I’ve always been a sports fan. I grew up watching baseball and football and basketball. I played all kinds of sports as a kid, and dabbled in soccer and tennis in high school. Athletic competition allows for learning lessons of pressure and conflict in an environment where the ramifications of failure are minimized. Seeing someone excel in the arena of sport can be a beautiful thing.
However, in today’s culture all of this is nearly lost. Sports have become about money, fame, and ego. And this week we witnessed the blackened heart of professional sports. Watching the LeBron James saga play out I have a few thoughts on the whole mess that I’ve been able to pull together.
1. On LeBron. He could have left Cleveland and most people would have understood. Sure people would have been sad to see him go, some angry, others hurt, but most people might have eventually moved on. And then came “The Decision” 2010. The prime time television special that amounted to James pumping himself up and slapping the city of Cleveland and his home town across the face in the ultimate act of disrespect. I’ve never seen anything like it. No respect, no remorse, just a cold shoulder and an expectation that his hometown will forgive him when he returns. I wouldn’t count on it.
2. On the situation. This is of course what happens when we build men and women into gods. There’s a messianic quality to the giant image of LeBron that is being removed from the side of a Cleveland building in the image above. The city looked to him to be their savior. To be their escape and their hope for respect and economic success. All of the hopes and dreams of the city were piled on those outstretched arms only to find that they could not bear the weight.
None ever will.
At least none of this world. It makes me wonder about what the church is doing in areas like Cleveland or Detroit or Northern Indiana. How about Louisiana and the Gulf shoreline? In areas where the socioeconomic situation is being hit the hardest are there churches who are offering hope beyond the pain? Not a hope that is escapist either, but hope that genuinely lasts, and that impacts life in the here and now. I’m sure there are people and churches that are doing this, but what do they look like?
So yes, LeBron, you’re a punk for leaving the way you did. But would it hurt so much if what came crashing down upon his exit was only the expectations of a professional basketball team, and not the hopes and dreams of an entire region?