Sunday, July 11, 2010


Last week's LeBron Lunacy only served to spotlight a lot that is wrong in America's celebrity-obsessed society.

It -- again -- showed how far journalistic standards have fallen. A single, unnamed "source close to LeBron" had the power to set off round-after-round of journalism by Twitter: "He's leaning toward Chicago." NO! "He's likely to stay in Cleveland." NO! "He's headed to New York." WRONG! James' real destination turned out to be Miami.

Think of all the time and energy wasted on these no-news reports. All they were designed to do was fill empty Internet and print space, and broadcast air time. Shame on reporters who made important local stories a second priority so they could feel themselves to be a part of LeBron Lunacy.

I can't name a single journalist or news outlet who rose above the madness. Certainly not ESPN, which bent its supposed standards for a truly embarrassing one-hour prime-time special. Jim Gray, who has been living off his reputation for years, took another sad step into the abyss. The list of others following his wretched example runs from here to Terre Haute.

The greatest fraud was casting the ESPN special as a "charity" event. Here's what LeBron, enabled by the media-at-large, taught the children used as props for his announcement: These days, it's a Me-Me-Me society. That's the model for your future, boys and girls: Yourself. What a disgrace!

Lastly, we witnessed yet another example of sports superstars getting very, very bad PR advice. We saw it with Tiger. In my opinion, we're seeing it with Danica. And we certainly saw it with LeBron. He came off looking terrible, his image knocked-down several steps by the appearance of pure egoism.

Now, in fairness, it could be Tiger and Danica and LeBron simply refuse to accept good counsel. But I have also witnessed, first-hand, how strong PR professionals sell their good counsel to bad clients in the client's best interest. IT CAN BE DONE! and don't anyone tell me otherwise! But, sadly, those kind of PR pros are rare today. The only thing that matters to them is the fee check.

Jeff Gordon:I think I learned what not to do. I’m a big fan of LeBron and I think it’s very cool that he’s going to Miami, but I don’t think the way they went about it is the best marketing idea in the world. You want to create hype, but you also want to be a positive and not a negative. I think I saw more, other than the thing that they did for the Boys and Girls Club, I saw more of it being a little negative."

Kurt Busch: "She’ll (Danica) probably have a one-hour ESPN prime-time special when she wants to announce it (full-time NASCAR career.)”

Don't think for a minute that ESPN or Speed won't slobber over the chance to do just that!

Who is the most significant driver in American motorsports at mid-season? See my new July "Drags, Dollars & Sense" column on

FAST LINES: How sad this is what it has come to -- Panther Racing's news release that it had been "unable to come to a contract agreement with LeBron James." This is the sort of non-sense and waste of the media's time that happens when a team goes from champion to underperformer . . . I can't help but notice this sort of thing -- NBC is No. 1 among the nightly network news shows, and while I'm not a fan, I believe a good bit of that is due to anchor Brian Williams' work ethic. Williams was on-duty July 5, a holiday, while ABC's Diane Sawyer and CBS' Katie Couric took the night off. Hey, Katie, you are in last place with a record-low viewership. Get off the beach and get to work! . . . Beloved NASCAR media center worker Judy Tucker died last week. I can't even begin to say how much Judy, along with Donna Freismuth, helped me at the Daytona IROC races. God Bless.

Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

July 14 -- Newsmaker: Ralph Gilles (Dodge president and CEO). Panelists: Mark Armijo, Jim Pedley. Plus, Larry Edsall.

July 21 -- Newsmaker: Steve Kinser. Panelists: Jim Chiappelli, Keith Waltz. Plus, Bob Margolis.

July 28 -- Newsmaker: Joey Saldana. Panelists: Dave Argabright, Mike Kerchner. Plus, Jeff Burk.

[ Ralph Gilles news note Thursday . . . ]