Game Time: LeBron James -- A Lesson In Sales
Debase yourself, Cleveland
The older you get, the more you realize that ultimately every decision in life has a "sales" element to it. Getting married, getting divorced, having kids, purchasing a house or a car, choosing a movie, picking an appetizer,...whatever decision it is, there's some level of convincing that needs to take place, either convincing someone else or convincing one's self.
Choosing which basketball team gets the right to pay you over $100 million for the next half-decade or so also involves selling -- a lot of selling. As a former salesperson myself (and believe it or not, a pretty decent one), there's nothing more painful than watching a sales effort gone awry. The wrong questions being asked, the right questions remaining on the shelf, a complete and utter disregard for properly identifying the decision maker. It's how Tony Gwynn must feel watching the 2010 Houston Astros.
It's how I feel watching the city of Cleveland chase LeBron James.
I'll say it straight up, Cleveland -- you're city is one big gob of sales shittiness. If your city were a funeral home, people would stop dying.
The LeBron James Account is the one deal that the city has to close to remain sports-relevant. Thus far, the sales effort from the greater Cleveland area has consisted of the following:
1. The "We Are The World / Please Pretty Please LeBron STAY" video
This effort was so train-wreckishly hilarious and head-shakingly sad that it has been removed from the internet and seemingly erased from existence. If you never got to see it, just imagine the biggest diva athlete in your city being begged not to leave via free agency by your governor, the mayor, D-list celebs, and random whacky radio personalities....ok, now imagine them doing it via song....ok, now imagine that song being a spoof of "We Are The World"....now imagine the video....now kill yourself.
Fortunately, the "Please Don't Leave Us, LeBron" flash-mob video to "Holding Out For A Hero" is still going strong....
2. LeBron James Appreciation Day in Akron
They just had this over the weekend, because nothing says "we appreciate you" more than having an entire city beg you to take a Saturday during the two months out of the year that you get vacation so they can figuratively fellate you while you sheepishly wonder to yourself "How long do I have to stay at this thing?" Great idea.
3. Minor League Baseball Appreciation Night
As if asking LeBron James to take a Saturday to be "appreciated" weren't enough, the Lake Erie Crushers have decided that the best way to show LeBron how much they love him is to shower him with a max contract and name the stadium after him, which ironically is exactly what he probably wants, the only problem is that the Crushers play minor league baseball and a max contract is $1,600 per month (which would probably cover the electric bill in LeBron's guest quarters).
4. Facebook page and website
If "begging an athlete not to ditch us" were a Jersey Shore chach, then the social media would be the GTL (gym, tanning, laundry)...standard checklist garbage that you better get done.
So if you're keeping score at home, the Cleveland Cavalier fans and Cleveland/Akron city officials are executing a sales strategy that is built around cheesy videos, flash mobs, desperate social media adulation, and clogging up LeBron's calendar with shit that he has to show up at.
In sales, they say that you have to find "the fox" in any account in order to achieve rapid success. "The fox" is just a salesy term for the "person who can be your biggest ally and tell you exactly what needs to happen for you to close the deal." Sadly, the "fox" in the LeBron James Account is not actually LeBron James. If you ask him what the most important criteria in his decision will be, he will feed you "I want to win multiple NBA titles" as the top criteria with no mention of money or team makeup. In other words, he will bludgeon you with P.R. 101 bullshit.
No, "the fox" is actually (pathetically) a go-between named William Wesley, a/k/a "Worldwide Wes," who as best we can tell is some dude who has managed to get the phone numbers and ears of every NBA general manager, prospective coach, and player with a scoring average over 10 per game. He brokers deals, he's the Ellis Redding (Shawshank Redemption's "guy who can get you things") of the NBA.
And LeBron James is the biggest goddamn rock hammer you could imagine.
According to reports from Yahoo!, Worldwide Wes is telling anyone who will listen that the team who can make a deal to pull Chris Paul out of New Orleans is the one that stands the best chance of landing King James. LeBron wants to play with Chris Paul, Wes is pretty sure. No guarantees, but wink, wink..nudge, nudge.
How true is this? Who knows. My guess is that the whole "wanting to play with Chris Paul" thing is not just a LeBron fantasy, but probably one that approximately 359 other NBA players secretly harbor as well. Saying that Chris Paul's presence enhances LeBron's desire to play somewhere is like saying that free beer enhances the odds of listeners showing up at a radio station event. In other words...DUH.
But for now, Cleveland, this is all you have to go on. So forget the videos, cease the flash mobs, stop with the random "Appreciation Days." Worldwide Wes has spoken....deliver Chris Paul to the King.
And remember...coffee is for closers.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. Weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.