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The race card

I don’t know how race relations are perceived by everybody, because it’s such a tricky area. But it seems like a stretch for LeBron James and his manager, the aptly named Maverick Carter, to claim that race was a big part of the way the media and the public perceived and reacted to James’ departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat during the summer.

Being a 55-year-old white guy, I’m sure there are nuances of race that escape me. Yet I don’t understand how in this case race has come into play. My reaction – negative, for sure – was based on James’ decision to leave Cleveland the way he left – during a one-hour ESPN special that came across as terribly unfair and a blow to the gut of the fans of the Cavaliers, who had long supported James. I empathized with their feelings, even if I did think some went too far.

James is free to do what he wants to do; I just thought he could have done what he did in a classier way without dragging Cavaliers fans through the mud. I didn’t see the need for an ESPN special, even if one of the reasons was to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club. I thought it wreaked of self-promotion and self-worth and, in case James doesn’t know, that’s not something most people are behind.

We like our athletes great and humble. Those are rare qualities to mix. One reason the masses loved King James was because his massive amount of talent didn’t overtake his good sense or his fondness for his roots. We related to him in that he loved the place where he grew up and embraced the fans who were wild in their support for him.

Stop me when race enters this picture.

It never crossed my mind that my negative feelings for James in the wake of “The Decision,” – see what I mean about self-importance? – came about because he’s black. I never thought once about the color of his skin.

To use this society’s race issues as a reason for the negative response to James is more about race than any feelings I – and I suspect, you – had about this in the first place.

Race is such a serious issue, and to throw it around irresponsibly is shameful. There are so many serious cases of racism in American society that to attempt to create a racial issue where it doesn’t exist creates even more tension. While it’s true racism can’t always be seen, and that many of its elements are subtle, we have to be careful as a society not to treat it frivolously. That’s what James and his manager are doing here, in my opinion. Especially since neither is willing to expand on the issue, to tell us specifically what they have deemed to be racial in James’ treatment since “The Decision.”

I’m not sure Corey Pavin is going to work out as the team captain for the United States in its Ryder Cup competition against Europe.

Already, Pavin is making a curious decision by sitting out Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan for Friday morning’s opening matches. Furky just won the FedEx cup and more than $11 million while Mahan was 5-0 in the last Ryder Cup and didn’t sit out any matches.

Ken Burns is a master filmmaker. His “10th inning,” a continuation to his excellent series “Baseball,” made 16 years ago, is just as fascinating. Covering the past 20 years of Major League Baseball, Burns deals fairly with baseball’s Steroids Era without condemning it, but sticking with the facts.

The facts are damning enough. Let’s just say that Barry Bonds, the poster child for the era, comes across as looking out of touch and naive. So do Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and others highlighted in Burns’ documentary.

It’s must-see TV, yet another reason why Burns is one of the country’s greatest story tellers and historians.

A sports writer’s memories

I got my start in newspapers at the Derby Daily Reporter, which ceased publishing a few years back. I’m told it had nothing to do with me.

I was a kid at the time, around 17 or 18, and one of the things I remember most about being the sports editor is that one of my duties was to cover Derby High School athletics, including the baseball team. Well, I was a member of the baseball team, a star pitcher. OK, “star” might be a little strong, but I’m the sports editor.

I remember writing about myself a few times, which was awkward, surreal and generally wonderful. I didn’t have to worry about being ripped in the paper because I was the one doing the writing.

My best game as a senior was a 5-0 shutout of Campus. I was brilliant – again, the newspaper’s word – and the Colts, of course, were Derby’s biggest rival.

Isn’t it ironic that all these years later, here I am, still writing about myself?

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