Everything about Dan LeBatard's billboard publicity stunt was pretty hilarious: the actual billboards themselves, mocking LeBron James for not thanking Heat fans in his Sports Illustrated letter; how the Akron Beacon Journal wouldn't sell them an ad, yet eventually put the story on the front page for free; the Comic Sans font; how the nationally broadcast show talked about the event for two weeks on air yet ESPN suits had no advance notice of the stunt; how the show planned to send producer Mike Ryan to LeBron's pep rally dressed like John Cusack from Say Anything, equipped with a boom-box blasting "In Your Eyes" by Peter Gabriel; (that's actually ridiculously funny); furthermore, how the billboard was signed by Papi and Stugotz; and most importantly, that the whole thing was a joke, it's not even how they felt in their hearts or minds. Read LeBatard's column after LeBron left. He was grateful.
The problem here, unfortunately, is these guys work for ESPN. And ESPN is owned by the Walt Disney Corporation. And it's impossible to be a maverick when Mickey Mouse signs your extremely fat paycheck. Also, when a journalist becomes the story, the story loses its integrity and that's reckless. In addition, this is the second strike against Dan LeBatard, who less than a year ago became the story when he gave his baseball Hall of Fame ballot to Deadspin, which was actually a pretty cool protest vote against an elitist and antiquated system. But that's the thing. When Mickey Mouse signs your extremely fat paycheck, you kinda can't be cool. You just can't.
This publicity stunt would've been better orchestrated by Joy Taylor and Jonathan Zaslow, the morning show disc jockeys for Miami radio station 790 The Ticket, the two broadcasters who originated the idea of forming a Kickstarter campaign to buy an ad in the newspaper. If they orchestrated the stunt, it might've kept the fiasco more about the fiasco, and less about the culprit. Still, Dan LeBatard's two-day suspension is nothing. He received 100 times his investment in publicity and all press is good press until there is no press. The last thing Dan wants is to become another Rick Sanchez. Still, their ratings have probably been awesome. This whole week has been must-listen broadcasting and that's saying a lot for August. But at the same time, it's getting old. Everything LeBron James related is getting old.
Did LeBron James burn the Heat? Sure. Should Heat fans still feel grateful? Yes. Did LeBron say no pep rallies in his SI letter? Yes. Is he having a pep rally? Yes. Is it the same day Alonzo Mourning is being elected into the Hall of Fame? Yes. Could that be considered another burn to Miami Heat fans? It could be.
But it's just getting old.
And as someone who lives in Miami, we want these local boys to stay national.