LeBron James brings up ghost of Colts' past

April 14, 2010
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LeBron James in recent days has brought a topic into the news that the Indianapolis Colts would rather forget. And they’d rather their fans forget it too.

The Colts last December became the poster children for resting players at the end of a season where the team's playoff position is already locked up. Even if that means pulling super stars and disappointing legions of ticket-buying (not to mention souvenirs and concessions) fans.

I must admit, I’m surprised at how many emails I get to this day by Colts fans still angry over the team’s benching of many of its starters during the second-to-last game of the season. Not thousands or even hundreds, but I get a handful each week, and that surprises me almost four months after the fact.

The Cleveland Cavaliers in recent games have decided to rest James, clearly the team’s franchise player, for the playoffs. The Cavs, much like the Colts earlier this year, locked up first place in their division well in advance. Still, the decision to sit stars, notably King James, didn’t sit too well with Cavs fans, especially on fan appreciation night this week.

One fan wrote in angrily that she bought two tickets for $90 each and was appreciated with a commemorative Cavs water bottle and the opportunity to watch LeBron sit on the bench in a three-piece suite. He’s a handsome guy in that suit, but it doesn’t warrant the price.

ESPN this morning quickly brought the Colts into the conversation. We won’t rehash the Jets game again, but you get the point. And the Colts situation was slightly different, because they had the opportunity to achieve only the second perfect season in NFL history.

Perfect season or not, pro sports teams' fans think if they buy a ticket they have the right to see the best players do their thing. Cavs fans said what the team did was downright fraudulant. That might be taking it a bit far.

Still, Cavs fans moaned that Michael Jordan never rested during his last three seasons with the Chicago Bulls, playing in all 82 games in each of those campaigns. Remember, Jordan’s Bulls went 72-10 during one of those seasons and had the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed locked up long before the regular season ended.

Others this week have brought up Joe DiMaggio who famously said he played every game all out because some kid might be in the stands watching him play for the very first time.

There’s clearly a strong argument for resting players, and no one will soon forget New England Patriots wideout Wes Welker going down for the season with an injury in a meaningless season-ending game last year.

Still, I’m not sure the Colts will ever outrun this story. As much as they’d like to forget, and as much as they’d like their fans to forget, the story lives on.

And they have to be at least a little bit nervous that one day, when the victorious cheering dies down, that ghost will be reflected in sales.

  • Butler should have done this
    Butler was 18-0 in conference and ranked in the top 10 and still got a poor seed (#5). They went into the final four banged up. Maybe they should have rested their starters also.

    Just kidding. Definitely lost a great deal of respect for the Colts when they pulled the starters during the jets game. Probably never completely get over that.
  • Redress for ticket holders?
    Our son lives near Toledo, Ohio. His twelve year-old daughter's favorite professional player is LeBron James. The Cleveland venue is sold out this year.

    Our son purchased tickets to see the Cavaliers play the Bulls. He drove his family from Toledo to Chicago only to see LeBron James sit on the bench the entire game.

    There oughta be a law.......
  • Jobs?
    Once again, as with the Colt's, this is their job, and they get paid A LOT of money to perform. There is no rest for our "normal" workers who work and only get paid when we actually WORK. I understand there are injury fears, but honestly, they could get hurt at any point.
  • David Stern speaks
    David Stern to CNBC about LeBron James and other star players sitting late in the season: "We're troubled by it," admitted NBA commissioner David Stern, when asked about it on Wednesday afternoon. "Because it will be our preference that healthy players play."
  • How do you establish...

    ... when someone is being benched to keep them safe?

    "I can't describe it, but I..."

    As far as going to a game to see someone of the caliber James brings to the game: how is being disappointed any different from them being sick or injured?

    But ... In terms of someone benched to keep them "fresh", the coaches, suits, etc. are responsible for the overall performance & accomplishments for that season. If they waste the talent with any stunts, and persist in doing it, it'll catch up with them, at the loss of the fans. That's all that matters - the fans.

    I don't really care about the monkey business in the NBA, and I am not attached to any teams at the professional - only when there's a good game.

    As Bob Greene said (pre-pervert days), "MJ will be with us less than he's already been here." We're at that point with Peyton. We're going to bring in a once-in-a-life time QB leave his career with 1 (read that: ONE) SuperBowl. Can someone be considered a QB of that era, yet "wasted" as a result to separate that?

    As far as MJ playing hard, he will be difficult to match, although Mr. James seems to understand where Michael stood and continues to stand. That's high praise.

    There is one other thing about the Bulls: they had three teams on the floor, the each capable of whipping any 1st level: Michael, Michael + Pippen, Pippen. Defense? Rodman. He reduced rebounding (in his words), "if it bounces high, it's going to stay near the basket; if it bounces low, it's going to be farther out."
  • Get over it people. We sat our starters and made it to the Superbowl. Could we have done it if we had played them the last couple meaningless games? Perhaps, but this is a better conversation than if we were sitting here today trying to figure out what we are doing at QBcould do for us as our starter because Peyton had a career ending injury in one of those meaningless games. I bought a pair of $150 tix for the Jets game, and I was ok with the Colts decision. No where on the ticket did it say anyone was guaranteed to play. I am so ok with what happened I split season tix with a friend for this year.

    People need to get over it.
  • Entertrainment, not sports
    Professional sports are not sports at all, they are in business to entertain. The teams can do whatever they want, regardless of what fans think. If the Cavs want to sit LeBron James, that is their right. A pee wee football or a Little League game, those are sports, and they are free. When you start breaking out the Benjamins to see a professional contest, that is entertainment. There is nothing pure in professional sports anymore. That disappeared when TV contracts went through the roof. It is time people realize the difference between sports and entertainment.

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