Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin was given many chances when he had off-the-field trouble in the NFL and believes Ray Rice deserves that same opportunity.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games, a decision that was widely panned for being too lenient, after the Ravens running back was charged with third-degree aggravated assault on his fiancee.

Irvin was participating in the Eric Dickerson Hall of Fame Golf Invitational that benefits The Young Warriors Foundation, a mentoring program for boys who are growing up without fathers, living in poverty or have dealt with other traumatic experiences at a young age.

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As part of New York City FC's borough tour, the club introduced its fourth player, Frank Lampard, in Brooklyn Bridge Park Thursday morning. Located along the East River, the park has a direct view of lower Manhattan.

If Lampard sat in the same spot 13 years ago, he would have seen the two World Trade Center buildings towering over the New York skyline. The two skyscrapers collapsed during the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Shortly after the tragedy, Lampard, who is British, garnered a poor reputation among Americans for his insensitivity regarding the events.

As the New York Post retold on Wednesday, Lampard was among four Chelsea players who verbally abused American tourists on Sept. 12, 2001. Lampard was 23 at the time and in his first season at the London-based club when he drunkenly stumbled upon the Americans at a Heathrow Airport hotel. Air traffic to the U.S. was heavily slashed in the days after 9/11.

Lampard and his teammates reportedly mocked the Americans, stripped, swore and vomited in their company.

Lampard took his medicine Thursday. He could not have expected to join a club in the city he once reportedly insulted and go unscathed. Lampard acknowledged he was drunk that night in London, but he questioned the reported details. After saying sorry, he tried to clear the air.

"What I did want to say is that I categorically didn't insult anyone, set out to insult anyone, behave badly in front of Americans or, in fact, anyone," he said. "I was very sensitive to the issue and the tragedy.

"I was naïve and a young boy at the time and I have regrets that I was out and about. I shouldn't be and I wouldn't be if it was today. That's why it was a good experience."

Lampard is now 36, and for the past 13 years, he thrived with Chelsea. He was eventually named captain and he is the club's all-time leading goal-scorer. He also played in three World Cups for England. In the UK and Europe, Lampard is highly regarded as a person.

"I've tried in the last 13 years at Chelsea to just be a good man, not just a good footballer, but a good man off the pitch," he said.

Much of the conversation involving NYCFC's front office involved the character of Lampard. The club expects the 36-year-old to be a leader on and off the field at Yankee Stadium. He is expected to perform on the pitch, help attract new players, boost the club's image in New York City and engage with aspiring young soccer players in the community.

"He has explained it. It happened and he's dealt with it. We certainly knew about it and we talked about it," NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said. "We're very comfortable with the person he is and the man he is and experiences he's had since. He's a model professional the way he plays the game and the type of person he is."

Added head coach Jason Kreis: "If you spend five minutes with Mr. Lampard here, you learn very quickly he's a terrific character and the exact type of player in person that we want to have in New York City."

Although media coverage in New York is intense, soccer still has to fight for attention in an area with multiple NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB teams. In that sense, Lampard might have less of a media circus on his hands than he did with Chelsea and the English National Team, and he took a shot at the UK media Thursday.

"Again, the most important thing for me to say is that I did not categorically insult or mean to insult anyone," he said. "Unfortunately, it was very much misreported at the time in England, and it's actually a chance for me to finally say that."

When asked about visiting the 9/11 memorial, Lampard did not hesitate: "Of course. I think it's very important to pay respect and being in New York right now, I think that's a huge memorial and certainly a place I'd love to go."

"Once people know what he's about, I expect everyone will see he's a great person," Reyna said.

For Lampard, the most important message he can make is to perform on the field. NYCFC's inaugural 2015 season will kickoff in March. Until then, Lampard will help build the image for the franchise in New York City. While he will be an important ambassador for building the club's brand, he knows that can only go so far. If any New Yorkers still have distaste for Lampard, he hopes he can earn it back on the field.

"Hopefully my football can do that talking."

It is called soccer here. But that can fly for now. The point is made.

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Frank Lampard sat under a tent at Pier Five in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Behind him, stood the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. Brooklyn is a long way from Stamford Bridge, the London pitch Lampard spent 13 years directing Chelsea FC.

