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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Voices of reason come from Columbus

By Marla Published: September 10, 2010

With LeBron James considering attending Saturday's Ohio State-Miami football game in Columbus, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor tried to calm the masses still seething over the Cavalier star's departure to the Miami Heat.

When word got out that James might be on the Buckeyes' sideline, angry fans responded on the Internet. Even some of the milder responses suggested Pryor should reconsider his choice of mentors. Others wondered whether James being on the sideline would be an NCAA violation since he owns a sports marketing/management company.

Pryor is also being ripped for saying of James, ''He's a Buckeye,'' the diehards suggesting the way James' left Cleveland showed no traits of what that means.

''Sore subjects need to pass,'' Tressel said Thursday. ''We all make decisions. You have to respect one another's decisions and move on.''

Pryor said, ''If LeBron does come, just treat him with respect and respect his decision. Please, no name-calling or booing or anything like that because that's my mentor. I have a lot of respect and a lot of love for him.''

Tressel may be hesitant to dissuade James from attending because Ohio State's basketball team was one of the first schools equipped by James' shoe brand. The basketball Buckeyes have worn his L23 logo on their uniform and shoes. Tressel certainly would not want to cause a rift between the university and Nike.

But outspoken fans believe Pryor is tarnishing his image by his association with James.  Pryor inspired the same vitriol when he wore an eyeblack patch with the word ''Vick'' during a 2009 victory over Navy, in reference to the Atlanta Falcons quarterback jailed for running a dog-fighting operation. Fan anger isn't likely to prompt Pryor to abandon his heroes.

Tressel and Pryor may not be able to convince fans not to boo James if he shows up at the Horseshoe, even if it seems like emotion better directed at the opponent or saved for his Dec. 2 return to Quicken Loans Arena. If his presence becomes a distraction, James would be better off sitting in a loge, which is the longest of longshots in the see-and-be-seen circles in which James travels.

An added attraction for television in big games is showing the stars on the sidelines. It's part of the lure of playing in Madison Square Garden. It's inevitable that if James attends, his face will be all over ESPN and the jumbotron.

So as long as James is not rooting for Miami, the challenge for Ohioans is to treat James with class.

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