Thursday, March 3, 2011

Soapbox - On Notre Dame

The following is an article that I wrote for the March 2011 issue of Scholastic, Notre Dame's student magazine. It appeared as the "Soapbox" essay, a monthly feature.

As I write for the final Scholastic issue of my Notre Dame career, I cannot help but wonder where the time went, both in terms of the last four years and the two weeks when I could have been writing this essay. It is hard to discuss the passing of time without being cliché or trite. We hear it so often: "Make the most of your time here" or "Time flies. Cherish it." But there is a reason we hear these words so frequently, a reason they have become commonplace — they are true.

I have always been a sentimental and nostalgic person. Anyone close to me knows my affinity for sharing (and often repeating) memorable stories among friends. But rather than recall specific and unforgettable afternoons, evenings or late nights, I will stand on my "soapbox" to remember what makes Notre Dame special and why this university will forever have a place in my life.

I would be lying if I said I understood what Notre Dame was all about when I arrived in August 2007. Like many, growing up Irish Catholic was reason enough to root for ND on Saturdays in the fall and, ultimately, to make the trip to South Bend as I began the college search.

As an 18-year-old from upstate New York, I had my doubts about coming to Indiana. One of the first memories I have of this place is meeting an alumna at a local club event. She told my dad and me about her experience at the university and started tearing up.

Today, as I think about the few short months until graduation, I can understand why she was so emotional when speaking about ND. I cannot imagine having spent the last four years anywhere else. As the admissions brochures say, there truly is "Nowhere Else But Notre Dame." My passion for this university, coupled with the fact that my future is still uncertain, makes me wish it were possible to return for a fifth year — a victory lap around the Dome.

I find myself in a position similar to that which I faced four years ago: not quite ready to leave a place I have grown to love so much. In high school, people could not wait to move on, to get out of town and experience the world on their own.

Still, many left with grand plans to keep in touch with old friends. But now, in 2011, we can probably count those we still call and see during semester breaks on one hand. We realize that we do not have as much in common with those former schoolmates as we once thought. At Notre Dame, we are excited about the opportunities that life will bring, but not as anxious to move on, perhaps not ready to say goodbye.

Earlier this semester, I had the opportunity to attend the senior retreat. The Dr. Seuss theme was a flashback to childhood and also a reminder that regardless of where we go after we receive our diplomas, no matter how many beverages are purchased at Finny's or Kildare's we are still kids at heart.

With friends I have had since freshman year, classmates I knew only by name and others who I had never seen before, we came together in the spirit of Dr. Seuss to discuss "the places we'll go." But we also reflected on all that Notre Dame has given us since we arrived for the absurdity of Frosh-O.

In four years, Our Lady's university has afforded me opportunities and taught me lessons upon which no lofty tuition bill can place a value. When I finally sign that first job contract, I will, of course, appreciate my degree and the academic rigors of Notre Dame.

Yet, more than anything, I will remember how Notre Dame has transformed from a place 719 miles from my home to a place that effectively became home. Ballston Spa, NY will always have a special place in my heart — fond memories, my family and those few friends I will have for life — but eventually, that connection to my hometown may fade.

I am confident that my connection to Notre Dame never will. The Notre Dame spirit is special. It goes beyond a common affection for the Blue and Gold or a shared understanding of du Lac and residence halls.

After we leave ND, life will lead each of us in different directions. Whether in New York or Chicago, London or Tokyo, graduate school or the "real world," there is one place where our paths may cross again — Notre Dame. This university is a uniting force. It is a place where Knights, Kangaroos, Shamrocks and Purple Weasels reconnect, where Zahmbies, Ramblers, Ducks and Chaos will bring their children to pep rallies, Rocco's and Bruno's, tailgates and football games, the Grotto and Basilica and back to the old dorms, carrying on the family traditions that have been passed down for generations or those that have developed in the last four years.

As students and future alumni, we share a familial connection. But part of what makes ND unique is that brotherhood or sisterhood that is shaped in the residence halls. I would never consider myself a loner, but like Alan from "The Hangover," Notre Dame has given me a wolfpack — the 3-West Wolfpack of Keenan Hall, a section I called home for three years (and believe it or not, that was our section mascot back in 2007, before Alan & Co. hit the big screen).

