LeBron! You Can Go Home Again

If there’s such a thing as a “hometown by the transitive property,” then Cleveland, Ohio, might qualify for me.

My wife Sharon grew up in Mentor, Ohio, a few miles east of Cleveland.  Her father owned a clothing shop near the current site of Jacobs Field.  In 1996, we got married at Severance Hall in Cleveland.

The Nineties were not great for Cleveland.  Art Modell packed up and left with the Browns, despite years of dedicated fan support.  The industrial base in northern Ohio was in constant retreat.

The loss of LeBron James in 2010 to Miami was much more than sports — whether LeBron intended it or not, it was seen as a rejection of a community.   “The Decision” seemed to represent the mercenary nature of sports — business success trumped hometown loyalty.

So it was a great feeling  to see LeBron return to Cleveland on Friday.  (By the way, I love Cleveland although it’s been years since we’ve been back.  Soon after we got married, Sharon’s family decided to move to Fairfax — although their decision did not attract the same attention).

The LeBron decision, on some primal level, also reverses the alleged “brain drain” from Middle America to our coastal communities.  For years, we’ve heard that cities like Cleveland and Akron are (cue my least favorite phrase) “on the wrong side of history.”

Of course, that’s not true.  Traditional communities have existing infrastructure and work forces which can easily accept new enterprises.  They also feature lower overhead costs due to a depressed real estate market and labor market.   Finally, they represent some of the most prime real estate in America from a geographic standpoint.  (The south shore of Lake Erie is one of the nicest beach fronts in America).  There’s a reason that 19th century settlers, or their Indian forebearers, chose to build a town there.

Not saying that LeBron’s “Decision Part Deux” weighed all these factors.  But I’m glad he’s coming home to Cleveland.

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What is Going on in Manassas?

Here’s the story reported by our own Tom Jackman.

Exactly how does the sexual abuse of a child “solve” an alleged sexting crime?

This is outrageous.

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Why Did Brazil Collapse?

It was shocking, astonishing.  The premier soccer nation in the world playing a World Cup home match against a very good, but hardly invincible, German team.

After twenty-six minutes, the score was 5-0.  The last four of those goals occurred in seven minutes.  Never seen anything like that.  Not even in FPYC mini-kicks.

Yes, the passion of Brazilians for football and their national team is not entirely unique.  There are crazy fans all over the world.  (To equal the emotional swings of Brazilian fans, just google “Auburn Alabama run back” and you’ll see an interesting comparison.)

But why did Brazil collapse so completely?  And does it have larger implications for Brazilian society, already unhappy with the state of the nation’s economy?

A few, perhaps impertinent, observations.  International soccer teams can reflect the soul of the nation.   The USA is earnest but somewhat clumsy.  The Germans are cool and clinical.  The Argentinians are passionate.  The English are perpetually unhappy.

Brazil has always been the epitome of that anthropomorphic dynamic.  Its team didn’t just play winning soccer – they played beautiful soccer, with fancy footwork and curving shots which left the other team out-classed as well as out-scored.  They smiled as they worked.  Under the great Pele, they coined the phrase “the beautiful game.”

(34th SD reference:  in 1975, I saw Pele score on a header at W.T. Woodson High School in a match for the NY Cosmos against the Washington Diplomats).

The troubling part of yesterday’s loss for Brazil was not just that the team was outplayed (it was already evident after several Cup matches that the team was not that great), it’s that they appeared to give up once they fell behind.  Playing hard to the final whistle, even when you’re losing, is the essence of sport.  In that respect, they failed.

With the loss in Brazil, it must face certain facts:  it’s national team is not that great right now.  It also has invested perhaps too much in football, both economically and emotionally, and not enough in other aspects of life — and, yes, there are other aspects.

(To quote Hal Holbrook in Wall Street:  “When a man looks into the abyss ..”)

They say that “football is not life or death, it’s more important than that.”  For the sake of Brazil, let’s hope not!

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