Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is it the shoes?

By now we’ve all heard about LeBron’s new shoes inspired by his love for the Yankees. If you don’t know about it here’s an excerpt from a recent article by ABJ’s Brian Windhorst:
The shoe will be in Yankees colors complete with pinstripes and likely be sold only in the New York area.
''They're hot,'' James said. ''I like them a lot.'' (Editorial note from Cleveland Sports Torture: “Hot” is street lingo for “really good.”)

As with all of his signature shoes, James' consulted on the design, which includes his No. 23 on the tongue in the block lettering used for Yankee uniforms. On the underside of the tongue is James' name inserted into a popular Yankee Stadium cheer: ''Le-Bron Ja-mes, Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!''

Before conspiracy theorists get going, this is usual business for Nike. The shoe giant has used special New York promotions for James for several years. They've highlighted other things that are special to James, including putting a map of Akron on the mass release Zoom LeBron V model currently being sold across the country.

Yet, there's no doubt Nike has put a special focus on the Big Apple. Two years ago, it opened a temporary museum devoted to James in the Soho section of Manhattan and regularly feature James on a four-story advertisement a block from Madison Square Garden.

Last year, Nike released a New York-themed version of James' shoe that featured graffiti and other representations of the city. Nike also has designs of his signature shoe that target the Chinese market.


I’m no “conspiracy theorist,” i.e. one of the idiot paranoid Cleveland sports radio caller fans who thinks LeBron having a Yankee sneaker means OMG HE’S GOING TO THE KNICKS OR NETS FOR SURE NOW@#!! Nor do I think it means he’ll be playing for the Yankees come 2010. Did you see LeBron take those clumsy swings in the batting cage at The Jake a few years ago? He looked like me during my one summer of South Euclid/Lyndhurst softball.

LeBron’s a businessman…someone who wants to be a “global icon” and billionaire. From his perspective, having a Yankee shoe in the world’s biggest market is solid money making move.

All of this begs the question: Should it annoy Cleveland fans that our most prominent athlete is once again pandering to the pinstripers? Should it piss us off that only a few months after “Hat-gate” LeBron is actually slapping his name onto Yankee-related apparel? Or is the whole affair just another non-story given unnecessary coverage by the media and pumped up further by bored bloggers?

I’ll reluctantly admit I find it a bit bothersome: Have you ever heard of another athlete putting his likeness on the gear of a city’s hated “rival?” It just seems weird…what if Grady Sizemore came out with Steelers’ longjohns or something? As dumb as that reads I just find it strange that LeBron needs to have a Yankee shoe.

LeBron seems like a smart, worldly guy; yet I think he’s still clueless as to what he means to the region. However, he didn’t grow up caring about our teams, and thereby wasn’t affected by our sports’ disappointments. Now he’s living in an airy world of endless financial opportunity and global popularity. And he probably cares even less about our city’s sports’ history.

I don’t care if No. 23 is a front-running New York/Cowboys/Bulls fan. But don’t make a fool out the city by going on national TV and flashing a Yankee cap to the camera and then tell your loyal fanbase to “deal with it.” That same principle holds for the Chosen One’s new kicks. Find another way to fill your pockets, LeBron.