Aug 202013
RGIII, Redskins icon?

I’ve talked before about how college football (and basketball) programs are either institution-defined or coach-defined. The bluebloods are institution-defined – think Michigan, USC, Ohio State etc. Those just below that threshold are largely newcomers who haven’t (yet) proven they can rise above their iconic coach or who never did prove it – think Virginia Tech under Beamer or Arizona State after Frank Kush.

RGIII, Redskins icon?

RGIII, Redskins icon?

An interesting parallel is the idea of a coach or player defining the image of a professional sports franchise. In an article yesterday on Behind the Steel Curtain, Anthony Defeo contended that some franchises are more iconically identified with a certain coach or player than others.

In the 60s, Vince Lombardi was the face of the Packers franchise, so much so, in fact, even today, it’s hard not to talk about those championship teams without saying “Lombardi’s Packers,” with his fiery presence on the sidelines of Lambeau Field being the first image that pops into your head. Lombardi was such a larger than life figure, the Super Bowl trophy is named after him.

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May 252010

In the analysis of whether Lebron James should or shouldn’t leave Cleveland, those who say he should stay make the point that he has a good chance of winning a title there. I may disagree but my point is that their position is mostly analytical and contains relatively little trace of emotion, in contrast to other similar cases.

Once upon a time, Cleveland lost Manny Ramirez. George Steinbrenner actually hails from Cleveland as well. Right Red 88, The Fumble, The Drive, Jordan over Ehlo, blowing the World Series and so on. It’s safe to say that Cleveland is the most tortured sports city in the country. And now they may lose Lebron.

Joe Posnanski made an excellent point in his article a couple days ago that almost no one outside of Cleveland is saying Lebron James should stay because he belongs in Cleveland, in the same way that Joe Mauer seems to belong in Minnesota or Derek Jeter in NY or Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.

Lebron seems bigger than his hometown and so goes the line of thought that he should leave. Whether to pursue worldwide Jordan-esque dominance on or off the court. With some exceptions, most stars are bigger than their cities. Especially those not in large markets. Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, KG when he was in Minnesota as well as Ken Griffey Jr in Seattle and Brett Favre in Green Bay.

However, there is/was at some point sentiment for those big dawgs to stay, to make some reciprocal attachment (however anachronistic it may seem) to the city that embraced them. Not so in Cleveland. Lebron James needs to get out screams everyone, including the President.

I can quite fairly be accused of disliking (to put it mildly) Cleveland. They hate us and we hate them. And the world keeps on spinnin’.

Still, I wonder why Cleveland seems to be such an unsympathetic city. Truth be told, outside of the sporting context, it’s not that dis-similar from Pittsburgh or Kansas City… an old town, trying to make good in a service sector economy. It has its faults, its hopes and its fair share of tragedies. However, even Detroit seems to have more defenders than Cleveland.