Friday, August 6, 2010

Priceless

My sister, Jen, and I had a heated debate recently.  It was the day after basketball star, Lebron James, Ohio native and player for the Cleveland Cavaliers, broke the collective hearts of an entire city when he announced he would be "taking his talents to South Beach," and leaving to play for the Miami Heat.  The televisions stations in Cleveland spent the next several hours mourning their exiting hero's decision, interviewing fans that quickly progressed from being heartbroken to really, really angry.

Despite growing up under the same roof as our father, the athlete, coach, basketball referee and ultimate Cleveland sports fan, Jen never shared the same sports enthusiasm as the rest of us.  I don't believe she ever really "got" the whole thing.  She declared that day that the worship this country bestows on it's spoiled, overpaid athletes is despicable, and we should all be ashamed for wasting our time pining over their childish antics.

Truth be told, I was never a fan of Mr. James.  He definitely, in my opinion, fits the description of the overpaid, spoiled athlete with multiple character flaws.  He was born and raised in nearby Akron, Ohio, and played for the Cavaliers for seven seasons, never achieving a championship, often because he appeared to simply quit when they reached the playoffs.  He showed up at Jacobs Field wearing a Yankees cap while attending an Cleveland Indians playoff game.  In Cleveland.  The Indians were playing the Yankees.  At a Cleveland Browns home game, he playfully tossed the ball on the sidelines with the quarterback.  Of Dallas.  The team the Browns were about to play.  Classy stuff.

When you view childish, disrespectful antics like this, you can certainly understand Jen's point. Yet I strongly disagreed with my dear sister about my city's devotion to it's teams and players therein.  Go to ClevelandBrowns.com and click on the "Community"  tab to see all the ways the Browns organization is involved in the city and it's surrounding suburbs.  The players and coaches have built playgrounds, read to children in the Cuyahoga County Library, fed the homeless in soup kitchens, and built homes for Habitat for Humanity.  They sponsor youth football camps and provide "Family Day" at training camp.  I know all other NFL teams have done the same.

Then there are some true classy players.  Talk to Josh Cribbs, Browns star kick-off returner and graduate of nearby Kent State University.  Ask him how much he loves the city of Cleveland and it's people, but make sure you've alloted plenty of time for his response (Josh tends to gush!).

There's former quarterback and hometown hero Bernie Kosar, who nearly brought the Browns to the Superbowl back in the 80's.  He's on the Browns staff now, and commentates the preseason games for the local TV station.  There's not enough space on this blog to list all the charities Bernie has founded to aid the people and children of the city he loves.  No spoiled brats here.

But there was something else I wish I had mentioned to Jen when we were debating that morning.  Ironically, we were doing so in the nursing home room where my father lay, sleeping peacefully in his bed in the corner. I wish I had pointed to my weak, slumbering father and told Jen the story about a preseason game that Dad and I attended several years back.  My first husband had just left me a few months earlier, and I was in the process of putting my life back together, one piece at a time.  Dad was never a great consoler, but I was back home for a few days, so he suggested we head downtown and try to scalp a couple of tickets to watch Bernie and the Browns take on Kansas City.

Dad was a FIERCE negotiator, and after talking some poor sap down to a few bucks per ticket, we took our seats in the old stadium and prepared for some Browns football.  Because Dad both played and coached football, he is extremely knowledgeable about the game, often telling which plays would be called before they were even set to snap the ball.  We watched Kosar (Dad was a big fan), and he made predictions about the upcoming season, how he thought our struggling team would do.  It was a great night.  All my worries about my marriage, my financial situation, and my future faded away as I sat there sipping a Pepsi with Dad, watching our beloved team and dreaming about the season ahead.

The Browns won that game.  And the next morning, a rerun of the game was shown on the local television station.  Dad and I took a seat on the couch and watched it together AGAIN, saying things like, "Oh, here comes that play where he faked right, then hit the receiver in the end zone!"  We cheered just as loud the second time through.

Yes, we probably place far too much emphasis on sports in this country. And the people of Cleveland should probably get over the despicable shunning of their once glorious "King James."  But for THIS Cleveland fan, rooting for my team and admiring it's players goes far, far deeper than buying a jersey that supports a millionaire's salary.  These players and this team represent my city, and the people who live there.  People who get together and cheer for them, year after heartbreaking year, simply because they're "our team."

And most importantly, they have provided the only thing over which my Dad and I have deeply, sincerely bonded.  And THAT, my dear sports fans, is priceless.  Or as Dad would say, "not too shabby."

Thanks for Reading!!

32 comments:

A Vintage Chic said...

Hi, Joan! Loved this! I grew up in the Cleveland area--miss it horribly! I grew up loving the Browns & the Indians--my brothers still do, although we haven't been there for 30 years! Memories....! Loved how you expressed how sports bonded you and your father together--just beautiful.

Thanks for sharing this--off to read more of your posts--I'm so far behind! Summer has been crazy!

Hope your day is wonderful!

Julie

Pearl said...

Very nice. Anything that brings people together can't be all bad.

:-)

Pearl

CentFla said...

