Ever since LeBron announced “I’m coming home to Cleveland,” there has been a persistent “LeBron James as prodigal son” meme. There’s even a movie (OK, a 4-minute video). Now an Ohio state representative, Bill Patmon, is proposing a “LeBron James Witness 2.0” license plate, to “honor the return home of our prodigal champion.”
For those of you who don’t remember the New Testament parable of The Prodigal Son, a man had two sons. The older one stayed at home and worked the farm with his dad. The younger asked for his share from his father, went out in the world and blew the money on fast living. Younger son makes his way back home. His father is overjoyed at his return and orders a big celebration (to the disappointment of the fatted calf). The older son is flabbergasted and wants to know why there’s a celebration. His father responded, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
I get it–like most Clevelanders, I was disappointed when LeBron left. I may be one of the few people who has mixed feelings about his return. And that makes me think about the person NOT mentioned in the story of the prodigal son: his mother.
I have this image in my mind of the Prodigal’s Mother: she watches her husband hand over a large chunk of change to their youngest son, probably without consulting her very much. She probably had deep misgivings. Then her son goes off into the world–he never writes, he never calls, she could be dead for all he knows. Then he suddenly shows up again: broke, road- and world-weary. She could probably see that coming. And NOW her husband wants to throw a party for his returned son. She probably did not see that coming. She probably was not consulted about this either–but she will have to sweat in the kitchen to help pull it off.
I can picture her standing in the background, looking skeptically at this reunion, thinking, “We’ll see. We’ll see what Junior does now. We’ll see whether he has learned anything. We’ll see what he contributes. We’ll see what he does now that he’s home.”
That’s how I’m looking at Lebron: we’ll see. Will I be excited if he leads the Cavaliers to a championship? You better believe it. I love Cleveland sports. But we’re realists here. In one of LeBron’s summer press conferences he spoke about keeping his perspective on things, because, in the end, basketball is a game. Great. I hope he’s still hungry for a championship–it may be a game, but it’s his job.
There used to be a kid’s show in Cleveland called “The Captain Penny Show.” It was the usual mishmash of cartoons, skits, appearance by Cub Scouts and Brownies, and visits from Jungle Larry who would bring wild animals with him. Every show ended the same way. Captain Penny, in his striped train engineer’s overalls and matching cap, would look deep into your eyes from the TV set and intone, “Remember kids, you can fool some of the people some of the some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool mom.”
Granted, Captain Penny had been thrown off the air before LeBron was born, but I hope he’s heard this line. Because “Mom” is watching.