Early in college, I found myself counting down the days until the next break, the next chance I could return home. It has often been said, "Distance makes the heart grow fonder." I am not sure that is necessarily true. But each time I leave Notre Dame, as I spend time away from North Quad, the Keenan "Fratres in Christo," and the Golden Dome, I find that my appreciation for this university grows stronger.

For the underclassmen, if you have not yet recognized and embraced Notre Dame as a true home, I hope you will soon. For my fellow members of the class of 2011, take comfort in remembering the unbreakable nature of the Notre Dame bond. Our time together is running out, but truly, it is just the beginning of our connection to one another and to Notre Dame. We will always be welcome at Notre Dame, a place we can visit in times of celebration and in times of need, a place we can always, and should always, call home.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sports Bringing People Together

Last night, the Brigham Young University men's basketball team traveled to Glens Falls, NY for a game against the Vermont Catamounts. The reason for their Wednesday trip more than 2,000 miles from Provo, Utah? A homecoming game for senior guard Jimmer Fredette. One of the best basketball players in Section II history returned home for a game in front of thousands who had watched him grow from a "pudgy" middle schooler to a preseason All-American bound for the NBA.

I recently came across a great article by Ken Tingley, Editor of The Post-Star, the Glens Falls newspaper. Tingley writes about how the evening was about more than just a basketball game. It was "part church social, part Fourth of July picnic, part high school reunion."

I remember play against Jimmer in 7th grade modified basketball, which is why I am so glad to read of his successes beyond the gyms of the Foothills Council. I met Jimmer once in high school through a close friend who had played AAU with him. He seemed like a genuinely nice kid then, and from interviews, it appears he has not changed, despite his stardom.

But I guess the point of my latest blog post is to reiterate just why I love sports. It's their incredible power to bring people together, which I discussed in my Social Foundations of Coaching blog post about the Red Sox.

Last night's Hometown Classic in Glens Falls, NY was another example of what makes sports special. To read Tingley's article and for more on Jimmer Fredette's homecoming to the Capital District, click here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Great Day to Be Irish

In recent years, the Notre Dame football team and November have not been friends. In 2009, the Irish dropped all four of their November games, while finishing just 1-4 in the month during the previous season. In 2010, however, something changed.

After closing out October with one of the most difficult weeks in program and university history, Notre Dame began November with a bye. While the Irish had the week off, their upcoming opponent #5 Utah saw their BCS hopes dashed by #3 TCU. By the time the Utes arrived in South Bend for Notre Dame's Senior Day, they had dropped to #14. Still, the soon-to-be newest member of the Pac-10 came in as the favored team, as the 4-5 Irish were against the bowl-eligibility ropes and dealing with much larger issues off the field.

Yet the Irish came out with a different sense of emotion as they sought to avoid a third consecutive painful loss on Senior Day. As the class of 2011 watched their final game as students, everyone knew they would leave the stadium through the Knute Rockne Gate, but few expected they would be joined by an entire jubilant student body, storming the field in celebration of a 28-3 victory, Notre Dame's first win over a ranked opponent since 2006.

The following week, Notre Dame took over the Big Apple, as thousands of Domers flocked to NYC for the first football game in the new Yankee Stadium. Renewing an historic rivalry with Army, the Irish stormed out of the first base dugout in green jerseys. While the game lacked the Heisman candidates and national championship implications of past match-ups, it had the feeling of something greater than a contest between two seemingly average teams.

A pep rally in Lincoln Center, a standing room only mass in the city’s most famous cathedral, a marching band concert in Times Square and a crowd of 54,251 for a game played on neutral turf, indicated that the Notre Dame spirit is alive and well.

For the second consecutive week, the Irish defense held strong, allowing just a field goal in a 27-3 victory over the Black Knights. The win secured a bowl bid for Brian Kelly's squad, guaranteeing a postseason berth and earning important additional practice time for the developing team.

