Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dear LeBron, Stay in Cleveland

By Kevin Beane

Dear LeBron,

Let me begin this letter the same way I am going to end it. Please stay in Cleveland.

I'm an Akron boy, like you. I spent part of my childhood at Crosby Elementary School.

Does that sound familiar? It's right across the street from St. V., where you went to high school.

So we are both familiar with the same sights, same sounds, same environs. You also know how much we love our Browns, Indians, and Cavs.

You know how long-suffering we are as fans. No championships since the mid-'60s. Close, close calls by all the Cleveland sports teams that came up famously short. Edgar Renteria, John Elway ... all the famous daggers.

But more than that, you know how long-suffering we are not just as fans, but as people. The unemployment rate in Northeast Ohio is through the roof. All the factories are long gone, and nothing has replaced it but strife, want, and half-cooked ideas.

People make fun of Akron, fun of Cleveland. No one names menu items, fashion accessories, or buildings after us.

But it's my home, and yours, as well.

Do you owe it to Cleveland to stay? Certainly not. I'm not some old curmudgeon preemptively accusing you of ungratefulness. On the contrary, I admire you.

I'm consistently amazed that, considering you have had such a bizarre life of stardom ever since that Sports Illustrated cover at age 13, you seem grounded. When interviewed, your answers are thoughtful and not just boilerplate. I get not the slightest whiff of undue arrogance in you, and that's quite amazing. Michael Jordan used his Hall of Fame speech to piss and moan about his detractors and enemies. You would not do that.

I also can understand a lot of reasons why you might want to leave. I doubt money is one of them. I think you know that whether you re-up with the Cavs for millions or sign with the Knicks for billions, you're going to be insanely rich either way, and most of that is going to be from Nike and your other endorsements anyway.

Then, there's the fact that you have only ever lived in Northeast Ohio. God knows I have benefitted from visiting and living in different states, and I was very happy to strike it out on my own over a hundred miles away for college. You haven't had that experience. And New York is indeed awesome, a great city.

But Cleveland and Akron need you. It's true. I repeat, you do not owe it to these cities to stay, that's not what I'm trying to say. I'm trying to say that you will leave a large hole behind that nobody can replace. I don't mean on the Cavs, although certainly that's true. I mean in our imaginations. Yeah, people may shit on Cleveland, on Akron, but we have the best basketball player, he's a good man to boot, and he's a local. He's one of us.

You kill a lot of the dreariness with your mythos. You give us a reason to brag. You let us feel good about something in a civic sense.

In New York you'll just be another link in the chain that stretches back to Babe Ruth. New York has all the championships, the history, the glory, and the admiration. And they want you. But they don't need you.

When players spend several years making it big with one club and then sign with another, it's always interesting to see how the fans react when they make that first return trip with the new team. Will it be cheers, or boos?

With you, I have no doubt, it will be cheers. Wild applause, through tears. It'll especially sting when you do that talcum powder toss representing the colors of another team. Jesus Christ, don't do that to us.

Please stay in Cleveland.

Sincerely,

Kevin Beane

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