It’s not even a matter of degrees — ESPN’s ‘Heat Index’ is off-the-charts silly


From the friendly folks who gave you “The Decision,” comes . . .

“The Season!”

If something special is at hand, who better to bring all you want, and more, than ESPN, thrusting itself into another story as it will make the Miami Heat the first team in any sport to have its own section on the network’s website.

The Lakers, Celtics and Magic will continue being jammed into the NBA page with the other 26 teams.

Going all-out, ESPN hired Miami Herald beat writer Michael Wallace and Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who has covered LeBron James since high school.


They will head a four-man staff covering every Heat game, practice and club appearance, or as ESPN puts it, “the culture, scene and lifestyle angles tied to South Beach.”

A raft of features, announced proudly, includes:

“Chase for 72 — An automated, daily forecast of how many games the Heat will win, including’s John Hollinger projecting the odds of the Heat matching the Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 wins. . . .

“Tracking the Big 3 — An automated tracking of how James, [ Dwyane] Wade and [ Chris] Bosh stack up against the best trios in NBA history. . . .

“Triple-Double Tracker — A module tracking James’ progress toward averaging a triple-double for an entire season.”

Of course, ESPN has already taken the lead on this story the old-fashioned way:

By buying it.

Now the people who preempted their reporters, purchased James’ announcement that he was joining the Heat — and helped LeBron trash his image in 60 obsequious minutes — are back with six months of their specialty, journalism mixed with fawning mixed with farce.

ESPN doesn’t think these things through, doesn’t care or is just at that anxious stage when it no longer grows 20% a year.


“The Decision” was a nationwide joke, lampooned everywhere, including Steve Carell and Paul Rudd’s ESPY Awards spoof.

Rudd: Who have you told of the decision?

Carell: Everybody.

Rudd: Who haven’t you told?

Carell: Just you.

Rudd: Did you tell Vice President Joe Biden?

Carell: I just got off the phone with him.

Rudd: How about Lil Wayne?

Carell: He was the first person I told. . . .

Rudd: So, I’m going to be the last person you tell?

Carell: Not necessarily. I might not tell you.

Laugh while ye may.

Trumpeted by “SportsCenter,” the “Heat Index” will drive coverage . . . i.e., dumb it down . . . while tickling the national gag reflex anew.

It’s just the latest woe to befall the Heat, which did nothing to deserve its notoriety — generated largely by “The Decision.”

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson could surf whimsically on whatever waves were stirred up.

The Heat is the Pentagon of the NBA, in the image of team President Pat Riley, who pulled off this coup.

Belying his movie star charisma and lyrical quotes, Riley has a long-held leeriness, if not outright fear and loathing, of the media.

As Lakers coach, when the press ate out of his hand like a chipmunk, Riley closed practices.


With the Knicks in the midst of a tabloid crossfire, Riley called the press “the beast that has to be fed every day.”

Now it really is a beast, devouring all who come near it, like James, who went from The One to The Jerk overnight.

Not that Riley can stonewall ESPN, emerging Garbo-like only for low-key group sessions with the locals.

As NBA partner/broadcaster, ESPN has its access guaranteed.

So, I’m going to take this opportunity to launch my own index before ESPN’s on Monday.

“Chase for 72” — Here’s my automated daily projection of the Heat’s chances of winning 72 games:


Not that people get excited these days, but predicting 72 wins has become an annual rite.

Last season Lakers and Celtics players predicted they would win 72, missing by 15 and 22, respectively.

For the newly assembled Heat, in a whirlwind atmosphere, with 10 holy wars against the Celtics, Magic and Lakers — and two fun trips to Cleveland! — 65 wins would be a lot.


(This just in: With Wade tweaking his hamstring, which, he said, was already tight, in the exhibition opener — my automated daily forecast drops to 0.01%)

Of course, Hollinger may be obliged to play along and give them a 1-2% shot.

If anyone wants those odds, I’d be happy to book it.

“Tracking the Big 3” — Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, then three of the top five all-time, averaged 71.2 points, 35.6 rebounds and 16.8 assists for the Lakers in the 1968-69 season.

For pure scoring, Denver’s Kiki Vandeweghe, Alex English and Dan Issel averaged 76.7 points in 1982-83.

Track that.

“Triple-Double Tracker” — A snap, since James has only 30 in seven seasons.

Not that he couldn’t average a triple-double if he set his mind to it, with career highs of 7.9 rebounds and 8.6 assists.

It’s just that LeBron has bigger things on his mind — like a title — than something so draining and, everywhere but the Heat Index, silly.

On the plus side, we have yet another plot line.

Now it’s Lakers vs. Heat vs. Celtics vs. Magic and, in a bonus, Heat vs. Worldwide Leader vs. world!