Friday, July 9, 2010

Losing Lebron

Minutes after Lebron James announced his decision to play next year for the Miami Heat, ESPN aired some live video of a Clevelander burning Lebron’s jersey in the street. Putting this matter into perspective, my city almost went to the Super Bowl. We lost twice in the World Series, and we suffered a sweep in the NBA Finals. For so many of us, Lebron really was that shining beacon in the dead of night. But I won’t demonize him.

Just today, coworkers told me how several restaurant and bar owners are wringing their hands because Lebron kept Cleveland’s economy afloat with all the publicity and business he generated. In a letter to Cleveland, Dan Gilbert condemns Lebron’s decision and promises Cleveland an NBA Championship minus Lebron. Why are we so upset? Are we all championship crazy? Is the welfare of our city really dependent on this athlete? How did we let that happen? Everyone knew Lebron could dazzle an audience every night with tomahawk dunks, but not everyone talked about how invested in him Clevelanders had become. He was our light in the darkness, our water in the desert, our hero in the heart of poverty. Maybe we shouldn't have pinned so much of ourselves on a young basketball player, an entertainer, a businessman. He has the right to switch teams, and we have the right to feel sad. But why scorn the man? I wish him well. He's a person.

Moving on is our only option. Lebron James is a 25-year-old basketball superstar who wants to play alongside the best players in the NBA. I’m a schoolteacher in a community I love. And I'm glad my sons had Lebron as their first sports hero. They think they can do anything now, and they'll still jump around the family room with their Nerf basketballs whenever the Cavs play. Joy is contagious. Even though the Cavs lost in the Finals and then their trips to the Playoffs, I feel fortunate to have been able to enjoy these seven years of believing in the impossible. I still believe. I won’t burn my favorite NBA jersey, and I won't be rooting against Lebron either. But I might listen to "Let It Be" just one more time.

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