8 Political Lessons From LeBron's Decision

I'm sure physicists can find ten ways to make LeBron James's decision to ditch the Cleve for the Heat relevant to their profession, so, hey, especially on a Friday during Congressional recess, political reporters can do the same.

ONE, if you're going to pull a Hamlet, keep those thoughts inside your head. Don't talk to friends who will leak word of your back-and-forth to the media. Don't publicly agonize, allowing yourself to be courted like a king, dramatically raising expectations and hopes in cities with major media markets. Decide quietly. It usually doesn't matter what you do, it matters how you do it. Don't be Mario Cuomo, having a plane idling on a runway waiting to whisk you off to start your campaign and making sure everyone knows about it.

TWO, for things like this, single-topic exclusive interview programs almost never go well. When was the last time that a politician, or, anyone, really, gave an exclusive interview where they revealed their decision and it didn't come off as self-indulgent? Using the Boys and Girls Club as a backdrop looked cynical when it was announced, and it looks like LeBron used the good folks there as a prop.

Which leads to point THREE: self-indulgence is unseemly. As Nate Silver points out, LeBron's Q rating, which will determine the type of endorsement deals he gets, will probably drop after this decision. I disagree with Nate: of course the decision was selfish, which, again, is OK: decisions tend to be selfish as a matter of definition. In LeBron's case, he wants a championship ring, which is quite feasible for a guy who already has lots of money. As Silver himself notes, Brett Favre's Q rating dropped after his public vacillation and indecision, but it rose after he performed quite well as the Vikings QB. That leads to the next lesson:

FOUR: all can be forgiven if you win. Winning will go a long way toward retrospectively vindicating almost any decision. First impressions are hard to break, but the move to Miami isn't happening at the beginning of LeBron's career, it's happening at an intermediate stage. His reputation won't be sullied forever if he gets the bling on his fing.

FIVE: the media always makes the story about themselves, somehow. ESPN's lugubrious and unnecessary prime-time special is getting as much attention from the sports media as the decision itself. Not surprising. Even less surprising is the way in which people bemoan the fact that there are plenty more important stories to cover than L'Affaire LeBron, like racial tension in Oakland, for example. That's true but irrelevant. As much as people say they HATE the hype, they can't help but stare at it. That's a secret that TV producers know and use, over and over. Hyping something on television will attract eyeballs ... even if it's just an orange surrounded by a velvet rope.

SIX: Florida doesn't have any income taxes. The state relies on a sales tax and local governments rely on property taxes for most of their revenue. Florida is an attractive state for carpetbagger politicians with big bank accounts to adopt as their native land. In LeBron's case, he stands to save a bundle of money, although, in relative terms, money doesn't seem to be LeBron's motivating factor.

SEVEN: with these types of story arcs, never believe reporters who "know" the answer before it's announced. ESPN's reporters made a lot of mistakes yesterday; LeBron was seen meeting with these guys (nope) or flying to that place (nay); Chris Broussard, who reported hard and firm that LeBron was headed to Miami, hedged his bets like Goldman Sachs in the final hour before the announcement. Journalists often over-report the information they get and fail to explain to readers or viewers just how provisional the stuff is. Case in point: if you think that Lindsey Graham, who was John McCain's best friend at the time, knew, 24 hours in advance, that McCain would pick Sarah Palin, you'd be wrong. If you relied on Lindsey Graham as a source of information about whether McCain would possibly pick someone like Palin, well, you'd be wrong too.

EIGHT: fall easy. Forget, for a moment, that the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers was recently in favor of moving his team to Oklahoma. His churlish, arrogant, and parochial response to LeBron's decision was beneath his dignity. It may make Cleveanders (Clevelagonians) feel better about themselves for a few days, but it makes no sense: the guy was ready to spend more than a hundred million dollars to keep a guy who gave up in games? If you lose, lose graciously. It buys you good will for the future.