Charles Barkley was right: The decline of sport as a noble endeavor

During the summer of 2010, as basketball fans waited for a really big free agent season to pan out, the Miami Heat re-signed their star Dwyane Wade, and in a moment of managerial genius, managed to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh – all three at discounts so they could afford to have two other starters and a bench and still be under the salary cap.

Here's how they were introduced.

Flashy and exciting, sure. There hadn't been a starting three like that since...well, since any team ever, I guess.

But it started with James – a lifelong Cleveland resident, who signed with the Cleveland team out of high school and bought a modest home in Cleveland, saying this: "I'm taking my talents to South Beach."

That's an actual quote.

Remember back in 1980s when parents slammed Charles Barkley for his I am not a role model ad? You know, because kids looked – and still look – up to sports stars as role models.

While I still find myself drawn to sport – I love watching a good contest in almost any sport – I've had a real hard time with the culture lately.

Also: Get off my lawn.

Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky.

But how can you like a guy with an attitude like James had (I understand why he signed elsewhere – he definitely had a raw deal in Cleveland, where he was expected to be a one-man team)? He held a prime-time press conference to announce his decision. That's when coaches found out, too. And the way he said it? Argh.

And the way the Heat introduced Wade, James and Bosh, as though they were guaranteeing a championship? In a few years, a lot of us are going to forget it was the Dallas Mavericks who won the 2011 NBA title. We'll just know it wasn't Miami.

Last night in baseball, there were four games played to determine the final two playoff spots. Three of those games ended in dramatic fashion. That's why I still love baseball, and why I still love sport.

You know what else happened in baseball yesterday? Jose Reyes came into what might have been his final game in a Mets uniform. He's been much-loved by fans, and I'm sure some of them came out to watch him compete for the National League batting title, which he was leading by three points coming into the game.

In the first inning, Reyes bunted for a single and promptly took himself out of the game, so as not to risk losing points off his batting average.

He won the batting crown, but probably disappointed a fair number of people by not playing the full game.

70 years ago, Ted Williams went into the final day of the season – one on which the Red Sox were scheduled to play two games – with a batting average of exactly .400, which is, to be sure, a milestone.

He could have sat out and finished the season secure in the knowledge that he hit .400, without risking his average. But if he was going to have a .400 average, he said he was going to have it for the whole season.

He had six hits in eight at-bats during the double-header, finishing the season with an average of .406 – the last time anyone finished a complete season with an average of .400 or higher.

One of those two is a role model, the other is squeaking by on minimal effort. (Not to take anything away from Reyes' talent, just his character.)

Early in the NFL season, we're talking about teams faking injuries to slow down a fast-moving offensive strategy. Want to know how to better defend against a fast offense? Get fitter.

Maybe it's the money, I don't know. But the culture of sports has changed a lot.

Get. Off. My. Lawn.

The Decision: Lebroncalypse, Dan Gilbert and Comic Sans

In case you've been living under a rock the past week, LeBron James announced during a televised press conference last week that he would be playing for the Miami Heat next season. In case you've been living under a rock for the past eight years, LeBron James was such a good basketball player in high school that ESPN televised his team's games. And then he was selected number one in the ensuing NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, his hometown team.

For those of you who aren't NBA fans, which I know is most of the readers of this blog, the 2003 NBA Draft might very well be the best one ever. After James went first, Darko Milicic, who turned out to be a bust, was second, followed by Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, who are all household names by now. Four other all-stars were also picked in that draft. So to be the best player chosen in that draft seven years later is saying something.

The general consensus around the sports world, and I'm on the bandwagon, is that James made the right decision for him – playing with Bosh and Wade gives him a reasonable shot at winning a championship, plus he gets to live in Miami – but he could have done it in a much more classy way.

In fact, it would have been hard for him to do it in a less classy way. See, he had six teams courting him (Miami, Cleveland, the Clippers, Chicago, New York and New Jersey), and with the exception of Miami – whom he notified five minutes before announcing his choice publicly – everyone learned about his choice on national TV.

People started burning James's jersey in Cleveland, and a huge billboard of him came down pretty quickly as well. No, he didn't owe them signing a contract in a city where the team wasn't putting a championship-quality supporting cast around him, but maybe he owed the city a little class. Those other teams? Meh. But the city he grew up in and that made him famous? Maybe a little. But whatever. That's not the fun part of this story.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert rifled off an angry letter to Cavs fans. You might notice that, apart from promising a championship before James wins one (1. you don't promise a championship to your fans anyway, but 2. the Cavs have no championships in their 40 seasons; the Heat have one in their 22, and it was with Wade on the team), Gilbert wrote the letter in Comic Sans font.

This won him a fair bit of mocking. It's a fun, curved, spacious font that just doesn't get the angry vibe across, even in all caps. Once the letter came out, the font choice was trending higher on Twitter than James was.

I'm not going to hate on Comic Sans. After all, its creator, Vincent Connare, designed it from comic book lettering, figuring that it would appeal to kids.

It comes down to professionalism. Gilbert had the opportunity to take a more professional route than James did. He chose not too (and got slammed for $100,000 for it). And in making that choice, he opted for a, shall we say, less than appropriate design for his anger. James didn't sign his contract in crayon (I'm assuming). If you own a limo company aimed at corporate execs and formal occasions, you're probably not going with a pink-and-purple color scheme, dancing babies and curlique fonts for your website. If you're trying to get a C-level position at a Microsoft, your email address is probably not RainbowsNBunniesNDrugsOhMy@yahoo.com.

» For fun: Important U.S. documents in Comic Sans
» On James: Never Has Being a Sports Fan Felt So Stupid
» On Personal Branding: What do do when branded employees leave