As is tradition for Notre Dame, the season concluded with a west coast road trip. Having played Stanford at home in September, this year's post-Thanksgiving game was against long-time rival USC. For Irish fans, no opponent, not even Michigan, is more detested than the Trojans. From the 1977 green jersey game to the infamous 2005 Bush Push, ND-USC is one of the most storied rivalries in college football.

This year, however, the game was put on the back burner. With USC postseason ineligible and ND just 6-5, ABC/ESPN chose to air the Bedlam game between #13 Oklahoma and #9 Oklahoma State in most of the country. As many local ABC affiliates did not carry the game, fans resorted to ESPN3 and other online sources to see the Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh.

Early in the game, the Irish defense continued to look impressive, but the offensive could not get much going either. After a USC punt with 10:41 to play in the second quarter, the Notre Dame offense ran off a 16-play, 79-yard, 8:02 drive capped by a 1-yd touchdown pass from Rees to junior receiver Michael Floyd. After holding the Trojans on the ensuing possession, the Irish got the ball back with 44 seconds to play until the break. After a long, methodical drive to get on the scoreboard, the Irish used just 7 plays and 37 seconds to reach the end zone again, capped off with another 1-yd TD pass from Rees, this time to senior receiver Duval Kamara.

The Irish returned from the locker room with a 13-3 lead, but things began to unravel in the second half. The offense could not get anything going and as USC capitalized off of costly turnovers, it appeared the Irish might be headed for a ninth consecutive defeat at the hands of the Trojans.

Down 16-13 with 6:18 to play and a visibly rattled freshman quarterback at the helm, the Irish offense took the field from their own 23. Rees completed an 11-yd pass to Floyd, before sophomore tailback Cierre Wood dashed 26 yards to the USC 40. At that point, senior tailback Robert Hughes took over the game. Hughes rattled off three consecutive runs, giving the Irish a 1st-and-Goal from the USC 9. After a 4-yd reception by Floyd, "HUUUUUUUUGHES" barreled into the end zone for a 5-yd touchdown run.

With the Irish back on top, USC needed a touchdown to regain the lead. Though senior quarterback Mitch Mustain was able to lead the Trojans within striking range, a pair of costly dropped passes and an interception by senior safety Harrison Smith sealed the Notre Dame victory.

The win marked Notre Dame's third consecutive victory and their first over USC since 2001. Brian Kelly also became the first Irish coach to beat USC in his first game against the Trojans since Lou Holtz. After finishing the season 7-5, the Irish are assured a postseason bowl, possibly the Champs Sports Bowl on December 28th in Orlando, Florida or the Hyundai Sun Bowl on New Year's Eve in El Paso, Texas.

Notre Dame's victory over USC will not have many postseason implications. The Irish had already qualified for a bowl game with the win against Army, while the Trojans remain bowl-ineligible through the 2011 season. Perhaps the only influence on the bowl scheme is that a 7-5 finish all but assures the Irish a better bowl opportunity than a 6-6 season would have.

But this victory was special. It was the end of an eight-year curse against the Trojans and it provided a glimmer of hope that the Irish can rise once again. Sure, this year's USC team is different than many of years past. There are no Heisman candidates, no national championship or Rose Bowl aspirations, and no Pete Carroll calling the shots.

But that's the way the ball bounces sometimes. The Irish won on Saturday night, and they won by fighting, by believing and by not giving up when the "breaks [were] beating the boys." No one is going to discount Alabama's national championship because Colt McCoy was injured early in the first half and no one is going to take away from the San Francisco Giants' World Series title because they beat the Rangers instead of the Yankees. No one should discredit the Notre Dame victory either.

Ninety-nine times out of 100, Ronald Johnson would have caught the sure-thing TD pass from Mitch Mustain, but uncertainty and unpredictability are what make sports interesting. The Irish may have gotten a bit of luck on Saturday night, but the Trojans certainly got their share of it in 2005.

What make this victory and three-game winning streak special are how several unsung players have stepped up when it has mattered most. Student-athletes who have overcome personal setbacks both on and off the field have made crucial plays in the closing moments of their careers. Duval Kamara caught two TD passes in the win over Utah, Darrin Walls returned an interception for a touchdown against Army, Brian Smith made several key plays down the stretch against USC, Harrison Smith sealed the victory with an interception near the goal line, and Robert Hughes, on the final drive, seemed to carry the Irish on his back down the field and into the end zone.