For much of the world, New York City represents opportunity and freedom, or as one reporter phrased it to Lampard–hope and dreams. For the 36-year-old, the goals are different. In England, Lampard became one of the best midfielders of all-time in the world's most storied league in the nation that invented the game. Lampard does not need to establish himself.

After nearly 19 seasons in the Premier League, Major League Soccer represents a time for adventure. Lampard signed a two-year deal Thursday with New York City FC, which starts play in the 2015 season.

For MLS, it is the crossing of a bridge. Lampard represents so much more than a high-profile MLS signing. He is the legitimacy MLS has been waiting for.

Frank Lampard is the most important signing in MLS history.

Are you crazy, Jeffrey? DAVID BECKHAM! DAVID BECKHAM! DAVID BECKHAM! He has a movie named after him.

There is no doubt Beckham's 2007 signing with the Los Angeles Galaxy was a monumental moment for MLS. International players were not coming to MLS before Beckham. He opened the door for the likes of Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez and Robbie Keane to cross the pond to the United States. He put fans in the seats. He gave MLS the marketing boost it desperately needed.

But Beckham's move was not perfect. Internally, he feuded with the Galaxy. Open Grant Wahl's "The David Beckham Experiment" and one may say he was a failed test case. He alienated fellow Galaxy star Landon Donovan and influenced general manager Alexi Lalas' firing. Those two have garnered critical roles in the growth of soccer in the U.S.

Beckham gave MLS a little boost, but he did not boost soccer in the United States the way people expected him too. Sure, he gave some legitimacy to MLS and was a face, but he did not go over the top. The success of the U.S. Men's National Team at the past World Cups has been a bigger factor in fueling American soccer's momentum.

Although Beckham sold Galaxy merchandise, he could not sell the rest of the league. For soccer to advance in the U.S., it needed success at the national level.

Frank Lampard arrives not just in the United States and not just in MLS, but in New York City, at the opportune time. He is not the name and brand of David Beckham and he perhaps is not as skilled as Thierry Henry. But Lampard may have a better formula than either of his two mega-star predecessors.

"The decision was pretty easy because of the way the club was sold to me," Lampard said. "The city, the challenge of taking on a new franchise, of being an experienced player in a group with a good young manager -- it's exciting."


Beckham played a few dozen minutes from Los Angeles traffic outside the downtown area. Henry plays a similar distance away from downtown New York City along the New Jersey Turnpike.

Lampard is about to play at Yankee Stadium, a short 4-train ride away from Midtown Manhattan. He also has a former Premier League stalwart in Claudio Reyna as sporting director and a former MLS MVP and MLS Cup champion coach in Jason Kreis.

"I've seen a real long term plan from everyone involved with the club," Lampard says. "I want to be a part of that. I want to test myself. I want to challenge myself. I want to be that leader. I want to be that person and not just on the pitch, but off the pitch who can help these things happen."

Lampard isn't looking to score some easy money at an end-of-career American vacation. He is too much of a competitor. His father, Frank Sr., played 19 professional seasons, including 18 with West Ham United. His uncle Harry Redknapp is one of the most Premier League's most respected managers. His cousin, Jamie Redknapp played nearly two decades, spending most of his career with Liverpool.

All Lampard knows is soccer. He is also a winner, claiming the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final as Chelsea's captain. Lampard wants to win in New York.

"From a soccer perspective, it's an absolute no-brainer," Kreis said of the negotiations with Lampard. "That just leaves the box of talking to him and meeting him as a person and understanding his character and if his vision for the rest of his career goes along with ours. And it does."

Kreis says when he meets with Reyna and other front office members to talk about building a roster, which now includes Lampard, Spain's all-time national scorer David Villa, Jeb Brovsky and Josh Saunders, they look for three traits: Soccer ability, leadership and character. Kreis said Lampard was an "A-plus-plus-plus" in all three categories.

"This is a guy who's been a captain at Chelsea," Kreis said. "If you spend five minutes with Mr. Lampard here, you learn very quickly he's a terrific character."

