Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Once More,
With Feeling
Lebron James is once again the cover boy of the current issue of Sports Illustrated, at least his seventh such appearance. It was seven years ago this month that the mag dubbed the then-high school sophomore "The Chosen One." This time, the article focuses on what a freak of nature he seems to be: he's gained considerable weight and muscle mass since turning pro, and yet can still outrun and outjump lighter, more aerodynamic players. The writer even brought a scale along in hopes of getting to the bottom of various reports that he may now weigh as much as 274 pounds (Lebron didn't oblige, but he did admit to having gained eight pounds over the offseason, even while trying to lose weight. Should we be worried about this long-term trend?) Four years ago, Cleveland-based Stack Magazine, aimed at educating young athletes about the most effective workout regimens, offered this article about Lebron's high school workout routine. Meanwhile, as the Cavs get ready to play the Knicks in New York tomorrow, the national media hype machine is cranking up to full volume again with all the silly reports about how he's supposedly headed elsewhere at the end of next season, when his current contract is up, looking for greater fame and money. The lunacy peaked a few weeks ago, I think, when the infamous Nike huckster Sonny Vaccaro made this memorable observation to the New York Times : “Even though Cleveland has done everything right, you don’t get to Mount Rushmore from Cleveland. He has to go to New York or Los Angeles. There’s no question. The money will be available anywhere. But this is about his persona.” ESPN.com has now posted this invitation for Cleveland fans to pour their hearts out about how unfair it all is, and what the Lebron/Cavs conversation is like around their local barbershops. By all means, send them a note if the spirit moves you. But we'd also like to hear your thoughts on the matter.


At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chosen one? Has the country gone completely mad? Come on! What is it that he does that's so different than any other American professional athlete? Is he solving world issues? Is he altruistic and conscious of the world around him? Does he care about anyone other than himself? No, no, no! He's simply an over publicised, over paid and over weight baby.

Oh, did I say too much? I guess that wasn't very loving, was it? Sorry.

Oh and BTW, like most babies, he too will probably grow out of his baby fat....


At 9:12 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks for that full-throated perspective, Neve. I know you speak for an awful lot of non- sports fans (and perhaps more than a few sports fans as well) on this subject. And you don't always have to be loving in your commentary. Sometimes we just have to say things that need to be said.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi again John,
I'm not anti-sports, I'm actually quite athletic. I don't think there's a sport out there I haven't played, so I feel my perspective on the way we treat professional athletes is even more founded.

I wish my favorite high school teacher, or college professor would make the cover of Academic Illustrated and as many people would get excited and worry about their salaries and cholestrol levels, etc.... Nuff said.

Thanks for letting me spout off. I know you love your Cavs, but I also know you're well rounded and see my point. :-)

Neve Black

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous MilesB said...

OK, I'll take the bait Neve. :)

For starters, professional athletes aren't supposed to be out there solving world problems and practicing altruism. Any pro athlete is paid to do one thing; excel at one sport. That's it. And bring in spectators so the owners can make money. If athletes do this, they are a success.

As for what he's done individually, the numbers alone speak for themselves. He is only 24 years old(!) and his accomplishments thus far scream out that he is a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. He has smashed professional basketball records and ... did I mention he is only 24?? With easily another 10 years of play ahead of him? Don't take it from me. Most if not all of the commentators and experts say that by the time he finishes his career, he could very well be the greatest player ever to play the game. That is an extraordinary accomplishment and one that a tiny proportion of humanity can claim.

But perhaps most importantly, there is nothing in this city, in this knocked-down, dragged-out city, no institution, no individual, no politician, nothing even close that can successfully unite people as powerfully as LeBron can; black and white, young and old, rich and poor, employed and laid off, sick and healthy, you name it.

Aren't we all entitled to a little bit of that magic? That euphoria that comes with experiencing a winner for a change? Something, anything, at long last, that works? That makes us proud to say we're from Cleveland?

At 2:49 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks, Miles. You covered some of the territory I intended to cover in a long comment I tried to leave a moment ago, but which got lost in a rare (and of course maddening) technical glitch. I'll try to reconstruct it this evening and re-post then. Meanwhile, we'd love to hear what others think also. And of course, if Neve and Miles want to continue to go back and forth on this issue, I'd love that also.

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Miles or John,
It appears I've touched quite a nerve, and I'm sorry if I offended anyone. I'd be happy to further debate the subject, and or arm wrestle either one you at anytime. ;-)

At 4:14 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

It's a guy thing, Neve. You know how we are about our sports. And guys who are Cleveland natives (and thus the loooooongest-suffering sports fans of all) have an especially bad case of it. As for arm wrestling, I think you could possibly whip us both, maybe at the same time.

At 4:26 PM, Anonymous MilesB said...

Oh no, no offense at all. We've had this discussion before, Neve, and I know it touches a nerve in you too, yes? ;)

Ooohhh... arm wrestling. All right!

At 4:33 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

No, Neve, I didn't read anything in Miles' earlier comment other than his signature earnestness. I think our boy Miles would be hard pressed to be offended by anyone or anything. He's easily one of the most even-tempered people I know.

As for the arm wrestling, we'll be sure to videotape that if it happens, and post the video. Or perhaps Neve and Miles can jello wrestle, and I'll shoot the video! Hell, they're both single, or "swingle," as we old marrieds enviously tend to think of them.

At 7:22 PM, Anonymous MilesB said...

Hmm... jello wrestling. Sounds like a Lit Cafe talk show topic!


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