Sports teams and leagues are an easy target. Why not bash them? How many billions of dollars are spent each year enjoying sports. But isn't that true also of music? Does a symphony orchestra add a tangible value to any city where they play that is greater than the financial impact of an NFL team? I'll answer for you - no.

Entertainment in any form is relative to the person that enjoys it. And for anyone, even a relative, to tell you that YOUR form of entertainment is a bad one is just ignorant and rude.

Charlene said...

I will believe in the good professional over paid athletes do, when I see them donate 50% of their assets to charity like Mr. Buffett, etc.

As to sisters being different; my sister is a totally different person than I am. I think it's because though we were raised in the same household, she and I have lived apart for 45 years.

Rachel Cotterill said...

In British sports it's totally normal for players to change teams every so often - sounds different over there?

Chrystal said...

'Not too shabby' so funny! My dad says the same thing! haha! As you know from my blog I'm a HUGE football fan. I love when NFL/ESPN show the good that the players do for their community. It helps me like the players more - even if they are on the opposing team. I never knew all that stuff about LeBron. Kinda sucks. I'm not a big basketball fan - like watching the playoffs and going to any game is great, but I liked him from what I knew about him. I can see why people are upset. Love your blog and your stories!

Kyna said...

My husband Chuck lived in Cleveland for a few years, LOVES the place. Huge Browns and Indians fan, no matter how badly they're doing lol. I like to say that he has 'Sports Tourette's'. Because he'll get up and stand right in front of the tv (which is raised up and sits in an alcove in the wall)...he'll spew the most hilarious stream of swear words I've ever heard lol. But I can't laugh too much, because I'm like that with hockey ;)

Eva Gallant said...

I'm not a football fan, but I love basketball and the Boston Celtics and I love baseball and the Boston Red Sox, so I totally understand where you're coming from. And I agree, many professional athletes do good things; we tend to hear more about the few bad eggs who stink up the sports world with their antics. Thank the press....the much prefer reporting such things.

Jessica said...

Great post! I'm a sports fan, but a conflicted one since I find myself at odds with many professional athletes' off-court/field appalling antics. There doesn't seem to be a love of the game anymore at the professional level.

Jeff said...

Great Post. I have lots of friends and fellow employees that live in The Cleveland area. My boss lives there and when he comes to visit me I make him sit under my Steeler Super Bowl wall (I am going to get trashed over that). However, besides that there is one thing though that you can't take away from either city. Both football teams represent the cities they play in. The city is the face of the team. The players are the not the face of the team.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Oh Joan, Bernie and the Kardiac Kids! I grew up a family that is sooo much Cleveland sports fan. (I know how'd they let me in being that damn yankee fan right?)

Went to a CLE/PIT game and my ex was wearing a hat I had made for him. Of course in Browns colors of brown and orange and it said on the cap, I HATE THE STEELERS. Everyone was offering him money for it. When some guy pulled out a $50 I said to him - take it, i can buy you a helluva lot more hats at that price! (my friend was a silk screener at the time.)

Growing up in Erie PA you are either a Brownie fan or a steeler fan and my family would never ever utter that black and gold name in our house. That was sacrilegious!!!

Bryant Gumbel did an excellent commentary on Lebron's departure antics on his most recent show on HBO. I will try to find it because you will LOVE it.

I am so glad you had something like this to bond with your dad. What great memories!
And thanks for bringing back a few of mine.

lifeshighway said...

I'm not a sports fan at all but I am all about family bonding. Whatever brings you together and creates warm memories is great in my book.

Love the last picture.

Langdowns said...

Nice one. Not too shabby at all. L

KathyB said...

So well written, Joan! Beautifully expressed.

A girl needs 2 Talk said...

Aww! The emotion in there jumped out and caught me! Love the beautiful Father-Daughter memories this game brought! Sincerely, I am rooting for you. And now I am certain your sister "gets" it!! :) :)

Hope your Dad is fighting it out just like I think he is!

Have a blessed weekend!

Krista said...

In the interest of full disclosure - I am a Steelers fan. I agree with you that there are a lot of great professional athletes out there. It is too bad that the Michael Vicks, LeBron James, and -yes- Ben Rothlesbergers get far more press than the guys who sacrifice their time and fortune to help the fans.

Shan said...

I can *totally* relate... to Jen, haha. But my husband is a lifelong Cubs fan, so I'm learning to relate to your side, too.

Anonymous said...

Mixed emotions about your story.Part of me agrees with Jen but the idealist in me wants to agree with you.Reality is that King James is a creation of sports fans of Cleveland.He has probably been catered to ever since he could dribble a basketball.Just like a beautiful girl that has won some genetic lottery and never develops a personality,Lebron doesn't know right from wrong because it wasn't required of him. Will finish comment later

Cheeseboy said...

This is so rare and cool! An actual woman's blog that is talking sports?! I am blown away.

I think James might be the most freakishly gifted athlete that has ever played in the NBA. It is a shame he has to be the way he is. And that entire announcement was such a crock.

Robin said...

