We refuse to be sobered, to acknowledge that there is a Maker of the leather that binds basketballs, of the hamstrings that get players to the rim, of the natural order that draws us to the joys of sport, of the human mind that conceives of technologies like television, of the fabric that is sewn into jerseys, of all we are so proud of holding in our hands. We see the obscured image of God, and settle for worshiping that which is created, rather than He who creates.
I want LeBron to find whatever redemption he needs. I want Cleveland to find whatever redemption it seeks. But I don’t wish for redemption on the typical fan’s terms. I don’t want LeBron to make nice with us so that we can validate his crown. I’m not interested in a Rocky-esque off-season training montage that leads to James improving his game and recapturing all the self-glory he lost and more. I won’t be glad if Cleveland basks in bitterness and vengeance for years.
The lies in the sports pages tell us that the essential qualities of athletes are demonstrated on a court or a field, and that James’ problems will be solved exclusively on the court. The reports of Mike Vick’s breaking and fixing paralleled his football performance, as was the case with Kobe Bryant and a slew of others. This is because we are truly deceived into thinking that respecting the fan, or the game itself, will produce divine results. Humble yourself before the ball, the mantra would go, and it will lift you up.
Turning from our lust for the cruel and dark or the bright and shiny has to be cured by God, by the redeeming blood of Jesus. If anyone, from the janitor in Miami’s arena to the fan seated courtside to the King himself, would be granted a view of the Christ—who was humbled, who is exalted—then the heart-produced disappointment that flares up so loudly in such a trivial competition would begin to fade.