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Published: Wednesday, 5/19/2010

Rumors spread without control on Internet

It is quite the conundrum, this thing called the Internet and the social media aspects it has spawned.

It is a powerful source of information, a treasure trove for research, an endless, infinite repository of, well, stuff.

But aside from reputably reported Web sites produced by newspapers, magazines, and similar media - it is often reckless and without any checks and balances, not to mention facts.

If you ever took a communications class in high school or college the instructor probably had you play a little game. He or she would line up 50 people from one end of a room to the other and have the first person whisper something to the second, the second to the third, and on down the line until it got to the last person.

It would start out with "James Madison called George Washington the father of our country," and by the time it got to the last person the report could be something like, "George Washington fathered an illegitimate child with Dolley Madison."

And that's the Internet, at least the soft underbelly of it.

The scary part is that we are in an age when plenty of people have turned away from traditional and responsible news sources to get their information from 140-character Tweets or from a pale, 17-year-old kid in boxer shorts running a Web site from his parents' basement.

The big "news" on the big "I" Monday was a rumor that LeBron James' mother, Gloria, was in a relationship with his Cavaliers teammate, Delonte West, that LeBron had learned of the affair before the fifth game of the conference semifinal series against Boston, and that it is why he went in the tank.

It supposedly started with an e-mail from "somebody who knew" and made all the requisite Twitter stops and Facebook notations and chat room appearances and spread like wildfire before ascending into the blogosphere.

Monday evening, after a friend called with the "news," I did a Google search on "Gloria James and Delonte West" and found a few hundred items. I repeated my search yesterday morning, barely more than 12 hours later, and got nearly 250,000 - a quarter of a million!!! - hits.

The site where the story grew legs bills itself as providing "Real Sports, Real Dirt," and proudly states it is the "most hated" sports site on the Web. Hard to believe, eh? By yesterday afternoon, an attorney for the James family reportedly had sent the site a "cease and desist" order, which the site noted despite continuing to run its "exclusive" story.

Even if the lawyer's efforts had been successful, what was he going to do about the 249,999 other references and reports up there in thin-air land where, all too often, rumors and innuendo is just business as usual?

Granted, a teammate sleeping with the star's mother might throw a monkey-wrench into the old team chemistry, but I can come up with some better reasons for LeBron's problems late in the Celtics' series. Pick whichever you like:

For the first time in his pro career, there were extraordinary expectations mixed with adversity and he wasn't mature enough to handle that volatile brew. An old-looking Antawn Jamison and an ancient-looking Shaquille O'Neal weren't effective at opening the floor for LeBron. The next original offensive thought coach Mike Brown has will be his first.

But now there are millions of people out there who actually think Gloria James and Delonte West just might have had something to do with it.

Sad, eh?

Contact Blade sports columnist

Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398.



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