The first time I saw him perform live and in person, LeBron James was a senior in high school, drawing rave reviews for his basketball prowess and criticism for tattoos, throwback jerseys, a Hummer and an omnipresent mom.
He was the latest and greatest version of yet another second coming. Big and bad, but refined and respectful, he was said to be the total package on the court, maybe one day better than Michael Jordan.
The list of high school-to-pro guys who enjoyed NBA success had been small, but James was considered a sure thing – even more so than Kobe Bryant.
It was that last part that tweaked my curiosity – more so than Kobe. Really? That seemed hard to believe.
But here it was, an opportunity to see if such talk had any merit. As I entered the arena in Trenton, N.J., that March evening in 2003, it was with a critical eye. James had to prove himself to me.
Cut through the BS and political pretzel-logic rationalizing on both sides, those pro-Julie and those con, one question remains: Why, exactly, was Miss Hermann chosen to be Rutgers University athletic director anyway?
With a firestorm of controversy ablaze on the banks of the Raritan River in Central Jersey and beyond, courtesy of yet another administrative misstep as those representing the Scarlet Knights seem prone to make, the aformentioned, more than ever, begs to be asked.
Why? Why her? What was it that made her stand out above the rest? How did she go from non-candidate after the search firm hired by the school deemed her unworthy of being one of its 47 suggested candidates to the one who rose to contender, semifinalist and then, ultimately, the individual named to lead RU on its monumental transition into the Big Ten conference?
Did she interview great?
Did she come across more intelligent, showing greater knowledge of RU and the hurdles it faces?
Did she dress sharper?
It’s never been the most scintillating form of entertainment. Despite all the talk and posturing and prognosticating that takes place in the months leading up to it, the NFL draft, the actual event itself, never quite lives up to its build-up.
Year in and year out, the pattern rarely changes. Fans, from cursory to creepy, get caught up in the fanfare to some degree. They hear the chit-chat about their teams’ needs, their teams’ drafting tendencies and their teams’ likely choices, all the while becoming that much more curious.
The anticipation mounts, knowingly or not – to some level, at least. Mock drafts get perused, read and re-read. Then the first round comes each April, and … it leaves you a little flat. If you happened to follow the proceedings at all, they just don’t seem to fulfill the appetite – even if your team picked the guy you wanted it to pick.
It’s like expecting a steak with all the trimmings and what you get is a plain hamburger, sans bun.
I’m in the minority, both at home and abroad.
Quarterback, to me, is not THE ISSUE for the local football franchise that plays at Lincoln Financial Field just up the road, nor is it for the 2013 NFL Draft, which begins tonight in New York City.
Oh, it’s been talked about, near and far, to the umpteenth degree for weeks, heck, for months – how the Eagles need a new one, a surefire, can’t-miss guy to run the show in new coach Chip Kelly’s offense for years to come, and how this year’s available choices are lacking, not only in that regard, but just in general.
I just don’t buy it, on either count.
Put it this way, the view here is that Philly doesn’t necessarily need a quarterback. That it’s fine if GM Howie Roseman opts to fill another spot with the No. 4 pick tonight, or if the Kelly/Roseman braintrust opts to pick a QB, too – because the pickings are pretty darn good … for any team.
It reads well: aging favorite son returns with the fire and desire to lead a return to greatness, or create a path to a greatness that never quite really existed in the first place. His coming-back party is embraced by all who remember him, by those who have been informed about him by those who remember him, and by just about anyone linked to the equation who hopes for a better future than the recent past.
With Eddie Jordan’s decision, unofficially made Wednesday, to take a dribble down memory lane along the banks of the Raritan River in Central Jersey and grab the reins of the rubble that is the Rutgers University men’s basketball program, what we have is the positive, heart-tugging, pride-pumping beginnings of a great storyline. Following the Mike Rice instruction-by-intimidation (or, if you prefer, intimidation-by-instruction) fiasco, not to mention previous errant shots with coaches, the Scarlet Knights appear to have pulled off a slam dunk here.