Lebron is a man who has come home and this has taken on mythic proportions. He is the Prodigal Son on one hand and the Second Coming on another. His first person account in Sports Illustrated has been characterized as heartfelt and in at least one instance, disingenuous. Despite the naysayers it is best to take him at his word. Northeast Ohio is home and home is where he belongs. It is where we all belong.
This is not a post about Lebron James. Well it is, but it is more. This is about home. It is about what the word means. Lebron has come home. The man with 330 tattooed on his right forearm is 330 again.
Lebron wrote northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. It is something he never forgot. For four years he did what many Ohioans do. He left. Though his departure plays itself out on a much greater scale than most, he is no different than many who left the state. He did it to win a championship just as others have done so to make a name for themselves in some gilded metropolis that are the things Ohio is not.
He is not the first to flee Ohio and he is not the first person to leave while keeping the state in his heart.
Miles cannot erase home, not in south Florida anymore than a place like Chicago, where I left for more than twenty years ago. At the time Chicago was for me what Ohio was not….teeming and vibrant. In time, however, Chicago became Ohio as I cared less for the metropolis and more about the work I do and the friendships formed in the city, things I learned of and came to love in Ohio.
They say you can’t go back. That is not entirely true. Perhaps you can’t go back in a literal way like Lebron and unlike him, you may not even choose to if you could. But you are always going back anyway. Home is the place that taught us life’s lessons and when we have to call on those we go home and in doing this home becomes part of the place where we currently find ourselves and with that our residence becomes home as well, a place more about our personhood than our geography.
I am glad Lebron went home. Long suffering northeast Ohio deserves that. He went home because 330 (and 216) are “bigger than basketball. “ It is also bigger than residence and was the place he found himself even when winning those championships on the South Beach. I may never again reside in 614 or 740, but I know that these are bigger than any one thing I do here. The residual effect of the place continues in following the Buckeyes and Indians more than twenty years after the fact, but it also happens whenever I find myself calling on Ohio to know what I must do in the present with very real at the moment Chicago situations.
Ohio (or wherever that is for you) is more than a place or the particulars of a place. That is a big part of the definition of home. Lebron knows this and it called him back. It is something we all know. Home is the place we are holding in our hearts even if we are not there and when we come back to tread the soft earth of places like Akron or Marion and hear “Welcome back,” we also know home is the place we never leave.
Image: Ohio grunge flag by Nicholas Raymond, CC License unported 3.0. http://freestock.ca