Few people outside of Northeast Ohio will understand the redemption of Lebron James’ return. You see, people can pay all kinds of moolah to sit court-side, but the masses…even the poor ones…can follow the excitement of their favorite sports team. That’s what makes sport such an interesting phenomenon in this world, particularly for a city that has been as much an economic underdog as their teams have been.
This nature is an undercurrent in the culture of Cleveland. We are always a Cinderella story.
King James, the best player in the NBA and one of the most popular sports figures in the world, just might bring a crown to this Cinderella. The economic impact is projected to be in the millions.
Comparing James’ return to the parable of the Prodigal Son is too easy to pass up. Lost in that story is the concept of the family unit in the first Century. There was no retirement plan, no 401K. Children, heirs, were the plan to take care of their elders. In Luke 15 we find that a son spurns his birthright, demands his inheritance early, and blows it all on South Beach living (Ok, that’s a stretch). This act unsettled the family structure and put all the pressure on his brother. Upon the son’s return, not just the son but the family had been redeemed. They were once again whole.
You have to walk the streets to see the once torn fabric being knit back together again. Downtown life is buzzing. We are becoming…in a sense…whole.
But, and I can’t stress this enough, there’s plenty of work to be done. Lebron will lead a young, talented team; the task ahead of them is huge. And as Boomers of Cleveland retire they’ll be replaced with younger leaders who also should be ready to roll up their sleeves. I’m 34 and consider myself in that mix. I’m as big a sports fan as you’ll ever get, but even I know Lebron’s return doesn’t mean anything if we all forsake the reason why Lebron came back. In his open letter he says:
“But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”
Our choice is, young Clevelanders, will we sit in the stands or get in the game?