Lampard's day was full of Beckham references. He was asked if he consulting Beckham on his decision.

"No, I didn't," said Lampard, who mentioned he knows David pretty well from Team England experiences.

Lampard did say he has talked about MLS with Becks in the past: "He speaks nothing but great things about the league and the people he's worked with here."

Lampard was told some of the children attending his introduction were murmuring about him being better than Beckham.

"I don't know if I'm better than David. It's opinions, but I appreciate the sentiment," he said.

Lampard can blush all he wants. Aside from the on-field comparisons, deep down, Lampard probably realizes his character is stronger than Beckham's persona. More specifically, it is more suited to help grow MLS.

Lampard hits MLS right as soccer is booming. Another Round of 16 appearance in the World Cup had American fans buzzing. After the U.S. technically finished ahead of England in the same group in 2010, the U.S. progressed further than England in 2014. Meanwhile, the top leagues in Europe and MLS can be found on mainstream cable and in bars. Mastering the FIFA Soccer video game series is one of the most respected skills anyone under age 25 can have.

Lampard is not blind to all this.

"Back home in England, we saw David Beckham come here," Lampard said. "We saw the league take big strides, not just because of David. I think [it is] because of a lot of stable work made by the MLS by people behind the scenes. The quality has gone up and up. I've been watching games in the MLS back home for a long time now. Big players are coming out here. David Villa signing here, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and the American home base players. You only have to look at what U.S.A. did in the World Cup and what imprint they left on the world, not just back home and the character shown in the quality. The respect MLS has in the world has gone up."

Whoa. That is a serious statement. Chelsea's all-time leading scorer and a three-time England World Cup member has that much respect for MLS. And he also has the foresight to recognize MLS and American soccer's rise did not just come from Beckham's American tour.

"I know from talking in dressing rooms over the last few years, the players are interested in moving out here and playing. It might not have been the same five or ten years ago," Lampard added.

This guy may be the total package. As a player, he was still an integral part of Chelsea and the England World Cup roster a few weeks ago. There is no reason to believe Lampard will not be a top player, if not the best player in MLS when he begins play in March 2015.

"He could have stayed at Chelsea. They wanted him," Reyna said.

Meanwhile, Lampard is an even more useful presence off the pitch. Lampard comes over as a respected figure in the London media. On Thursday, he talked about being an ambassador for the sport in the United States. He talked about visiting New York City memorials. He talked about the growth of the U.S. Men's National Team. He referred to Yankee Stadium as "iconic" multiple times.

While Lampard faced a couple dozen members of the media, fans donning Chelsea jerseys swelled in greater numbers. Lampard answered questions from fans during the press conference, took pictures with anyone who put a camera in his face and signed as many items as he could. NYCFC personnel had to drag Lampard away more than once.

Akram Hasanov, 27, was one of the supporters in attendance. He moved to the United States in 2007 from Tajikistan and now lives in Brooklyn. Hasanov did not go to work Thursday because he said he "had to come" to see his favorite player. He said he has 10 Lampard jerseys and will soon add a NYCFC kit to his closet.

"Obviously I'll be a New York City FC fan, although it's really tough to support a team owned by Man City. For Lampard I'll support them," Hasanov said.

Well, there is Example A: Bring a big name from Europe to the U.S. and gain fans. Lampard is going to bring in a bunch of his loyalists to Yankee Stadium.

Hasanov recognizes the growth of soccer since his arrival in the U.S. A sport once thought of as obscure is now earning legitimacy.

"When I came, you couldn't find a place to watch the Champions League," he said. "Now, go into any bar and they'll show it. Big names just keep coming to this country and it's creating more soccer fans."

Andres Loaiza, a board member of the Third Rail, NYCFC's official supporters group, greeted Lampard along with fellow members of the fan base. NYCFC has not even played a game and has a fan base. At the first meeting in February, the group had six members. Now, it has more than 400 paid members. From an x's and o's perspective Loaiza sees success in the Lampard signing.

"He's going to be a European legend and the fact that we get him at a stage in his career where he still has a lot to give to the game, it can't get any better than that," Loaiza said.

