Have you heard? LeBRON JAMES IS HEADING BACK TO CLEVELAND TO PLAY FOR THE CAVALIERS!!!!! It’s all over the news and the internet. And I don’t really care.
For international readers, a recap: LeBron James is a very talented basketball player, so good that when he was in high school in Akron, Ohio, his games were broadcast on local television. He was drafted as a high school senior by the nearby Cleveland (Ohio) Cavaliers and played for them from 2003-10. When his contract ended, he went to Miami (Florida) to play for the Heat, in hopes of playing for an NBA champion team. The Heat went to the championship finals all four years he played there, winning twice. He opted out of a contract extension with the Heat and is returning to Cleveland to (ostensibly) finish his career, hoping to bring a championship to a city that hasn’t had a national-level champion in any major sport for fifty years.
I’m not a basketball fan, but I understand part of the dynamic for Cleveland. I grew up in New England as a fan of the Boston (Massachusetts) Red Sox (baseball) team, which went 86 years without winning the World Series. When they won the World Series in 2004, it was exciting and emotional for me, even though I no longer live in New England. The bond between the team and the city of Boston was never more evident than the 2013 championship parade, when the team stopped at the finish line of the Boston Marathon near the site of the bombings, placing the World Series trophy draped with a special Boston Strong team jersey on the line. I even blogged about it.
What is curious about the LeBron James situation is that Cleveland reacted very strongly when he announced he was leaving to go to Miami. He was widely vilified – people publicly burning, ripping, defacing, etc. jerseys that bore his name and number, calling him a traitor, a coward, and a lot of names one would not use in polite company.
One of the things I’ve noticed in the coverage of James’s return is that the Cleveland fans that are shown crying and cheering and generally rejoicing are almost exclusively men. There are many women fans of basketball, so the dearth of women in the coverage strikes me as odd. Are men more the forgive-and-forget type? Do they have a four-year statute of limitations on betrayal, which was the word frequently used when LeBron left? Are women more wary and need a bit more time to get used to the situation before welcoming him back?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that no sports story – sorry, but not even the World Cup – should be the top story on a national news broadcast. Not when people are dying from bombs and gunfire in multiple countries in the Middle East, when refugees are streaming over international borders on at least three continents, when there are wildfires, lightning strikes, typhoons, etc. causing destruction, when a blood test that can predict Alzheimer’s disease development has just been announced. So, sure, cover the story of LeBron James and Cleveland, but first inform the public about news of the country and world.