7:14 am Jul. 8, 2010
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
Daily News: The "new levels of absurdity" which LeBron James' "self-importance" had attained by Tuesday night, when the NBA free agent announced that he would announce his decision about what team to play for in a one-hour special on ESPN tonight, seems to have become the new normal as the Daily News devotes not one but two covers entirely to the affair. The front page and the sports page are both completely devoted to the story. Normally the back page isn't part of our purview here, but it's worth noting the slight difference in attitude toward the story on the front and back of the News today. "BIG CONN. JOB" reads the front-page wood. "Hold your breath … LeBron comes to Greenwich to reveal his decision tonight." It's not quite clear where the wood is leading you (SEE PAGES 2-3 & SPORTS, OR, THE WHOLE NEWSPAPER) but the weird Connecticut angle seemed worth investigating. Since James has said before that he wants to be a billionaire, he's obviously heading to the Boys and Girls' Club of Greenwich Connecticut for a two-hour party before the cameras start rolling on his decision. There will be kids there eating pizza and watching the decision on TV; it's "all they can talk about." But they won't see LeBron, we think. Anyway! The inflated level of emotional bargaining in the New York sports press has Greenwich as the location because of its proximity to Knicks training facilities in Newburgh, N.Y. And shares in MSG went up yesterday on news of the location. So, CONN. JOB! Then, "Dear LeBron, you've come to our backyard on the final night … DON'T SCREW US NOW!" begs the sports page. So is the News suggesting he's likely to come because the announcement is being filmed in Greenwich? Moreover, is this whole affair a "con job?" And if so, is begging the con man to come good a dignified proceeding? Or was the pun in Conn. Job unintentional?
The New York Post: The Post wood is busy today! We've got Andrea Peyser's predictable lamentations on the topic of entitled Hollywood girlhood ("No, LiLo, F*** U!" is the ladylike Weblish of the headline), and a reference to the LeBron "circus" to take place tonight. More on that shortly. But can we speak for a moment about the Craigslisty photo of alleged Russian spy Anna Chapman (with a "TOP SECRET" snipe covering her bare nipples) and the headline "SPY SWAP: But can we keep her?" It's always endearing when the Post editors speak to the readers as editors. They've been heartily enjoying picking up news from other sources about Anna Chapman since the story of her arrest first broke. It's been a Field Day! Please don't take her away! Because after all, the trade, according to reports out of Moscow, would send Anna Chapman to Russia and bring Russian nuclear scientist Igor Sutyagin, presently incarcerated in Russia for spying for the U.S. (wait a minute, is this the first Post readers have heard of this?), back here. Here's guessing Sutyagin doesn't look nearly as good in a boudoir photo. Of course, the story is made more interesting by the fact that at least a few of the alleged American spies don't appear to have any ties to Russia at all. What will El Diario columnist Vicky Pelaez and her husband do in Russia?
If we lose Anna Chapman, we can comfort ourselves in the tattooed arms of LeBron James, whose appearance on the back page of the Post is a take on the Shepard Fairey "HOPE" poster of Barack Obama. (Is it ironic that this photoshopping of a LeBron James photo was probably cleared, whereas Fairey's own creation was hauled into court for its use of an uncleared AP photo?) Just as Barack Obama's campaign spoke of hope for America, and specifically the hope for the future implied in the long-awaited election of the country's first black president … LeBron James and the Dolans hope to become rich by successfully bringing James to the Knicks. Expect this page to get picked up a lot on the Web, if not on newsstands. It's characteristically bold, and bathetic.
Observations: Two full covers seems a bit much for LeBron James, no? Because no matter what his decision is, won't the News want both covers for him tomorrow? But then the game of the War of Wood is structured as a perpetual series of sudden-death rounds. If both covers are needed for LeBron today, then he gets both covers today; if they're needed again tomorrow, they're needed again tomorrow. It just seems like the Post found plenty to write about beside LeBron, and still managed to pull off its ballsy if nauseating back cover.
Winner: The New York Post.