The final three games of the 2010 regular season will be remembered for how they instilled hope for the future of Notre Dame football, sending the senior athletes and their fellow classmates out in celebration.

For many college football fans, the Notre Dame-USC game was insignificant - merely an obstacle preventing them from seeing the night's premier matchup. But for those cheering on the blue and gold, the victory lifted a weight off the shoulders of a coach, a team, and a fan base. For the first time in nearly a decade, Irish eyes were smiling after the USC game. Let's hope it's just the beginning of things to come.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Scholastic article: November 11th issue

The following is an article that I wrote for the November issue of Scholastic, Notre Dame's student magazine. I would like to think that it was the turning point in the team's season ;). In all seriousness though, things were looking pretty bleak for the Irish at that point in the year. While the future remains in question, the final three games of Notre Dame's 2010 campaign demonstrated that the Irish are headed in the right direction for the future:

Wake Up The Echoes: Mending a Football Program Fallen on Hard Times

As my classmates and I stock up on marshmallows in preparation for our final home game in the student section, I reflect on four years of Notre Dame football with mixed emotions. From the first game against Georgia Tech in 2007 to the emotional loss against Tulsa during Halloween weekend, football has been a significant part of our college experience.

Yet when we gather to reminisce at our alumni reunions, few of the good memories will relate to games played int he hallowed Notre Dame Stadium.

Though we will graduate with the most losses in a four-year period in the university's history, losing is only a small reason why we were often shaking our heads in disbelief during candlelight dinners - it is rather the stunning nature in which many of these games have been lost.

During our freshman year, we watched Navy celebrate a triple-OT victory and the end of a 43-game losing streak in the yearly series. USC and Michigan each scored 38 points, while Notre Dame could not muster up a single point against either rival.

Sophomore year brought new hope. The season ultimately ended in Hawaii, with Notre Dame first bowl win since 1994. Although the bowl victory was an enjoyable early Christmas present, many students remember the 2008 season for the agonizing four-OT loss to Pittsburgh and the defeat against low-ranked Syracuse in the final home game of the year.

As juniors, the outcome of nearly every game came down to the final possession. Looking back, it is not out of the question to suggest that if a few plays had turned out differently, the Irish may have finished 12-0.

Unfortunately, it was another season marred by tough losses and missed opportunities.

With three games left in the 2010 campaign, this season has not lived up to the great expectations and high standards that Notre Dame fans have for the Irish. Barring an extraordinary upset of Utah on Saturday, the class of 2011 will graduate without ever witnessing a noteworthy home victory.

No matter what happens, 2010 will be remembered as one of the most difficult years in Notre Dame football history. With the arrival of a new head coach and the departure of Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate, few expected this to be a stress-free year. Still, no one anticipated that so many key players would be sidelined with serious injuries, and no one could foresee that the Notre Dame community would be struck by such a tragedy as that which occurred last month.

As demonstrated by the wonderful Mass celebrating the life of Declan Sullivan, I have no doubt that the spirit and tradition of Notre Dame is alive and well. The passion that Domers share for this university will not fade. Amid the recent stretch of football mediocrity, what remains to be seen, however, is if football Saturdays will continue to have the same magic of decades past.

As losses have piled up, the student body has developed a sense of apathy. Though we still look forward to the weekends, the reasons why we get excited stray from the core purpose of why thousands of people flock to South Bend on Saturdays in the fall - to watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a team once considered the best in the nation. The tailgating, reunions with family and friends, and the incredible pageantry of the college football atmosphere continue to attract visitors to campus, but many wonder if the aura of the golden helmet is losing its luster.

By no means do I believe that football should be the be-all and end-all of life at the university. Notre Dame is about much more than football - that is what separates it from many other BCS schools. At the same time, Notre Dame's Catholic atmosphere and traditionally successful athletic teams, particularly football, are traits that differentiate our university from others of similar internationally recognized prestige.