The signings of Villa and Lampard give reason for New Yorkers to jump on the NYCFC bandwagon. Other than the convenience of Yankee Stadium and the rising popularity of soccer, the big name players make NYCFC a big deal. The team has also been linked to Barcelona star Xavi, as one more spot still remains open for a designated player.

"You have a lot of elite players now really taking the MLS serious. This is a big market and soccer has grown in the U.S. You have a lot of people excited about soccer. It's only going to get better," Loaiza said.

While dozens of teenage and middle-aged individuals showed up for the press conference, only children got to participate in a clinic with Lampard. It is poetic Lampard simultaneously worked with young soccer players while promoting his addition. It is going to be part of the job for a while.

"As an ambassador to a new franchise, I think it's important not just what we do on the pitch but embracing the community. You saw a little glimpse there and that's not just for cameras," he said after the clinic.

Seven years ago, Beckham arrived in the U.S. to play in a league with many question marks. There was no doubt Beckham was not going to be playing with elite competition and he would be the main attraction wherever he went. The stint was almost like a circus act. Beckham, along with his wife and former Spice Girl, Victoria, embraced show business, but they did less than expected promoting actual soccer.

Lampard comes into a different scenario.

"I want to make New York City FC a team New Yorkers can be proud of," he said.

It is in his blood. It is in his skills. It is in its character. Lampard is a competitor. His next challenge is to build a brand and champion at NYCFC. He could not be more excited to be cast in the role.

For Kreis, Lampard is a step in a direction beyond MLS legitimacy.

"I couldn't be more proud to be part of what I believe is going to become a truly fantastic club, not only in American soccer, but in world soccer," Kreis said.

It is hard to blame Kreis. He just signed a world-renowned name, still holding talent, with the demeanor to run for political office. Lampard does not shy away from the spotlight, but he does not bask in it. He grasps it and structures it how he likes.

In New York City, Lampard has the freedom to build what he wants.

"A city of hopes and dreams -- that's a place you want to go play," he said with a smile.

David Beckham may have established the blueprint for MLS bridge. Frank Lampard just crossed it.

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Since Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 World Cup, there have been amusing anecdotes about the tiny nation's preparation. These have included plans to develop an artificial cloud to hover above the stadium and block the sun, and a critical review of stadium designs.

But the bulk of Qatar-related stories in recent months have centered on charges of bribery in the bidding process, and the exploitation and deaths of migrant construction workers, mostly from Nepal.

As the body count continues to rise, so has the outrage, particularly because Qatar has not allowed workers who want to quit and go home to leave the country.

HBO's Real Sports takes a closer look at the human cost of Qatar's construction projects for 2022 in an episode that premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT Tuesday. Here's a preview:

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Every defensive player wants to get the opposing team's quarterback, but it's not every day a player admits he wants to sack his own quarterback. Find out why New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan wants to take a shot at Drew Brees.

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Don’t look now, but baseball’s hottest team is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who entered the All-Star break with a 57-37 record, 1 1/2 games behind the first place Oakland Athletics in the American League West.

Can the Angels catch the A’s and win the West? Can they go beyond a playoff berth, and make the World Series, their first trip since winning it all in 2002? The 2014 Angels are more than capable.

The Angels' most valuable player this season has undoubtedly been center fielder Mike Trout, who is poised to take home his first American League MVP award. Trout has defied all logic again this year. At the break, he was batting .310 with 22 home runs and 73 RBI, along with 65 runs, 10 steals, and a .400 on-base percentage.

Trout’s numbers are supposed to be video game statistics, not the mid-season line of a third-year player turning the ripe old age of 23 in August. Trout has captured the hearts of Southern California -- along with the rest of the country -- with his exciting play. Trout’s MVP performance in Tuesday’s All-Star Game solidifies him as an exciting national star.

Trout leads an Angel offense that is an absolute juggernaut. Through 94 games, the lineup scored 478 runs, leading the majors. Outfielder Kole Calhoun missed time in May, but has been solid batting leadoff, with a .295 average and 49 runs in just 59 games. If they are healthy, Calhoun, Trout, first baseman Albert Pujols, right fielder Josh Hamilton, second baseman Howie Kendrick, and shortstop Erick Aybar could form the most dangerous offensive force in all of baseball during the second half. Aybar, who made the All-Star team by batting .283 with 6 HRs and 50 RBI, is arguably the team’s sixth strongest hitter. When your sixth best hitter’s an All-Star, watch out.

