LeBron James is loved. Adulated. The Most Valuable Player. He poses with gold trophies for southern Florida and the grid of starry-eyed hopefuls who wear his jerseys. Two championships back to back. Roll the rock from the cave, for the king is risen. Deploy cases of Ace.
“I worked hard. The whole season I buckled down and put in my time. That’s what it’s all about.”
He sprays champagne in Miami Beach, I shuck back Miller High Life in a Standard Room, Nonsmoking in Colorado Springs. The difference is effort. That’s what pegs people to either side of the TV, so pay attention to your betters, kids.
“I shouldn’t have made it this far, when you think about it.” He shrugs, a self-acknowledged oddity. “All the things people said. But when they say stuff about me, talk it up, I brush it off. And see?” He hefts his award. “It’s all good.”
I’m sure it’s fantastic. But me? I’m sleepless, spoiled by my own lack of drama. A college grad gone sour, though I have another year before I’m twenty-four, when I’m convinced I’ll have to answer for grouchy idleness.
What is LeBron? Athlete, superstar, role model. A belief on a nation of screens, compressed to an image yet without limit, an ode to real fortune.
What is Dan Lowry? Government waste, unknown, a warning to kids with dreams. Banal and depressed.
I’m tongue-tied as James struts the court, and we’re not even in the same room. Different states, too, for that matter.
His aura of accomplishment bows my head. If we lock eyes I’ll explode into bloody confetti, so just retreat from the screen. Drink until regularly scheduled programming returns.
“Can I be a champion too?”
I crinkle my beercan. Self-loathing is man’s effort to sweep the moon of footprints.
“Well, who’s gonna answer that?”
LeBron peers down without judgment. I’m not surprised he’s learned teleportation; kings always get the best gadgets.
“Your hands are as big as my head, man.”
“Chuck that beer in the garbage, it’s not doing you any good. You’re not celebrating, you’re sinking. Now throw the can. Two points if you make it from here.”
The sunny sweat of victory graces his lip.
“I have to go to the bathroom first.”
“No, no excuses. Toss the can, Dan.”
My High Life splatters against the wall. They’re going to charge for that.
“Now get up and go.”
“I said, go.”