Having a competitive and successful football team is essential to maintaining the university's unique character. Football always has and always should be part of what makes this Catholic university in northern Indiana like no other place on earth. Today, Notre Dame football is at a crossroads. There has not been a truly great Irish team since Lou Holtz's tenure, and no Notre Dame undergraduates are old enough to appreciate the 1988 national championship run.

Coach Brian Kelly is a proven winner in college football, but he has arguably never been presented with challenges like those he faces both on and off the field today. Although his first season has had its share of disappointments, now is the time to rally behind him rather than call for another rider on the 15-year Irish coaching carousel.

There is no guarantee that Notre Dame football will return to the level of football excellence that once helped build the university's tremendous reputation. For now, however, all we can do is hope and wait. We can hope that Kelly is able to improve a damaged Irish program in the same way that he developed the unheralded Grand Valley State Lakers into national champions and a Division II dynasty.

And maybe part of this process is to wait for my classmates and I to receive our diplomas next May. Perhaps only then will Notre Dame be able to make progress towards becoming a dominant football powerhouse once again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why I Love Sports

Check out this post from Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski. He breaks down 32 of the best announcer calls in sports history.

Simply amazing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Power of Sport

The following is a blog post that I wrote for my Social Foundations of Coaching course at Notre Dame. It can also be found on the Play Like A Champion Today blog:

As a Red Sox fan, the 2010 baseball season will be remembered as a lost opportunity, a season of wondering what could have been, if injuries had not plagued the Sox throughout the summer. Although Terry Francona and his players will be watching this year’s playoffs from their couches, and Boston sports fans will anxiously await the start of the NBA season, ESPN’s latest episode of its documentary series, 30 for 30, took Sox fans back to a happier time. Four Days in October, which debuted on Oct. 5, 2010, allows viewers to relive the magic of Games 4 through 7 of the 2004 ALCS, with an inside look at how the Red Sox rallied from a 3-0 series deficit against their longtime nemesis, the New York Yankees.

I understand that I have some bias towards Four Days in October. As someone who has followed the Red Sox closely for several years, the hour-long documentary did not teach me anything new or groundbreaking. Instead, what made Four Days in October a great trip down memory lane was that it reminded me of the power that sports have in bringing people together. Reliving Dave Roberts’ steal, Curt Schilling’s bloody sock and David Ortiz’s walk-off hits took me back to that exciting time during my sophomore year of high school. The TV and radio broadcast clips can make any diehard Sox fan a bit misty-eyed. However, watching the Red Sox defeat the Yankees, break the “Curse of the Bambino” and ultimately win their first World Series since 1918 was only part of what made 2004 a special year.

Four Days in October, the other documentaries and DVDs that chronicle the season, and the countless books that retell the incredible story, serve not only to reminisce about the events that took place between the baselines, but also those moments in schools, sports bars, and the living rooms of people across New England and “Red Sox Nation.” The clips of fans on the edge of their seats at Cask’n Flagon and the stories of generations of Bostonians long-awaiting a championship are a reminder of how the Red Sox improbable victory was about more than simply a team winning a few baseball games.

In 2004, the city had a long track record of success on the hardwood and recently, on the gridiron. The Celtics had won 16 NBA titles and the Patriots dynasty was in its heyday. Boston however, was truly a baseball city. But since 1919, when Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees, Red Sox fans had experienced disappointment time and time again.

After generations of frustration and decades of hearing “wait until next year,” things changed in 2004. Against incredible odds, the Red Sox, the self-proclaimed “idiots,” finally brought home a World Series title. The unlikely playoff run brought together families and friends, fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters who had hoped and prayed that they would live to see a championship flag raised at Fenway Park.

Every true fan knows who they were with when the Red Sox defeated the Yankees in 2004, just as every Phillies fan can recall where they were when Brad Lidge recorded the final out of the 2008 World Series and how many Americans remember exactly what they were doing when Al Michaels shouted, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” during the 1980 Winter Olympics. It’s the moments like these that make sports special. Though we usually do not, and probably will never have any real connection or relationship with the athletes we cheer for, the power of sports to bring friends, family and even total strangers together is what makes them worth following.

