That Is How It Is Done

Peyton Manning

I know, I know. Nobody wants to talk about LeBron James in this town anymore. Nobody drives that bus more than I do. But I wrote this post anyways.

The situations were entirely different. One guy didn’t want to leave, but circumstances pushed him out the door. The other guy had the choice to stay and chose to bolt. One guy is at the tail end of his career and coming off of injury, the other guy was in the prime of his. Both are considered amongst the top players at their position in their respective sport. In the end, they both left but for completely different reasons.

While there are a few similarities between the parting of the ways of Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts and LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the way they left the teams that defined their careers couldn’t have been handled any differently.

What I witnessed yesterday between Manning and Colts owner/mad-tweeter Jim Irsay was the stuff of legend. The press conference was an advanced placement course on how a franchise player, a player who is synonymous with the city he plays in and rejuvenated that sport for that city, should leave each other. Owner and player stood next to each other and both eloquently delivered heartfelt addresses to Colts fans throughout the country. Obviously the parting was amicable, but it was clear that neither wanted it to end this way.

In the case of James, I am not a complete moron – I know the situations are different. I know LeBron left on his own accord in the middle of his prime to chase championships with his buddies in Miami. I know that many of you hate hearing this, but it’s the truth – it’s not that LeBron left Cleveland, it’s HOW he left Cleveland.

Read what the uber-classy Manning said yesterday:

  “I’m not leaving Indianapolis. I’m not going to be with the Colts. This city has been so great to me and it’s still a huge part of my life. It’s kind of a departure from the Colts but certainly not from the great city of Indianapolis.”

Substitute “Cleveland” with “Indianapolis” and “Cavs” with “Colts.” Could you hate LeBron the way you do if those words came out of James’s mouth? Can you imagine if LeBron James handled himself properly, went to owner Dan Gilbert when he made up his mind to leave, sat with him man to man and told him “It is time for me to move on. I appreciate everything you have done for me. Let’s do this the right way?” Seriously, imagine a LeBron press conference where he sat with Dan Gilbert side by side with LeBron speaking directly to Cavs fans and spoke from the heart. Could you despise him the way you do if he said “I have given everything I had to this city for seven years. I love this city and this area and will always keep it close to my heart, but it is time for me to move on to a new challenge.”

None of us would agree with it, but at least we could say that LeBron was a professional about it, handled himself in a classy and proper way, and decided to move on, which was his prerogative to do.

I know, this is something that would NEVER have happened in a million years. LeBron is no Peyton Manning. I don’t know if anyone is. The guy is as close to perfect in terms of being an athlete role model in sports as you can find. But if it had happened, the LeBron James national hate tour wouldn’t exist. In fact, while some people wouldn’t agree with him departing Cleveland (our fans aside), he would be looked at in a completely different light. He would come off smelling like a rose, his popularity outside of the 216/440 would be through the roof. NBA fans would have been rooting for LeBron to get that ring he wants so badly instead of becoming a country full of Dallas Mavericks fans last June. The image he worked so hard to perfect and completely blew up two summers ago would still be close to pristine.  Would the likes of Yahoo! Sports’s Adrian Wojnarowski or the TNT crew (Charles Barkley in particular) be after him as hard as they were? Of course not.

Cleveland fans would still have felt burned, but if he had handled his exit in the classy manor that Peyton Manning did, your venom for him wouldn’t be where it is today. Not even close. But what Manning and Irsay did yesterday was as classy and as heartfelt as any press conference you will ever see and they deserve to be applauded for it. Essentially, it was the complete antithesis of “The Decision.”

I promise I will never bring this topic back up again.

(photo via Charlie Nye/Indy Star)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Truth.

  • http://twitter.com/GHClevelandSprt Mike Stein

    The real difference is that Irsay’s got Peyton’s replacement lined up. Gilbert had no Plan B and was left with the wreckage we have now. No matter how LeBron chose to leave, that wouldn’t change.

  • mgbode

    I would never have gotten so much joy out of the Dallas Mavericks winning a championship or gotten a kick out of the “Cavs for Mavs” campaign if that had happened.

    Schadenfreude should be renamed Clevelandfreude.

  • Boomhauertjs

    Archie did a good job raising Peyton, just like Drederick has done a good job raising Kyrie. LeBron had Gloria…

  • tsm

    What surprised me was how inarticulate Irsay was compared to Manning.   He stammered and said “uh” virtually every third word.   Most of the owners and other fron office types that I have heard are usually able to express themselves better.   
    On the LeBron comparison, I agree, now on to Kyrie.

