most of his life, James continues to wrestle with his new role as a villain. While he continues to support Akron charities and St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, that hasn't been enough to get the public to forgive, much less move on. James seems to be trying the only way he knows how to make a problem go away -- by throwing money at it. But he can't take care of his image the way he takes care of his hangers-on.

Northeast Ohioans' hearts were further hardened a year ago, their never-failing cynicism ramped up another couple notches on the Hurt-O-Meter.

Years from now, perhaps we will be the only ones bearing the scars of The Decision. But I suspect not. Our old No. 23 may still be hurting as well. Especially if what seemed like the perfect path to fame and glory turns out not to be the Yellow Brick Road.



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