The national sports news of the week has been a mix of drama: Between the LeBron James saga and the final days of World Cup soccer, we've seen glimpses of some of the best and worst in the world of sports.
In the city of Cleveland, King James has gone from anointed one to turncoat. As much as the city is despised by Steelers fans in football season, it's hard not to feel badly for fans who stuck by the NBA's best player, waiting for a championship that never came. The week-long build-up to the nationally-televised decision added insult to injury; the Cavs and their fans deserved better from their homegrown superstar.
The frenzy leading up to the announcement was another example of ESPN's influence on sports. The round-the-clock LeBron coverage was echoed on cable news channels. Taking the concept of the live signing ceremony to a new level, the network has found a way to capitalize on these kinds of stories. They feed the fire, debating all the angles and every possibility, all while the tiny clock in the corner of the screen counts down to the big moment. ESPN does not just cover this kind of spectacle but actually creates it. It paid off in a 7.3 overnight share; only football has done a better rating on the network this year.
But is this really what sports should be about? As great as LeBron James, Terrelle Pryor or any other single athlete may be, they are still just one member of a team. If King James' stay in Cleveland should prove anything, it's that a championship cannot be won by one man alone.
In another part of the world, World Cup soccer was dominating the news cycle, as the Netherlands and Spain advanced to the finals. During this coverage, ESPN shined and allowed the sport of soccer to shine as well.
In spite of the American-less championship game, more than 24 million viewers tuned in, an all-time record rating for the sport in the United States. This was undoubtedly due, in part, to the in-depth and colorful coverage provided by the cable sports giant. This was the first World Cup that ESPN treated as the world's most popular sporting event, and it showed in the country's increasing interest in the tournament.
ESPN featured all the news surrounding the tournament: The coaching changes, controversies, ceremonies and even the vuvuzela (those crazy long horns). And they did it with experienced sportscasters and commentators who even predicted a couple of key upsets.
The LeBron James coverage may have been over the top, but so was the World Cup soccer. That kind of coverage has elevated sports like soccer, softball and tennis around the globe.
The network calls itself "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and, for better or worse, it certainly is.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.