Much has transpired in the last few days, and 45 minutes on the elyptical put things in perspective.
HOMECOMING OR BASEBALL?
Lebron James is coming home….to Cleveland. This is the story line that has and will dominate the current news cycle. I left home in Connecticut at 18, and have not for a fleeting moment considered going back. It is, like Cleveland, old and cold, and I have built my adult life without regret in Orlando. My life experience does not allow me to identify with Lebron James homecoming, and my initial reaction to his decision was disappointment. I read the SI letter, and gained some perspective, but again no identification. I read Bill Simmons masterful tribute to James’ genius, and gained some appreciation, but it wasn’t until minute 14 on the elyptical that I connected.
Four finals appearances and two titles in Miami created a win or die situation for James. Every season in Miami would be measured successful only with the Larry O’Brien Trophy held aloft under a hail of confetti. The supporting cast in Miami eroded this season, and free agency provided no apparent relief. James options were to remain in Miami amidst title or failure expectations with a withering core of players, unite super friends in a new locale and carry with him the same expectations, or re-write the narrative by going “home” to Cleveland.
Cleveland was the only option that would provide any immediate relief from the title or failure expectations. He becomes a returning hero to an otherwise depressed fan base, and inherits a roster that has talent, but is not title-ready. James SI letter points this out. He does not promise a title, and raises the significant accomplishment of winning even one title as a Cavalier. This is masterful control of the narrative as it buys him a window of time for a young roster to come together and to personally renew himself as the Greatest of All Time once did riding buses in Birmingham, Alabama.
BARCELONA IS JUST A CLUB
Barcelona purchased serial-biter and goal scorer Luis Suarez this week from Liverpool. Suarez is suspended for another three and half months so it will be some time before we see him on the pitch, but his signing is the death of Barcelona’s mantra “more than a club”. As far as mantra’s go it was high on pomposity and idealogy, but as the club won every trophy available with a core of players raised in the club culture, it was largely unassailable. The last year and half have seen things turn against the club as core players have aged, and their tiki taka model of play has been the focal point against which recent tactical developments are measured. This is inevitable.
In Suarez, though, the club has become the antithesis of it’s mantra. They are a club seeking a return to dominance and lack the internal resources to get there so they are willing to buy whoever it takes to reach their goals. Gone is the idealogy. Suarez is as good a striker as there exists in the world. His ability to score goals is the rarest of commodities. He has also bitten three players in competition, and made racist comments without apology. It is not a matter of if, but rather when he will transgress at Barcelona, and in signing him Barcelona accepts this and the consequent diminishment of it’s standard….to common club.
ANDREW WIGGINS: NATURE V. NURTURE
Top pick Andrew Wiggins is, for the moment, a Cleveland Cavalier. Now that Lebron James is a Cleveland Cavalier as well, Wiggins is uniquely positioned to maximize his basketball career. James is, by all accounts, the best player in the world and an excellent teammate. He will push, pull or carry the Cavaliers into title contention in relatively short order, and playing alongside him offers Wiggins the opportunity to study and learn from the best, and just as importantly, be forced to perform in meaningful playoff and potentially finals games. If he measures up to the challenge, he becomes James, Scottie Pippen, and the chosen one to carry the franchise into the post-James era.
There is another scenario afoot that would involve trading Wiggins to Minnesota for Kevin Love. This would completely alter the environment in which Wiggins would develop as a professional. Wiggins would carry significant expectations to lift the fortunes of the moribund franchise without the benefit of a professional mentor. The team plays in the loaded western conference, and Wiggins would likely play through his rookie contract without making a playoff appearance let alone winning a play off series or making a title run. His credentials as a winner would be cast in doubt, much as Kevin Love’s have, and at the end of his rookie deal, he would likely be an incomplete, unsatisfied player in search of a new team that would afford him the opportunity Cleveland does.
Sadly, which scenario becomes his is beyond the control of Andrew Wiggins. It is illustrative in the way that luck or fortune shapes the careers of potential stars.
SCREW WHAT FANS DESERVE
The notion that Cleveland fans are luckless, long-suffering and somehow deserving of a title is putrid bullshit. It is the second most offensive storyline in the Lebron James narrative. Cleveland fans have in pure terms of luck enjoyed unprecedented success. First, the greatest player of his generation grows up in Ohio and the team wins the lottery to draft him. They enjoy the first seven years of his career which included a finals appearance and annual title contention. Upon his departure, they win the draft lotter three times in four years. Then they are blessed with the absurd good fortune that the greatest player of his generation is uniquely wired, and/or fortuitoulsy finds it in his best interest to return to the team to develop a title contending team with three fellow first picks in the NBA draft. This level of luck would not pass as a Disney movie. So with all sincerity Cleveland go fuck yourself.
DAN GILBERT, WORDS, FORGIVENESS AND NOTHINGNESS
The most offensive storyline in the Lebron James narrative is Dan Gilbert, and more specifically his letter which remained on the Cavs team website until this week. I have had this discussion with other people and concede that maybe I don’t see the world as others do. I have been told when people are angry, upset or emotional, they say things they don’t mean. They say these things to hurt or guilt the other party, or simply to purge their emotions as a precurser to moving on. I have never seen it that way. I think most human interactions in nuetral times are studies in restraint and politeness, and in times of high emotion or conflict the pretense drops away and the truth, cold, hard and unvarnished, spues forth for all to hear. We reveal ourselves in these moments, and the man to man explainations and apologies that follow are not a return to truth, but rather restraint and politeness. In otherwords…bullshit.
Let us avoid seeing Gilbert and James’ discussion in Miami last Sunday as something more than it was or ever could be. It was James getting something from Cleveland and Gilbert getting something for his team. Nothing more, nothing less…..nothingness.