Feudal Sports

Although Akron natives like myself like Lebron Raymone James for what he is, Thursday night’s CNN spornography left us small people even smaller doubt about what he is not, at least not yet. After mastering the art of athletic diplomacy for seven years with an admirable aplomb regarding his prodigious gifts, and his heart and soul work ethic, he instantly took himself backward into the medieval culture of feudal sport politics, swearing allegiance to something that is unreal and unbelievable, except by children, tyrants and lunatics.

The 2008 gold medal trio of Bosh, Wade and James is reunited! How nice, but for whom. Not for America, where the business of sports is still business, not heroism. Not for Lebron’s friends and family, who must respect his titanic will to win, and say nice things about him, while noticing that he left almost thirty million in cash on the Gilbert/Quicken Loans family table. He has now become Miami’s greatest vassal for five or six years, not the free heroic son of humble origins he imagines himself to be. Lord and King are not really terms of endearment, and Lebron owns only his own contract.

Not to tread on a young, obviously sincere man’s dreams, but what did he gain by jumping ship? An enormous hype of an already over-inflated brand, and the tremendous risk of faling into the raging bull world of past sports heroes, like Jake Lamotta. One injury or illness to any one of the members of his terrible trio, and his dreams may be derailed, sending him quickly to the downside of an illustrious career.

Maturity in sport may not be the priority it is in business, science, art or politics, but it is, unfortunately, sadly lacking in our ancient urge to always chase the winning team, horse, brass ring, etc. The feudal lords of Europe controlled the greater part of a thousand years of history with their strange mix of heroic rituals and shifting allegiances, depending on whose star was rising fastest. The young and idealistic, like Lebron himself, are often the most willing pawns to this chess game.

Here’s hoping that Lebron never faces the fate of another native son of Akron, who “coulda’ been a contender” for the title of all-time greatest, Georgie Kochan. Born in Akron of Croatian immigrants in 1921, George rose to near great, fighting and losing to Jake Lamotta at Madison Square Garden in 1944. ┬áBorn myself ten years later, I can recall as a young boy seeing Georgie staggering up and down Market St. with a cigar, panhandling up and down his boulevard of broken dreams. My father, also a first generation Croatian-American would sometimes stop and slip him a few dollars, as many who knew him surely did.

Not that Lebron needs to worry about being as broke as Georgie some day, but of being just as broken in mind and body. In feudal sports as in life you can be “gone but not forgotten” long before you are really gone, and forgotten not long after that. Bon voyage, Bronnie, we hope you like the Heat!

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