While Trout and the offense's performance this year was more or less expected, one player whose sheer brilliance was unforeseen has been starting pitcher, Garrett Richards.

Richards stands 6-3 and possesses a devastating 96 mph fastball that can touch even higher. After a disappointing 2013 in which he had a 7-8 record and a 4.16 ERA, Richards has taken a gigantic step forward. So far, he has posted an 11-2 record with a 2.55 ERA. Richards entered the break riding a seven-game winning streak, proving to be one of the toughest starters in the American League. With a rotation of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Richards, Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago, the Angels will compete with any rotation in the American League.

The bullpen, the weak point of the squad, took a step forward in July when reliever Joe Smith grabbed the closer’s role. With Smith in the ninth, the Angels can nail down a one- or two-run lead.

And yet, the Angels are still in second place. The Oakland A’s had a remarkable first half, posting a franchise record 59 wins before the All-Star break. The A’s pitching staff will be electric with the addition of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs. That trade leaves little doubt the A’s are all in on the 2014 season. The A’s All-Star closer, Sean Doolittle, has been unhittable with a 2.89 ERA and astounding 63 strikeouts to just two walks.

The A’s lineup is admittedly tough. The Angels may have scored the most runs in the league, but can you guess who’s second? Oakland. For all the hype that back-to-back Home Run Derby champion Yoenis Cespedes receives, it is Brandon Moss who has been the A’s top batter, with 21 HRs and 66 RBI at the break. While Moss is unstoppable against right handed pitching, the outfielder loses his power against lefties. Moss has hit only three home runs this season against lefties, and 18 against righties. In 2013, Moss hit just .200 versus lefties.

Why does this matter for the Angels? Three of their five starting pitchers -- Wilson, Skaggs, and Santiago - are left-handed. In upcoming head-to-head battles, the Angels gain an advantage when facing an A’s lineup heavily dependent on lefty Moss for power. The A’s are beatable.

Trout and the Angels are roaring back in the American League, but they will not be satisfied with the wild card. In 2014, the Angels have bigger fish to fry.

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In his second MLB season, Washington Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon is becoming a household name. His .287 average and 103 hits are tops for the National League East-leading Nationals. Despite his success, Rendon was denied a spot in Tuesday's All-Star Game. He was among the five N.L. players on the final vote ballot, and fans selected the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo.

Rendon does not have any hard feelings. He got the opportunity to sleep in his own bed for four days with no commitments. Besides, entering a game for only a few innings could have been a snooze for Rendon. And when it comes to television, Rendon's baseball fandom is limited.

“I don't watch baseball -- it's too long and boring,” he told the Washington Post.

The Nationals are in the middle of a pennant race and their best hitter does not like watching baseball. Is that a problem? His success thus far in 2014 suggests otherwise.

Perhaps it is a problem for Major League Baseball, which is under constant criticism for games being too long. Just this past month, Americans got a taste of soccer, with standard games never lagging longer than two hours. MLB only produces a couple games every few seasons that rival that pace.

Rendon says his family has a rule that he is not allowed to talk about baseball when he visits. Some players eat, sleep and dream baseball. Rendon only thinks about it a few hours a day.

Whatever works for him. No one in the Nationals front office is complaining right now.

As for the All-Star Game, hosted by the Minnesota Twins, Nats pitcher Jordan Zimmerman was originally named to the roster, but he had to back out due to injury. Fellow Nats pitcher Tyler Clippard was a replacement for the Braves' Julio Teheran. Clippard allowed zero runs in two-thirds of an inning.

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The decision of LeBron James to return to Cleveland to finish his NBA career and his eloquent rationale for the choice will elevate him to the pantheon of American heroes. This act strikes a dramatic blow to the "money is everything" mentality that has permeated sports.

