The Cleveland Crucifixion of LeBron James

Having given up watching sitcoms (yep even Community), last night I watched Lebron’s return to Cleveland. Even if you are not a sports fan you probably know the basics. LeBron James, an NBA superstar (2-time league MVP), became a free-agent this summer and signed with the Miami Heat to join forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in hopes of winning an NBA Championship. To put it mildly, Cleveland did not take it too well.

Some disclaimers here:
1. I am not a LeBron James fan, but I do think he is extremely entertaining and an amazing athlete (but he’s not a winner like Kobe, or Michael or Magic or Larry).
2. I am not a LeBron-hater. I kinda hope he wins an NBA ring so Charles Barkley would shut up.
3. I am not a Barkley-hater but I do think he is extremely annoying though he is somewhat entertaining.
4. I don’t have a favorite NBA Team, but I admit, I do follow some of the story lines.
5. If David Stearn shut down the NBA tomorrow, I’d be ok.

I was on our mission trip to New Orleans when “LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach” (still one of my favorite lines. I await the day when I hear a “John Piper type” say, “God has foreordained me to take my talents to San Diego“). Anyway, I was among those that were surprised. I really thought he had allowed all that hype to make his return to Cleveland more dramatic. I only feel that way because of how I want great sports legends to be told but he has every right to weigh his options to pursue his desired goal(s).  For the record, I was also wrong about Zach and Kelly breaking up on Saved By the Bell.

Consequently, December 2nd was circled on ESPN’s calendar immediately. What’s going to happen when LeBron comes back? Even though security was beefed up and various precautionary measures were taken, they were praying for something that would humble The Malace in the Palace. And if there was no physical confrontation, the crowd emotionally crucified him the entire game. It didn’t matter that their team allowed LeBron to score 38 on them as the Heat thumped them. It probably wouldn’t have mattered had they won. Their real goal was to make sure LeBron knew they hated him.

I like sports rivalries. I like sports fans getting into it with their signs, shirts, and trash-talk.  And I think for millions of fans, these types of things are fun distractions and I am grateful for  things like sports and entertainment and silly escapes. The problem becomes when we see  these trivial things as important and we live our lives in a superficial bubble that shields from  the sufferings around us.  And I think that’s what sunk in to me last night – they really  do hate  him, more than Philly hated McNabb. Had you told me Cavs owner Dan Gilbert had  local  churches praying the Heat’s plane would crash on their return home, it would not have  surprised me. In fact,  it  may not be an exaggeration to believe that the fans of  Cleveland hate LeBron  more  than Christians hate Judas because I am now  wondering if they loved him more  than Christians love Jesus.

I’m ok with sports fans seeing their favorite athletes as “sports messiahs”, but it’s clear that he  was so much more than that. Frankly, I am not as troubled as others regarding the role  entertainment plays in our lives. I dismiss them as the opiate of the masses. And unless you are a real Philadelphia sports fan, most people see sports, movies, television as a means of escape. My problem has always been when the escape becomes mistaken for the path of life and last night’s celebrity crucifixion.

Now if you will pardon me, it’s my turn to lead the vigil for Jeter to sign back with the Yankees.

Giants Home Opener, Tailgating, & Community

A good friend called and told me he had tickets to the Giants opener against the Redskins.  As a loyal 49er fan praying for Alex Smith and thankful for Frank Gore, the Giants have been a team I appreciated but didn’t root for.  Until last year in the playoffs.  How one could not cheer for the Giants, especially against the Patriots would seem crazy to me.  That person probably cheered for Dolph Lungren in Rocky IV too. 

I skipped a commission meeting to go.  Fortunately, I invited our new senior pastor so I’m pretty semi-confident that I won’t get in too much trouble.  Arriving about four hours early, I could not get over all the tailgating.  Our tailgating party was out of an RV, had steak, shrimp cocktail, beer of course, and satellite tv showing the pre-game.  Oh, there was a DJ next door, err, the next parking space. 

So there I was eating steak, bbq chips, drinking Heineken, when The New Kids, “Hangin’ Tough” came on (He may not have been the coolest DJ, because earlier I think I heard Snow’s “Informer”).  Around that moment I started wondering what exactly was going on.  It was Thursday, my new senior pastor and I are tailgating with people we really don’t know, listening to someone’s playlist called “1986-1991” (Did I mention the Milli Vanilli?).


Prior to kick-off Pre-game Super Bowl celebrations.  That was cool as there was a lot of energy in the stadium for that.  Michael Strahan came out and introduced the Giants.  That also was cool until I found out that he needed to be paid 75,000 to do it.  Lame.  I would have done it for half and I probably wouldn’t have stuttered.  Anyway, The first half of the game was fantastic; second half, not so much.


Here’s where I get reflective.  There seems to be so much more community at football games as opposed to baseball games.  Don’t think I realized it as much til then.  Some of the tailgaters try to get the same spots, the season tickets holders welcoming and hugging each other prior to kick off.  One guy showed off his new baby who was born in the off-season.  Maybe that happens in the expensive box seats at Yankee Stadium but whatever.  Baseball of course has about 8x the amount of home games so I’m sure that’s part of it. 


It brought back a conversation that I had with a woman regarding why her brother always went to the bar.  I tried to explain that was place of community.  He goes there to get what she gets out of the Ladies Bible Study.  The Scriptures are an important part of it, but there’s a reason why she goes to her church bible study.  She knows those ladies.  Similarly, her brother goes to that bar to talk about sports and whatever with his “small group”. 

We Christians, are used to thinking of this type of community strictly in our terms but there are so many other ways that people connect.  This isn’t to say that we each receive the same type of benefits or in our language “blessings” but I think it’s an observation worth mentioning.  If he idea of “office wife” makes sense to you, then you will see this.  If you see that as a form of adultery, then these you’ll probably be frustrated with the rest of these thoughts, this blog, me, you don’t get the Simpson’s but let me humbly encourage you to expand your way of thinking.