I feel I have to say something, not so much because I’m from Cleveland, but because I need to talk about the guy who first told me of this basketball phenom.
Eddie Robinson has sinced passed away, I miss him very much, but I’m glad he’s not around to see all this bullshit.
Eddie was one of the coolest of my dad’s friends. I have fond memories of him holding court in my pop’s old bar room with the fellas. He’d sit there watching the Browns, making off-color jokes and giving everybody in the room the inside dope on all of Cleveland sports.
He was Richard Pryor and Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly all wrapped up into one, droppin’ science and entertaining us all as he sat royally in my pop’s old black leather rocker, rum and coke in one hand, a cigar in the other. He sat there like he owned the joint and he was one of the few adults us kids were allowed to call by his first name, because respect was a given. Placing “Mister” before his last name was redundant.
Eddie was the man.
When it came to high school sports the guy was especially dialed in. He’d take me and my big brother Julian to see these great Cleveland area High School football games, JFK, Cleveland Heights, Shaw… Eddie was able to give the 411 on a freshman running back as if the kid’s attributes had already been scouted, vetted and published.
One year, when both Julian and I were home from College for Thanksgiving break, my pop came into the family room and told us to throw on our coats.
“We’re going next door to see Eddie. He’s not doing that good and you two knuckleheads need to visit him.”
It was the last time I would ever see Eddie alive. He had lost weight and was frail. Still, he was funny as shit. What was ailing him or how he was feeling never came up. All we talked about Cleveland sports and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“You haven’t heard about Lebron James?!” He asked us in shock.
Julian and I had been buried deep in college life, him at Howard University and me at Norfolk State (two Historically Black Universities… Holla.) And we didn’t know Lebron James from Adam.
But for those folks firmly on the pulse of the sports world, this High School phenom from St.Vincent-St. Mary was heir apparent to Michael Jordon. Eddie was the first person I ever heard utter his name, and I had never seen him so excited by an athlete.
“That boy… That boy is bad.”
The Cavs were horrible back then, and everybody in town was excited at their chances of snagging the local golden boy with their potential first round pick. As you know, Cleveland won the draft lottery, Lebron was ours and the city lost its collective goddamn mind.
It was euphoric. After all the bad luck, the worm had finally turned. We had just landed the NBA equivalent of the great Jim Brown.
Unfortunately, Eddie didn’t even live long enough to see the draft. He died of prostate cancer soon after our last visit.
Again, I miss him very much.
Every time I saw Lebron I thought of Eddie. Every time Lebron made some amazing pass, or a last second shot to win the game, every time Lebron defied gravity with some insane dunk, every time Lebron chased down some fool from behind and slapped his weak shit into the stands, I thought of Eddie…
“That boy is bad…”
Lebron left Cleveland.
The brotha is ghost.
But so what? That behavior is par for the course these days, and I’m not talking about Free Agent athletes.
I almost know just as many Clevelanders living here in Los Angeles as I know back in Ohio. If there’s a group of people in this USA that understands the concept of packing up and leaving town for a better opportunity it’s the people of Cleveland, maybe a close second the Detroit.
Eddie would’ve understood him leaving.
Besides, getting punched in the face in nothing new to us folks from C-Town. Allow me to remind you of our rich sports history…
Red Right 88 – January 4th 1981
The Drive – January 11th 1987
The Fumble – January 17th 1988
The Shot – May 7th 1989
The Move – 1995/1996
The Mesa Meltdown – October 26th 1997
What we Clevelanders never expected was the sucker punch, The fact that the next concert date would come from one of our own.
The Decision – July 8th 2010
Lebron decided that a low-key announcement, a carefully worded statement placed on his website wasn’t good enough for “King James”.
Instead he opted for an hour-long masturbatory fiasco, nationally broadcast on ESPN. An hour-long whorish spectacle, full of posh ESPN sets and state of the art electronic packages celebrating King James, the King of Akron, and his abandonment of his home town for the glitz and glamour of South Beach. The prodigal son.
To add insult to injury, he surrounded himself with a crowd full of squeaky clean brats from The Boys & Girls Club from some upscale city in Connecticut. As if their innocents would soften the blow. ESPN and Lebron had tacked on a half-assed charity element to the event. You know… for the kids!
But why did they stop there? Why not have Lebron make the announcement with a box full of shelter puppies sitting on his lap? Maybe place AIDS ribbons on the dog collars and make the kids wear pink Breast Cancer t-shirts? That surely would’ve staved off the stink of villainy.
Unlike in the bible, this prodigal son will never return home. Lebron will find all he has ever desired on the beaches of Miami. An embarrassment of riches. He will win multiple championships and will create a World Wide brand. The entire planet will eventually forgive him for his “announcement slight”, that is except for the people within his home town.
“What a bitter ugly little town.” Some kid in Tokyo will say to his best friend about C-Town (while wearing a number six Miami Heat jersey). “Why don’t they just let it go?”
When Lebron dies as a blessed old man, he’ll be surrounded by people who love and worship him. ESPN, MSNBC and even Fox News will have live helicopter footage of his casket being driven to it’s resting ground, not too far from South Beach. Flowers and candles will burn next to his statue, outside of American Airlines Arena. He’ll transcend mortal life, blissfully ignorant of all the pain he left behind in Cleveland, Ohio.
And the day he passes away, Cleveland might still stand as it is today, poor, maligned, with no championships.
Life ain’t fair.
Well, Eddie never lived to see any of this, so I guess we can all feel good for at least that. However, please allow me to express what I think Eddie might say to Lebron as the honored Miami Heat champion walks through the Pearly Gates of heaven.
Eddie will already be there waiting for him, sitting on a cloud, rum and coke in one hand and his cigar in the other, as if he owned the joint…
“Hey, Lebron. Fuck you and fuck the horse you road in on.”
And that, as I like to say, is the gist of it.