James writes that he cares deeply about the young children and quality of life in northern Ohio. He speaks stirringly to the power of sports to elevate the human spirit and bring a community together. For the first time he has opened up regarding his priorities, decision-making, and larger mission in a way that makes him endearing and inspirational.

LeBron James has been the most impactful NBA player for years, but he also has been one of the most criticized and unloved. He has been a prodigy since high school with some games nationally televised because of his appeal. The heavily hyped way he left Cleveland left a bad impression in much of the public scope. It seemed narcissistic and circus-like, little empathy was shown for the fans of Cleveland.

Less publicized was the large amount of money raised for charity. LeBron was known through endless commercials and promotions which did not seem to bond him with fans. Returning to Cleveland in a way that both admits mistakes and drops grudges for a larger cause will change all that. LeBron’s legacy becomes that of an athlete who really cares about people.

The city of Cleveland has been the butt of jokes for years. It has produced leaders in all fields, is an interesting city to visit, and has many attributes. It won't be a joke anymore. The biggest star in American sports had the freedom to choose from an array of enticing cities and he chose Cleveland for the love of the community.

Don't look now but the Cleveland Browns managed to draft the most exciting high profile young player in the country – Johnny Manziel. Sports fans will now look longingly at a city where it is great to be a sports fan. Sports telecasts focus on a city. Cleveland will once again experience the pride and economic benefits that high profile exposure provides.

I ask each client who is a free agent to do an internal inventory and rank their own priorities. They list short term economic gain, long term economic security, geographical location, family, winning, coaching, and facilities. For most athletes, money wins out. LeBron made a different type of decision that reaffirms traditional American values. James could have held a grudge based on Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's scathing letter and the derision of fans from Cleveland that followed his move to Miami. Instead, he elevated his vision and put love for his community first. He chose love of city and people above all. I ask clients to understand that they are role models -- they can trigger imitative behavior in adolescents and kids.

When Lennox Lewis cut a public service announcement "Real Men Don’t Hit Women," it impacted rebellious adolescents attitude toward domestic violence in a way that traditional authority figures could never do. Athletes can foster positive change and create a climate of empowerment where people are filled with optimism and hope.

I’ve spent 40 years pushing the concept of athletes as community leaders and beacons of change. In one dramatic action, LeBron has set a template for the integration of athletes and the communities that they play in and come from. Rather than hired Hessians skimming the cream from a community and leaving, James sets a standard for civic minded athletes who understand they have responsibilities. Long Live King James!

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The United States made a solid showing at the World Cup in Brazil, but many are still wondering if Landon Donovan would have been able to push the team further. Donovan's former teammate with the Los Angeles Galaxy, Bryan Jordan, says it was a big mistake to keeping Donovan off the World Cup roster. Here's his explanation:

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In January, National Basketball Retired Players Association President & CEO Arnie Fielkow was discussing the stigma of NBA players blowing away their millions with reckless spending. Fielkow said it was a result of how NBA players are groomed.

In their early teens, players hit the AAU circuit and surpass childhood. Prep and college coaches court them, followed by NBA scouts and executives. "Basketball becomes a job in some guys' early teens," said Fielkow, previously an executive vice president of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans city council president,

By the time players retire from professional basketball, they move on to a life with considerably less income and little financial knowledge.

While LeBron James would not have blown away his fortune after his playing career, he needed basketball to be something more than a job. He needed a learning experience before retirement. This is why he spent four years studying in Miami.

In James' first-person Sports Illustrated piece published Friday, the Cleveland Cavaliers-returnee said:

"Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I'm doing today."

Let's put ourselves in LeBron's shoes. He was raised by a single mother in Akron, Ohio. He starred on the AAU circuit in middle school for the Northeast Ohio Shooting Stars. Along with his three AAU teammates, Sian Cotton, Dru Joyce III and Willie McGee, he enrolled at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, a predominantly white school. In high school, James' games were moved to college arenas to accommodate attendance. His team traveled around the country and they were featured on national television.

He was drafted by the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. It set up a fairy-tale script that appeared to progress toward the franchise's first NBA title. For seven years, James kept the plot moving. He became international megastar while playing for a middle market. He led the Cavs to their first Eastern Conference title, he won an Olympic gold medal and he earned two NBA MVPs.

