There is a tall, bald African-American man skipping right about now.
You can spot him along the banks of Lake Erie. He's the guy gripping a bunch of colorful balloons in his left hand, one of those enormous rainbow swirl lollipops in his right. Whoa -- do you hear that? He's singing! Loudly! Zippity doo dah, Zippity aye. My oh my what a ...
Hello, Mike Brown.
The recently fired Cleveland Cavaliers coach looks happy. Giddy! Ecstatic! As he should. Thanks to the team's recent decision to fire him with a year remaining on his contract, Brown can spend the 2010-11 NBA season collecting $2 million for:
A. Eating box after box of Yodels (Writer's note: The most delicious snack of all time).
B. Jabbing pins into his $49.95 LeBron James throw pillow.
C. Laughing hysterically.
Personally, I'd argue for C. After all, laughter is the best medicine. In this particular case, it's also wildly appropriate. Because Mike Brown has great reason to be the absolute happiest, peppiest, most euphoric man in the history of the United States. Maybe even the world.
Thanks to the Cavs' decision to ax its unambiguously successful coach, Brown has washed his hands of the Cirque du Freak that is LeBron James' free agency. No longer does Brown -- an intelligent and worldly man -- have to swallow his pride in order to woo a 25-year-old kid with the apparent curiosity of a coffee table; no longer does he have to beg and grovel and plead at the feet of someone half his age; no longer does he have to "recruit" his own player with promises of unlimited riches, more personnel power, a date with Cheryl Cole, trades for Dwight Howard, Julius Erving, Bob Cousy and God, and -- if all else fails -- the key to the city of Cleveland (Literally. The real key. The one that opens and closes the joint).
Had Brown retained his job, his existence would have been Groundhog Day II: My Life Bites. Look at it this way: If Brown holds onto the gig and LeBron stays, the coach either guides the Cavs to an NBA title (and receives absolutely zero credit) or the coach guides the Cavs to another playoff defeat (and receives 100 percent of the blame). There would have been little joy to the experience. Such is the curse of overseeing (or being overseen by) a transcendent star. Phil Jackson is the ultimate winner, but he'll always have the Jordan/Shaq/Kobe asterisk by his records. So, for that matter, will Gregg Popovich (Says the skeptic: Where would he be without Tim Duncan?). Byron Scott guided the generally lowly Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals, yet he is still viewed as a fortunate beneficiary of Jason Kidd's prime.
Thanks to Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert's charitable decision to give him the boot, Brown's world is now one filled with kittens and puppies and long walks on the beach. The questions have come to an end. So has the second-guessing. The criticism. The doubts. The daily public debates about his job status. The boos. He can kick back and laugh as John Calipari or Rick Pitino or Monte Ross or one of 1,000 other candidates beg and plead for the right to take his place; for the right to step where no sane man would ever want to place his feet.
The winner of the LeBron Sweepstakes? Not New York or Chicago or Miami or New Jersey or Cleveland.
The winner is Mike Brown.