If someone asks the question, “Where you at ‘the parade’” and you live in northeast Ohio, you know exactly about which parade is being spoken. Yes, outrageous amounts of people were converging on Cleveland to heap thanks and praise on the Cavs and in general being happy that we have something to be happy about in local sports and in our self esteem in general. I will admit to getting swept up in things myself and was unexpectedly excited about the whole to do, even to feeling compelled to ring the steeple bells.
Of course, it is on everybody’s mind and preachers of all stripes are using the event to further the kingdom. Some use it positively and others use it as a point of shame. “Jesus shows up every weekend at Church, where are the crowds for him?”
Eh. You know what, they were there when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey right? And further, by an large we DO show up every Sunday. That 1.3 million people in downtown Cleveland on Wednesday? What SLIVER of them had ever shown up to an actual game? How many of them didn’t watch a game until it became clear that there was a possibility for a win here? If people turned out for Mass the way they did for this event, we would be very, very sad. It is like everybody is Catholic when the pope is in town and then a week later the pews they suddenly occupied are empty again.
Here is the difference. Basketball was invented only 125 years ago. It is not even as old as the city of Akron. The first professional basketball game was played in 1896. The Cavaliers began in 1970, a mere 46 years ago. As far as sports go, it is a relatively recent phenomenon which has every indication of continuing on for some time but things change. It could die out like so many other sports in another 100 years.
What makes this win something to me is LeBron. He grew up in my town, went to school down the street, and came back to play basketball here and does an incredible amount of charity in the area. He is an Akronite, raised on Lake Erie water and Midwest corn. He is not a player who happens to show up here because we pay him and who will be gone after the money runs out.
And what we witnessed was not just a bunch of guys winning a ball game, but what a highly trained human person is capable of achieving when they put their minds, bodies, and souls into it. It is truly something beautiful and inspiring to watch. Hopefully it will motivate some people off of the couch or to achieve greatness in other ways. “Fellow humans, we can accomplish such things as this.”
Would Jesus have gone to the parade with His disciples? Maybe. Who knows? There were no professional basketball teams then to watch going to the championship. But if there was, I bet He would be amused by the whole thing, he would still make sure they stopped and prayed, and He would keep it in perspective. 2000 years from now nobody may even know what a cavalier or a basketball is. Nobody will gather every weekend to celebrate the athletic salvation of a city. King James will once again refer to a particular translation of the Bible. But today we celebrate human achievement and that it occurred with somewhat of an attachment to this area like a vision of the Virgin Mary on an overpass bridge - that is, we really don’t have any control over it, but we celebrate it because it happened here and we claim in as our own. Then on Sunday, we will wake up, say our prayers, go to Mass, and celebrate something that is both universal and local, something that happens in time as well as in the eternal now, an action in which we actually participate and become part of, and that will still have immediate relevance next year even as basketball changes seasons and teams, when titles become history and we start asking again, “But what have you done lately?”