But at heart, James was still a kid. He never had the intermediate period most adults have. He never had the opportunity to fool around with his peers. He never had the opportunity to make mistakes. He never had the opportunity to hide from the media.

And he never had the opportunity to leave Northeast Ohio.

When James became a free agent in 2010, his value was at a peak -- not just monetarily. This was James' chance to get whatever he wanted beyond money. He could play with whom he wanted and where he wanted. He could earn the allegiance of a population of people in whatever American city he signed in.

And he could experience something different.

For James, this was a decision like choosing a college town, going on a Eurotrip or pursuing a career in a new city. James could experience a new taste of American life in a new place with new people.

Miami was right for him. It was livelier than Cleveland. It had a front office with Pat Riley that would treat him like a big market player. It had players who could help him win a title, including two superstars willing to play second and third fiddle to The King.

The problem with the 2010 offseason was James was still a kid. He openly admitted, and do so again in his SI article, that he handled free agency the wrong way. It was The Bachelor -- NBA Edition. Teams and fans salivated over James. He forced the Cavs to beg on their hands and knees the same way other franchises did. When he made his announcement, he called for "The Decision" and embarrassed his former team on national television. He then took his talents to Miami clubs to show off his new jersey with his new teammates. James basked in the flashiness of Miami and the media attention that followed the "Big Three."

Like any sabbatical (in this case, a break from a city), the fun comes to an end. James blew off steam early in his Miami career, but it got old. The "Should I Be Who You Want Me to Be?" persona faded off. James' advertisements featured his family, not his ego. His supporting cast, notably Dwyane Wade's knees, faded. In his final season in Miami, James lifted the Heat out of a depleted Eastern Conference one last time. The NBA Finals were a reminder the 2013-14 Heat team did not have the pizzazz of the past two teams. The story was old and the plot was not as fun anymore.

James never stopped being a child at heart. There is a reason James always refers to himself as "just a kid from Akron, Ohio." He has never wanted to be anything more. He is a family man. He married his high school sweetheart and has always kept his mother close. With all the chaos of NBA free agency, James still found time to go fishing with his children.

One of the lasting images of James will be his ecstasy as he closed in on his first title with Miami. So much of James' public presence is defined by the cameras around him. On that evening, James was as free-spirited as could be. It was part of his Miami vacation.

After four years, the fun dwindled. For 25 years, James fit the mold of the player Fielkow described. He was a kid who starred in his youth and never had a chance to experience life outside of basketball. In Miami, James had an educational experience. For four years, he learned about another type of American lifestyle. He lived in the Heat of Miami for a big money franchise in a party town. He enjoyed it, but he realized it was not his long-term home.

James never sold his Akron home and he kept his foundation, the LeBron James Family Foundation, in Akron. In the SI piece, he says he always expected to bring his life back to Cleveland. He also says, "This is what makes me happy."

It is hard to understand LeBron James from an outsider's perspective. James can own the biggest cities in the world, but it is not what he wants. He wants to go back to his Midwest roots. James does not need the biggest mansion or the most fancy cars in Cleveland (of course he'll have those). After a fun four years away, he just wants the warmth of home, and, the ability to win a championship for his city.

James admits 2010 was tough for him. He played it cool and acted like he did not care, but apparently "The Decision" was made James anxious. "What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react?" James wrote in SI about Dan Gilbert's letter, the booing and the jersey burnings.

At the end of the day, it is easy to blame James for the way he handled his move from Cleveland to Miami. Despite his age, he cannot defend the immaturities he displayed in 2010. He was right to join the Heat. Wade, Chris Bosh and others gave James a chance to win NBA titles. He won two rings and four conference championships. If he stayed in Cleveland, he may not have a title today.

It is refreshing to see James man up and admit all this. In one article, James summed up the past four years of his life. We waited four years to hear the inside story of "The Decsion." James informed us in a few paragraphs.

