I post here today at the risk of beating a dead horse, but as I always say, as long as the horse remains unbruised in certain areas, I’ll get the Singapore cane.
It’s widely believed that in America you can’t go home again. Unless, of course, your team’s road schedule says so; then you have no choice. To return home willingly would be to admit failure and also to relive ugly moments and feelings that made you leave in the first place. So tonight is the return of Cleveland’s former Prodigal Son who, after taking his talents to some faraway beach, has become the city’s very own Judas Iscariot. Inconsolable to the highest degree, the fans of and even the Cavaliers themselves (from Mo to Gilbert) have expressed their discontent, from burning jerseys to angry screeds in comic sans to outright legal investigation. But nothing can prepare them, or us, or LeBron, for what’s going to happen this evening. No, I don’t expect any disgruntled fan in The Q to recreate a scene from Peter Bogdanovich’s Targets (1968), but you know if the kids are united, they will never be divided (and all that). This is extremely exciting on one end because we might bear witness to a heightened level of fandom, bolstered by anger, and ultimately (and hopefully) released in creative and hilarious ways of unity only rivaled by drunken high school students in Army fatigues cheering on their friends in an empty suburban auditorium.
For a variety of reasons however, I’m considerably less interested in Cavaliers fans treating tonight’s game like a sequel to John Milius’ Red Dawn (1984) as much as I’m interested to see LeBron James forcibly defy American mythology and, yes, return home again. One of the reasons the public anger has yet to subside, probably, is that ultimately nothing’s been resolved. The Heat have been underwhelming. The Cavs pretty much suck. If there’s one thing Americans tend not to like, it’s an ambiguous ending, and for many, it seems that tonight will serve as the time to bury the hatchet once and for all, or maybe ignite a lifelong flame of hatred (which very well might have already have been lit with The Decision). Either way, the whole situation (and decision) is and was more complex than it’s been made out, and all we can hope for now is that by returning home, LeBron might answer one or two of the many questions he’s asked so incessantly all season long in the Nike Rise ad.
More than likely, though, tonight will pass without incident. LeBron will get booed, the game will be uninspiring, and we’ll all be left with an even bigger sense of dissatisfaction than before. But maybe not. Coming Home is not just the title to a Hal Ashby film about Vietnam vets, but a theme prevalent in many American narratives, which begs the question: which narrative will belong to LeBron James, or to which narrative will LeBron James belong? Will he be lost and roaming forever, just outside the shadows of the interior like John Wayne in The Searchers? Will he be shocked to discover his own disillusionment and empty mansion like Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer? Will he sing the national anthem like the characters in The Deer Hunter? Will he come home and yell at everyone and get into fist fights like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces? Or will he determine his own story, his own future? Will we get a glimpse into his soul? His mind? What will we find? I’m not sure, but I’m excited at the possibility of finding out.