Hi Joan Thanks for visiting and your kind comment on my piece.."Girl"....Ive changed my personal blog over to http://mylifeincolour-robinmead.blogspot.com...if you would like to redirect....as per your post...my daughter and I were just discussing this yesterday as we were driving...she 21 and thinks that sports players are over paid and the money should go to other more devoted professionals as doctors or teachers...you bring out a very good point about the things they do behind the scenes and the things which do not get noticed or reported as often...Im glad that you shed light on this...there is good and bad in all things....Have a great day..!

We live in a Zoo! said...

And that is why I love sports :D The movie Invictus comes to mind....

ReformingGeek said...

Yes, there are some professional athletes out there that have a positive effect on the community and are role models for kids. It's too bad the others seem to get more media attention.

That's cool about bonding with your dad over football.

Delana said...

Your memory of your dad and the game reminds me of my dad and baseball. Sweet memories. Here in France, after a lot of bad behavior by the French football (soccer) team during the world cup, the coach was fired and replaced by a new one who then proceed to fire the entire team! Not a tear was shed. France was tired of being represented in such a shoddy fashion, which I think is one thing many professionals forget. They ARE representatives....like it or not.

yonca said...

Anything brings family together is wonderful!Have a wonderful week!

Mercy D'souza said...

Been busy with moving to and setting up our new house so I've not kept up with blog reading lately. I like your new layout. Rustic and cozy.
I'm not a sports fan at all, but I've learned to put up with and support my husband's love of cricket, and Logan is quickly taking after daddy.

Cate P said...

I'm a massive sports fan, as is my husband and son, though I fear my daughter will grow up to be your sister. Amazing how someone in the same household can not be caught up in sports fever at all.

Erika said...

Wonderful post. I really do think that brats like Mr. James are the exception not the rule. And, while in a perfect world, perhaps athletes would not be paid so much I can certainly vouch for the merit of having a home town team to root for with family and friends. Perhaps even more so when those hometown teams are constantly in a "rebuilding season"......I grew up in Kansas City.

christopher said...

I think sports are great for bonding and observing parallels to life. Helped with my daughter, now graduated from college, and my son- still in grade school.

And though many athletes are good citizens and role models, my expectations for off the field behavior are low. As with most celebrities.

Fashion Meets Food said...

I am from Michigan so I have a lot of Ohio friends so I sent them this post!

xo have a fab weekend!

Red Shoes said...

I agree!! I always loved the die hard fans that the Cleveland Browns have had...

Most celebrities... most professional athletes... are arrogant, smug, and obnoxious...

But so are some university profs... :op

~shoes~

woman:confused said...

I... SORT OF... agree with your sister. Only in that SOME pro athletes are spoiled, etc, etc, etc. I prefer watching college football over NFL because it's before their heads are too big to fit the helmets ;)

That being said, anything that allows you to have good memories, especially with family, is something worth paying attention to and respecting. I think it's something everyone should learn.

Jen said...

I’d like the chance to make myself better understood and counter some of my sister’s claims.
You can’t attend 4 years worth of army football games, including 4 Army-Navy games (the oldest rivalry in the country) and not “get” being a sports fan. I watched years of Browns and Indians games, and I have better than a passing understanding of how both games work. The point is, I have been a diehard fan and I chose to walk away because of the bad taste in my mouth.
It isn’t solely the bad behavior of a few rogue players. And, yes, professional athletic leagues do a lot of charity work. Good for them.
I don’t think that professional athletes deserve to be treated as demigods, which is exactly what they are in our society. If you enjoy supporting a team and attending sporting events, great, go for it. I just don’t think it should dominate our culture.
I think our society would be a better place if we valued writers, artists, thinkers, educators and community over the cult of celebrity which we have now.
If you want heroes, I can name 10 teachers in my own school who spend hundreds of dollars each year out of their own thin pockets to purchase things for their class to make it a better learning environment. They buy socks and shoes for students whose drug addicted parents send them to school in flip flops in November. They deal with students who haven’t gotten any sleep because their family was playing World of Warcraft until 3 AM. They have multiple students with ADHD or autism in a class pushing 30, but receive no help. They send home their personal books, because, even though a family has the latest electronic gaming system, there isn’t a book to be found in the home. Those are the people we should recognize and admire.
I think the volunteers who spend countless hours sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry and saving lives deserve more acclaim and financial compensation than someone who can catch the Hail Mary Pass and win the game.
Here in the Northwest, there are a good amount of Seahawks, Mariners and Sounders fans, but sports don’t dominate the culture. You are much more likely to get a good discussion about climate change, saving Puget Sound, recycling, alternative energy, and community activities/performances/service. My city of Olympia is known for two major events: The Procession of the Species and the Pet Parade. The Procession is a celebration of the earth and all life to be found there. It is a spectacle of amazing creativity that everyone in the community is welcome to join. The Pet Parade features kids walking with their pets (from dogs to cats and mice to goats) in costumes through town. I can tell you the good will and community spirit is palpable after each of these events. Both events require you to stake out your spot early, because they are so popular. These events value every community member as someone who can contribute. It celebrates what everyone has to offer, instead of worshiping those few who have remarkable physical abilities.
I’ll take that kind of community over a sports obsessed one any day.

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