Pursuit of NBA free agents allows ESPN to flex muscle

I would rather read more about authorities in Iceland exhuming the body of Bobby Fischer to determine whether he is the father of a 9-year-old girl from the Philippines, because for a chess champion whose life turned into such an unstable, peculiar mess in its final years, the idea of someone now digging up poor ol’ Bob to zap a few DNA samples is compelling in a bizarre sort of way.

I would rather have details continue to emerge about Damon Evans, who resigned as University of Georgia athletic director this week, because when you start with a guy driving under the influence with a pair of red panties between his legs belonging to his passenger who isn’t his wife and him trying to bribe police by saying he isn’t bribing them, well, there’s always more to that story.

I would rather spend time laughing more at those who say we must give Lance Armstrong the benefit of the doubt.

I would rather hear anything than more news about what teams a select number of NBA stars might join.

I am finally, officially, LeBroned out.

I’m also Dwyaned out and Boshed out.

I would have been Joed out, but then I would have to know more about Joe Johnson other than Atlanta just paid $119 million to a guy whose scoring average has decreased each of the past three seasons.

This is a different Grand Experiment than the one on acid rain or comparing Phantom to TNT fireworks — the Komodo Dragon by Phantom rocks, by the way — but no less important to those whose lives seem to depend on what team logo will be displayed on those paychecks LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will cash.

What the media craze surrounding this 2010 class of NBA free agents has proven is twofold:

1. ESPN is more powerful than God.

2. We need to get a tad more of a life.

I’m writing about it. You’re reading about it. Sports talk radio hosts are debating it. TV reporters are filming it. Fans are showing up at airports dressed as human billboards. Hundreds more are lining the streets in hopes of getting a glimpse of the King and his backpack.

I understand why those in Cleveland would be treating this uncertain time for the Cavaliers as if the world will end should James sign elsewhere — after all, how many times can you stick out your civic pride chest about a cheap public transportation system and Edgewater Park? — but the fact this story has flowed into such a national torrent of interest is amazing even for the all-access, around-the-clock sports news capsule we live in.

ESPN is a powerful entity but not until times like this, or when Brett Favre decides he hasn’t had enough face time of late, can we truly comprehend the network’s reach and influence.

Consider only that representatives of James contacted ESPN about the star player making his announcement official on air Thursday in an hourlong special.

ESPN can make a story such as this as big as it wants, and it has chosen to create the perception that anything to do with James and his free-agent buddies should be followed like one might a police chase of a white Bronco with a former NFL star in the back seat.

So we follow. Which means the network has done its job perfectly.

People who bash ESPN are in one of two camps — those who work for competing media outlets or those who are jealous. Think about it. If we weren’t paying attention, they wouldn’t promote a story to such heights.

Here’s the deal: Stories such as this aren’t reported now as they were 20 years ago. It’s more about expediency than facts. I’m not sure getting it right means anything to most, but I darn well know getting it first does. And if another gets it first, you confirm their side and act as if you did.

We eat it up. Every unnamed source. Every reported rumor. Every ounce of conjecture. Video streams increase by 150 percent. Page views on the Internet double. Major metropolitan newspapers create websites devoted to the home team’s pursuit of James.

At some point, all of it consumes our consciousness, and we’re not sure how or when it happened.

It’s not wrong. It’s just the world we live in. Plenty of people have no problem with 24/7 LeBron. Hype has become the main ingredient for how such news is desired by those watching.

It’s on us who reach the point of overload not to devour those updates so quickly so as to create even more a sense of need. It’s on us to read and watch and care less, especially when there are far more interesting topics to follow.

Like what Damon Evans told his wife about those red panties.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618.

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