  • architrance

    In a way he did us a favor. He allowed us to unequivocally hate him. There was no question about how we should feel, he had already made that Decision for us. He himself chose to be the villain. I don’t think concepts of class, professionalism, or propriety ever even entered his mind.

  • Garry_Owen

    It’s about money.  It’s always about money.*  No different here.  But this is certainly how you say goodbye without making it about money! 

    *Exception:  Lebron leaving was not about money.  Mind = blown.   

  • I’mVerbalKint

    Yes, exactly!  I don’t have to feel bad about my hate, he almost wanted my hate.  Now I just have to figure out how to get over it by the time he enters the Hall of Fame as a Cav!

  • JohnnyJesus

    No comparison in my mind. First off, how many athletes who leave via free agency have a press conference w/ their old team. It doesn’t happen. The way LeBron left was wrong, but it’s also unfair to expect him to do this. 
    Beyond that, this isn’t Peyton Manning deciding to leave via free agency. He’s being cut. It’s still unique to have this press conference, but it’s an entirely different situation.Third, how is there no mention of Dan Gilbert’s reaction? If you’re going to make this comparison, that has to be a part of the story as well.

  • floydrubino

    In the 2 stories I see three ego driven jerks and Peyton.

  • Big Z

    Yeah. It’s got to be really rough to look your city in the face and tell them you’re cutting the best player the franchise has ever seen and arguably the best QB to ever play the game though.

  • **bobby**

    It’s a decision matrix

    Right thing. Right way
    Right thing. Wrong way
    Wrong thing. Right way
    Wrong thing wrong way

    This was absolutely the right way. The decision was absolutely the wrong way.

    The right or wrong thing in both cases is still not written in stone. I think le dummy is having some whispers of doubt

  • steve-o

    Enough time has passed to put this in perspective. The opportunity to play with his buddies for a championship (maybe) and live in an area where the climate is hot and the girls are hotter has obvious appeal. I don’t begrudge that decision, but I do the ones that came with it. The ESPN special, the fake interest in signing with other teams besides Miami, tanking a playoff series and misleading the Cavs when we could have had the opportunity to collect a king’s ransom in the same fashion that the Nuggets did by trading Carmelo.

  • Jay

    Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU! I’ve been beating this drum since the morning after ‘The Decision (to screw over the city that loved you)’. It’s not THAT he left, it’s HOW he left. If he did do it like Manning did, I would have nowhere near the animosity I have for him today. The way Manning, and Irsay, did it was 100% class all the way.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Be careful when you say things like “the way they left the teams that defined their careers” since one is still in the prime of his career.  There is a very real chance he will be more remembered as a Heat than a Cavalier, especially if the unthinkable comes to pass (6 or 7 or 8 times, amiright? Ugh.)

    BTW, what goes into deciding what team a person enters the Hall of Fame as?

  • porkchpxprss

    “He would come off smelling like a rose, his popularity outside of the 216/440 would be through the roof. ”

    330 doesn’t get no love up in here?  Akron haters, that’s why he did you like he do.

    :)

  • mgbode

    330 still loves him as they hate everything Cleveland, right?

  • Thompsns6

    I agree that our hatred of LaQuit should be about the “HOW he left”. However, I can’t imagine any of the “Imagine if …” secnerios you put forth because LaPuke can’t ever speak to Cleveland fans from his heart because he’s made it clear he doesn’t like Cleveland and has never been a fan of the Cleveland sport franchises. He’s a Yankee fan and a Cowboy fan. He had no say in playing in Cleveland in the first place, What I can imagine is his reaction to being drafted by the Cavs … “Cleveland, aahhh $hit!!!” 

  • cmm13

    You could argue that #6 gave Gilbert limited replacement or “Plan B” options with his approach and eventual handling of the situation.

    When Gilbert hears only from LeBron through media and the quotes are “Cleveland has the best chance of signing me” it makes it hard to start on Plan B until Plan A collapses.

    Now with that being said, I do think regardless of how #6 handled his exodus Dan should have always been preparing for the departure from a business standpoint.

  • cmm13

    You could argue that #6 gave Gilbert limited replacement or “Plan B” options with his approach and eventual handling of the situation.

    When Gilbert hears only from LeBron through media and the quotes are “Cleveland has the best chance of signing me” it makes it hard to start on Plan B until Plan A collapses.

    Now with that being said, I do think regardless of how #6 handled his exodus Dan should have always been preparing for the departure from a business standpoint.