Tuesday, August 3, 2010

CAK Is Not CLE; Get Over It

Another great reminder on just how wide the gulf is on the drive between Akron and Cleveland. The sniping continues over a 25-year old's decision to take his fame to South Beach, and his full-page ad in the Beacon Journal thanking Akron (but not Cleveland) for the good times.

Mapquest notes the drive from Akron to Cleveland is 39.27 miles and takes 47 minutes. It might was well be far enough, however, to warrant a jet flight when it comes to LeBron James.

There was another outpouring of hurt and outrage today from fans still smarting from LeBron's poorly executed "Decision" broadcast where he decided to exercise his free agent rights and head south to Miami. At no time did he disrespect his hometown (Akron) nor the town where he worked (Cleveland) but the vast majority of those in northeast Ohio were not happy with what they felt was a divorce notice served on national cable television.

The vitriol on local television, radio and websites following the announcement was, I suspect, expected. The jilted hate him and burn their jerseys; the disappointed won't root for him but respect his right to make a decision; the ones who grew up with him are sad he won't be playing home but recognize he's still from, of and by Akron.

I'm in the second camp, leaning toward the third. Not happy with the way he did it, but embrace the fact America is still a land of opportunity and if he decides the greater opportunity is in a Heat uniform more power to him.

We had him here for 11 years; with Akron, he did win championships with St. Vincent St. Mary. With Cleveland, he got close but no rings. With Akron, he's supported plenty of charities and put his name behind events such as the Bikeathon this weekend. He never claimed to be from Cleveland; he consistently reminded reporters, announcers and anyone interested he was from Akron.

Akron and the rest of the "plus" suburbs in northeast Ohio get the difference. Cleveland doesn't.

Cleveland will crab that LeBron owes them more; he should have bought the ad in the PD; he shouldn't have waited until Z did his full-page thank you. They're missing the point.

This isn't about them, it's about LeBron's relationship with his hometown, not the place where he worked. It's about him and us. It's about keeping alive that part of his heritage that still lives on the playground courts of West Akron where he started his journey. It's about that muscle memory that binds him to the gymnasium at St. V, and the JAR, and the local Akron area high schools where he faced his first true challenges. It's about the school where he and his friends were able to do something special, and bring home state championships for family and neighbors who knew him for who he was instead of what the NBA marketing machine wanted us to believe him to be.

The most disappointing aspect of the past month is seeing the business side of what LeBron has become, exemplified by the cynical ride on ESPN and "The Decision" but also the stories now making their way out of the Cavaliers organization on how far they bent over to make him happy. But he's not the kid on our playgrounds, or playing in our high school gyms anymore. He's the 25-year old who, like so many of his age in northeast Ohio, saw greener pastures elsewhere and decided to embrace his version of his future rather than be tied to someone else's expectations.

Critics will say the Beacon Journal ad is just another cynical chapter in LeBron's continued marketing. If that were true, how come his continued workouts at Akron General's Wellness Center aren't included? His pick-up games at the SVSM gym? His going about his everyday business in his hometown?

It's done. Take the high road. You can wish him well for his time spent here without cheering his success with Miami. His decision was whether or not to stay; our decision is whether to move forward or wallow in this over and over again.

Want something to really wallow in? How about all those other 20 and 30-somethings who think northeast Ohio is a great place to grow up and be from, not in?

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