Monday, July 12, 2010

My thoughts on "The Decision"

Unless you have been in a cave for the last few weeks or simply don't read the news, chances are you have certainly heard about all the drama surrounding LeBron James and his eventual decision July 9 to sign with the Miami Heat after 7 years with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Not only was this dragged out about as long as it possibly could with new rumors seemingly every day or more, but it culminated with a ONE HOUR ESPN special that James himself named "The Decision" and announced he was "taking his talents to South Beach" in addition to an entire program about himself.  There was quite a negative reaction as you may have guessed from Cleveland fans, even though a lot of us had been expecting that he'd leave anyway.

As a Cavs fan of course I'm disappointed to see a player of this magnitude leave.  As a Cleveland sports fan I've seen it all before: Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and more.  It seems if a Cleveland player in any sport does well, off they go.  I have a hard time believing LeBron would've ever played for the Cavs if he hadn't been drafted.   But even then, most people (myself included) aren't so upset he's leaving but HOW he decided to leave: dragging everyone through a drama-filled dog and pony show that was all about him.  On top of that, now there's just tons of misinformation out there about WHY he left.

"The Cavs has 7 years and didn't do anything."  Yes, the Cavs had 7 years, but to say they didn't do "anything" is incredibly misleading and inaccurate.  The first 2-3 years don't really count because we have to remember the Cavs were only able to draft James because they were bad enough to be in the lottery.  It's pretty difficult to go from a 17-65 team one year to a championship team the next.  In James' first season, the Cavs improved quite a bit, but still didn't even make the playoffs.  The Cavs didn't even make the playoffs until James' third season.  Changing a team involves not only good management, but also players on market who want to come to the team or are available from other teams via trade.  On top of that, the current owner didn't arrive until 2005, so there was a total change in management and direction at that point.  Finally, just take a look at how well the Cavs have done the last few years, the last 2 seasons in particular.  Both seasons they finished with the best regular-season record in the NBA and were the HEAVY favorites to win the title, only to lose in the playoffs.  How convenient we have hindsight to say the team "wasn't that good" when in reality most people (not just Cavs fans) were stunned how easily the Cavs were beaten by the Magic in 2009 and the Celtics in 2010.  The fact the Cavs didn't win the NBA title in '09 or '10 was not the fault of management for assembling the team.  The only group to blame with the overall number one seed falls early is the team itself.

"LeBron doesn't owe fans anything."  This is the biggest fallacy of all.  Basketball (and all pro sports) is ENTERTAINMENT.  They exist ONLY because of fan support, so athletes and entertainers DO owe fans A LOT; they owe fans their very existence.  Fans are willing to spend money on game tickets, merchandise, TV packages, and more.  If fans didn't spend the money, a team wouldn't pay someone MILLIONS of dollars to play basketball the same way a film company wouldn't pay an actor millions to star in a film if it wasn't going to draw fans.  All businesses have to appreciate their customers or they will lose them, but especially non-essential business like entertainment.  I don't think anyone expects LeBron to give us free tickets or anything; most people just wanted a simple "hey thanks for all the support.  It means a lot and I will miss you all.  This isn't because of you..."  kind of thing.  And not just Cavs fans either, but those fans who have cheered him on from grade school through high school in Akron.  Don't forget, fans regularly filled the 5,500-seat Rhodes Arena in Akron while James was in high school and his team played there.  In fact, his school, tiny St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, regularly outdrew the NCAA Division I University of Akron Zips in their own building while LeBron played there.

The more I see of professional sports like this, the more I question the point of it all.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE watching sports and "getting into the game."  Even then, I can only go so far and have little sympathy for professional athletes making statements regarding "what's best for my family" when the two choices they have both involve making millions of dollars a year.  As long as we accept, as a culture, that it's OK to live in absolute excess, we will always have poverty; the "haves" and the "have nots".  By no means am I arguing for socialism or communism, no, what I'm arguing for is a voluntary change in our mindset as opposed to a legislated change (i.e. "redistribution of wealth").  As long as there are people willing to spend big bucks on entertainment, entertainers will continue to be paid outrageous salaries.  Not just athletes, but all entertainers.  And remember, I LOVE being an entertainer; I love performing and would love to entertain for a living.  But can I honestly say I think an entertainer plays the same important role in our society as, say, a teacher?  Not at all.  If the NBA went bankrupt tomorrow and shut down, yes, a lot of people would be out of work from food vendors to executives.  But would the world stop turning because we didn't have pro basketball?  Hardly.  Now, say the schools go bankrupt and shut down.  How would that affect our world?  I'd say quite a bit.  Substitute any of our "essential" services (healthcare, law enforcement, military, etc.) into "schools" and you can see my point.  In the end, pro sports and entertainment are great outlets for people, but we don't NEED them in their expensive "professional" states to entertain ourselves.