He did not reference his "talents." He said he wants to bring a title back to Cleveland. He is not projecting eight championships. Although I disagree with James that he cannot win now (his supporting cast in Cleveland may turn out better than Miami), he says it make take a few years to build a contender on his old team. James' humility is something we did not see four years ago.

Earlier this week, I advised Cleveland fans to be cautious about forgiving James. I felt if James returned to Cleveland, he would need to earn his city's trust back. Well, he did. He did it damn well. He admitted his mistakes. He put everything out in the open. Four years ago, he needed an excursion to a new city with a new team. Now, he is 29-going-on-30 and ready to come home. He is still the kid from Akron and his passion has never been greater.

Cleveland's kid will be a 30-year-old man this time around. Four years ago, calling James a man would have been ridiculous. Now, he is a strong-willed adult. James needed four years to blow off steam. He made mistakes and lost some fans in the process. But this week, he sat down with Lee Jenkins and poured it all out.

The world does not need to become LeBron fans again. But damn it, we have to respect him.

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It was a landmark in television comedy. TV Guide ranked it the fourth best television episode of all-time. And its special guest star was a recently retired MLB first baseman.

What Keith Hernandez did not know about his historic Seinfeld performance in 1992 was that Larry David and the writers had a backup plan if he flopped.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Hernandez broke down the chronology of his appearance in "The Boyfriend." In fact, it was not Hernandez, but his young agent, Scott Boras, who first made contact with Seinfeld. Hernandez had just retired and was reluctant to go into acting. The persuasive Boras told Hernandez he would get limited lines, a first-class flight to L.A. and a generous salary, so Hernandez obliged.

When he got his part, anxiety set in:

"They FedExed me the script, and I saw I had lots of lines. I thought 'Holy s---, I'm can't do this!' So I kind of got a head start on it, because I was mortified. I memorized everybody's lines in every scene I was in. I knew when they were going to speak, when it was my turn, all that. I was really nervous before we shot in front of the live audience, and Jerry turns to me and went 'What the hell are you nervous for? You play in front of 50,000 people.' And I said 'Well, I don’t have to memorize lines when I'm playing in front of them.'"

Hernandez became a guest star legend for his role. The two-time World Series champion, NL MVP, NL batting champion, five-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger Award winner and 11-time Gold Glove Award winner befriends Jerry, a die-hard Mets fan in real and fictional life. When Jerry introduces Hernandez to Elaine, the lefty expresses interest in her and sets a date.

Meanwhile, Kramer and Newman animate a story to Jerry in which Hernandez spit on them after a Mets game. When Hernandez hears the story, he recalls it was Mets relief pitcher Roger McDowell, not Hernandez, who spat on the duo.

Hernandez, who is currently a Mets television commentator for SNY in New York, nailed his performance. He later appeared in a Law & Order episode, the Seinfeld series finale, movies "The Scout" and "The Yards" and a series of television commercials, including this Just for Men ad with Walt Frazier:

It turned out the writers and producers had a backup plan if Hernandez's nerves got to him. If the memorable performance was average, Hernandez could have seen his scene cut. The hour-long double-episode could have been a single episode, with a greater emphasis on George Costanza's subplot.

Hernandez revealed what he was told after-the-fact:

"I guess they liked it, because they used it during sweeps. But after I was done, [executive producer] George Shapiro told me they had written in an extra subplot just in case I was unsatisfactory. It was George going for unemployment benefits, the whole 'Vandelay Industries' thing. So, with those scenes, it turned into an hour-long show. If I was bad, it was only going to be a half-hour."

Hernandez delivered. The episode aired for an hour and we now enjoy phrases like "The Second Spitter," "The Magic Loogie Theory," "Nice game, Pretty Boy" and "I'm Keith Hernandez" in our daily vernacular. For the dream team of Hernandez, Boras, Seinfeld and David, it all worked out.

On a side note, this past weekend, the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets' short-season A affiliate, held a promotional night to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first airing of Seinfeld. MCU Park was renamed Vandelay Industries Park for the day and Hernandez bobblehead dolls were given away, among other things:




Oh, and while we are on this topic, the Twitter/Instagram account @Seinfeld2000 teased new Seinfeld emojis this week:

Where's the Magic Loogie, though?

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