Ever since "The Decision," many a pundit or has-been player has weighed in on LeBron James's controversial move to the Miami Heat.
But their critiques have largely been air-balls, lacking in aim and precision. For God's sake, the national media treated Charles Barkley like the Oracle of Delphi on the issue. So it's about time someone with six decades of sports writing experience said something of substance on the subject.
We give you: legendary writer Gay Talese on LeBron James.
When we caught up with the spry 78-year-old, he was on deadline for The New Yorker. But he still took a few minutes to defend James and to slam his detractors.
"If I were LeBron James I would have gone to the Miami Heat the same way," Talese said. "He gave his heart to Cleveland and they never gave him enough strong partnership with players to win a ring. And here's a better opportunity in Miami and the damn newspaper press... criticizes him."
The former New York Times writer reserved special venom for the media in his adopted city, The Big Apple.
"The New York press that wanted him to play here in New York gave him a couple of knocks, but look at how badly the New York Knickerbockers treated their own player, David Lee," Talese added. "He was a good guy and he did all the right things, and they just traded him away like a piece of meat."
The LeBron saga did, however, reveal a deep malady in modern sports, Talese insisted -- but not that star players have become prima donnas. Instead, it showed that athletes like James are besieged on all sides by cynical team owners, short-sighted fans, and tabloid journalists. Simply put, it's harder to be a sports hero today than it was in the past.
"It's not because people don't recognize heroism," Talese said. "It's because people spend so much time exposing the peccadilloes of the personal lives of some of these players. They are more interested in writing how some woman in the locker room was not treated in lady-like fashion when she was trying to talk to naked men right before they could dry off after a shower," he added, referring to a recent visit by Ines Sainz to the New York Jets locker room.
"They are just trying to expose the frailty or flaws in human nature," Talese told us. "They are picking on little personal failures or malfeasances or indiscrete comments. It's gotcha journalism."
Don't worry Gay. We would never stoop so low...
Talese will speak at the Miami International Book Fair on Nov. 20 to promote a new compilation of his sports writing entitled The Silent Season of a Hero.