In the end, I'm still a Cavs fan as I learned long ago not to get attached to certain players because you end up getting burned more times than not.  I could totally relate to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert's open letter to the fans criticizing LeBron James.  Not sure I would've said the same things or in the same way, but heck, he paid the guy millions of dollars and pretty much did everything he could to build the franchise around him, so I'd be pissed too!  Yes, LeBron has the right and ability to take his "talents" wherever he wants, but as fans we also have the right and ability to express our opinions on the matter.  All I can say is go Cavs and I hope James has the same "success" he had in the playoffs with the Cavaliers!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

On my way up

I finally moved into the world of professional sports in terms of singing the National Anthem, though I haven't hit the big leagues yet.  This past Monday I sang for the Akron Aeros at Canal Park in nearby Akron, Ohio.  The Aeros are the class AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.  If you aren't familiar with the baseball hierarchy, AA ("double A") is two steps below the majors.  Just below the major leagues is class AAA ("triple A") and there is also class A ("single A") and rookie league.  The minor leagues are known as a "farm system".  All teams except one single-A team in Kinston, North Carolina (Kinston Indians) and the Rookie League team (located in Goodyear, Arizona at the Indians' spring training complex) are located right here in Ohio.  The AAA team is in Columbus (Columbus Clippers), the AA team in Akron, and 2 A teams in the area, one in Lake County (Lake County Captains) and one in Niles (Mahoning Valley Scrappers).
Singing in the middle of the field...thanks Manda Garvin for this shot!

One of the shots from Dad...although the Aeros gave us GREAT seats in the first row right behind home plate, they weren't so ideal for getting pictures of me singing since I had to face the flag in left-center field!

Walking off the field, feeling pretty good!!  Thanks to Khris Garvin for this shot!

Walking up to Orbit, the Aero's mascot, after I sang.

Canal Park is a nice minor league stadium that opened in 1997 in downtown Akron.  We've gone to several games there over the years and I've always had a good time.  It's fun to be so close to the action, though being from Kent, I have discovered I can't utter the phrase "Go Akron" so I say "Go Aeros!"  :)  Anyway, I was very happy with how my singing went, though I wasn't able to get a recording of it.  I was able to get several pictures thanks to several family members who came and a group from my local ward (congregation).  There were some problems with my family getting into the stadium as the tickets that were supposed to be reserved weren't, so some confusion.  Even when I got there I got the feeling people didn't know what to do with me.  Having never sung for them before I certainly didn't know where to go!  Once things got straightened out where I was supposed to go and everyone got in, I had a great time and even surprised myself how well I did.  I was worried warming up it wouldn't be so hot, but for whatever reasons, I can "turn it on" when I need to.  The 90 degree and somewhat humid weather didn't hurt either!  I will say I honestly felt like my heart was going to stop after I started singing.  I was standing in the middle of the field thinking how bad it would look if I passed out right there.  Thankfully I made it!  :)

I sent the CD of myself singing the Anthem back in March around my birthday.  I actually sent recordings to 10 teams including the Aeros.  The Aeros were the first team to get back to me, calling the very next day after I sent the recording in regular mail (granted, it didn't have to go far since all our mail goes to Akron anyway).  Of the 9 other recordings I sent out (all to major league teams), I heard back from the Baltimore Orioles (who are the only ones who have an online way to send recordings!), Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Cubs had already filled the spots for the season and the other teams simply acknowledged that they had received my recording.  The Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets, and Toronto Blue Jays never sent any notice that they received anything.  What I learned is to start sending the recordings out in early February instead of March.  I am planning on sending recordings to the Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Cavaliers soon.

Friday, July 2, 2010

This is Kirtland! 2010

"This is Kirtland!" has opened for the 2010 season.  We opened last night and had our second performance tonight.  There is one more performance tomorrow night followed by 4 more next week and three the following. So far things have gone pretty well.  There are still a few things that need to be worked on and tweaked, but for the most part it really can't get much better than it already is.

I am again playing Sidney Rigdon, marking the first time I've ever reprised a role in the five years I've been part of the show.  I've been part of this show in some form since it started back in 2004 and have been part of the cast since 2005 every year except 2008 when I was in graduate school (hard to believe it's been 2 years already since grad school!!).  Every year prior I've been a different part: 2005 I was more or less a flexible role having lines as John Johnson but being credited on the cast picture board as Titus Billings.  In 2006 I played Professor Seixas and was a general member of the mens chorus; I also didn't dance that year.  I played N.K. Whitney in 2007.  I came back last year and got the role of Sidney Rigdon and also got put not only in the men's dance numbers but also the couples' dance.  This year, already being familiar with the Sidney Rigdon part, rehearsals were pretty easy as I didn't have to spend much time learning lines or music.  Basically all I had to do this year was learn some slightly new blocking and new dance moves for two of the dances I do in the big feast scene.

Once the run is over July 17, I'll probably blog a little more about my overall experience.  For the most part I've enjoyed it again, mostly because of the people I work with; they're tons of fun to be around.  We've definitely had some challenges this year with the changes that were made and with all the new people.  I'll admit I was pretty bummed when I saw how many people from last year weren't coming back.  Last year was so special for me for so many reasons; if I could replicate it I would, though I wouldn't trade this year's cast away either.  For anyone interested, more information can be found at  Doors open at 6:30 PM every night and the show starts at 7:30.  We have comment cards in every program, so if you do come, please fill out the cards even if you just do so anonymously.  I'm anxious to read some of these comments as the show progresses.  Hopefully we'll have some bigger crowds too.  Opening night was half full or less and tonight wasn't a whole lot bigger.

This article was in the Record-Courier today.  There was also an online version which used the full picture I sent and didn't crop it.  My dad took the picture during last year's run and I liked it.  Since I'm the same character and have pretty much the exact same costume this year I figured I might as well use it.  No one in the background, though, is in the show this year ironically enough!