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Sports Business

LeBron James brings up ghost of Colts' past

April 14, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

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.

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