MADELEINE BRAND, host:
New York is on the mind of commentator Frank Deford this week. In the world of sports, a place like New York commands extra bargaining power.
FRANK DEFORD: Given that 10 is a nice, round number, nevertheless let's imagine that Moses only came down from the mountain with, say, eight commandments. Which ones wouldn't make the cut?
Well, certainly since nobody keeps the Sabbath holy anymore especially football teams that one has already gone by the board. And then, I think if something else had to go, it would be that business about coveting. Compared to thou shalt not kill or steal, for instance, coveting seems relatively small potatoes - except, perhaps, in New York, where coveting has run amok.
In New York sports, the conversation is always about what players some other poor, little city has that we want; that, in fact, we deserve to have in New York. The Yankees feed this attitude by simply taking whomsoever they desire, like King David just grabbing Bathsheba for himself from poor Uriah the Hittite.
If the Mets don't go out then and pillage a small franchise of some superstar that fans covet, everybody gets furious at the Mets for not being properly rapacious. But all this baseball coveting is nothing compared to how New York covets LeBron James. He will be a free agent on July 1st, and all Gotham believes that it is written that James must then come play yay, save the woebegone Knickerbockers. James himself feeds this frenzy by playing coy, but the LeBron Le Fever has been stoked even more by, of all things, Tiger Woods.
You see, Mr. Woods - who himself showed us a thing or two about coveting - is no longer the golden boy for Nike. King James has succeeded to that position, and the conspiracy theory goes that now that he's number one, Nike desires him in New York, where he will give more exposure to the swoosh. There was even a hoax on the Internet last week that Nike had already produced a sneaker for LeBron in Knick colors with "I love New York" printed on the sole.
And Big Apple coveting has reached new heights with the wishful theory that because LeBron makes so much money from Nike and other endorsements, he should gladly take next to nothing in salary when he comes to New York. So then, with the money saved, the Knicks could bring in yet another big-time free agent, like Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade. Especially when playing with other people's money, New York coveting knows no bounds.
A-ha, but the issue is complicated. First, there is no longer any consensus that in a cyberspace world, a star athlete needs to perform in a media capital like New York. I mean, LeBron James's Cleveland jerseys are already huge sellers all over the world. Moreover, his whole identity is tied to Cleveland. He was born and raised in nearby Akron and never went off to college. For him to abandon the unfashionable land of his nativity to go to glitzy New York might reek of disloyalty and hurt his pristine reputation. Why, you could even say then that LeBron would be bearing false witness against his old neighbors.
BRAND: Commentator Frank Deford joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.
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