Just as Domers strike up conversations when they pass someone wearing ND apparel, any Red Sox fan that sees an unfamiliar face with a “B” on his hat might be apt to yell, “Go Sox!” While some are critical of fandom and the occasionally obsessive nature of sports aficionados, many people view the teams they cheer for as part of their identity, as they do their hometown or alma mater. Just like we can identify with other people who have a connection to Notre Dame, we share a common bond with people who root for the same teams that we do.

Whether it is on an athletic team of our own or through one that we cheer for, follow faithfully and identify with, sports are a powerful means for bringing people together. We come together with families, friends, classmates and co-workers. We share memories of hope and elation, stories of disappointment and frustration and we feel unity with a group of people with whom we may have nothing else in common other than the logo on our baseball hat.

Josh Flynt
Class of 2011
Social Foundations of Coaching

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Decision will forever tarnish The Legacy

It's hard to believe, but it has been exactly five months since my last post on Through Irish Eyes. The majority of the posts in this blog focus on life at Notre Dame and my experiences as the Hannah Storm intern with the Notre Dame Alumni Association. Although the internship is over, yesterday's news out of the Greenwich, CT Boys & Girls Club prompted me to want to document my thoughts and reaction, not so much for others to read, but for my own time capsule, and something to look back on in a few years.

As anyone in the civilized world is probably now aware, LeBron James is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier. The pride of Akron, OH has decided to take his game to South Beach, teaming up with friends Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to form the newest iteration of a Big Three in hopes of securing a championship ring. No one can blame LeBron for wanting to add "NBA Finals champion" to his résumé. As the story goes with most other professional athletes and sports, legacies are often measured in terms of championships won. Rightfully so, LeBron does not want to go down in NBA and professional sports history, as the superstar that never won a title. On some level, trading northern Ohio for southern Florida, seems like a logical move. LeBron will now join a team with two of the game's brightest young stars, and a proven leader, Pat Riley (of Schenectady, NY) at the helm of the franchise.

But for many other reasons, The Decision may come with a huge price tag, not only for LeBron's wallet, but for his place in NBA and sports history. LeBron is leaving a city where he was loved. Although many other cities have been deprived of championships, Cleveland is perhaps the hopeless romantic of American sports. After suffering decades of heartbreak, many Ohioans thought LeBron was The One. The One to finally deliver a championship to the city, thus establishing the hometown star as a legendary city icon. An icon with the same beloved hero status as Jordan in Chicago, Bird in Boston, and Magic in Los Angeles.

I will admit, I am a bit of an idealist, especially when it comes to sports. Last night was further proof that we, the fans, are more loyal to our teams than the athletes themselves. We schedule our dinners, our weekends, and our vacation plans around our teams, and oftentimes, our moods are directly correlated to how our teams are playing. We remember our teams' biggest games and championships as if they were important moments in our own personal lives. Yet in most instances, these teams never give us anything tangible, except for the priceless emotional rollercoasters and memories.

Almost everyone who knows me is aware of my love for the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Celtics. Still, as a sports fan, I admire the Derek Jeters and Kobe Bryants of the world, if for nothing more than the fact that they have spent their entire career with one team. There is something to be said about loyalty, and as LeBron showed the world last night, allegiance to a team is often a figment of our imagination - something that perhaps only we, the fans, still believe in.

Like Favre and Damon before him, LeBron snubbed a city that adored him. Cleveland fans, the "Witnesses" to LeBron's greatness, finally had a reason to be proud of their sports. Favre and Damon left Green Bay and Boston to join their bitter rivals, and although at this point in time, Heat-Cavs is not an NBA rivalry, that will soon change. Fans in Wisconsin and Massachusetts might curse their former stars like our Founding Fathers cursed Benedict Arnold, but they can appreciate and celebrate the fact that both Favre and Damon captured something that LeBron failed to deliver in Cleveland. A championship.

It is LeBron's failure to raise a championship banner to the rafters of "The Q" that makes his departure that much more bitter for Cavs fans. Several months ago, LeBron made a promise to the city ("I got a goal, and it's a huge goal, and that's to bring an NBA championship here to Cleveland. And I won't stop until I get it."), and it is his breaking of this promise that explains why The Decision will alienate thousands, if not millions, of The King's fans.

While the Heat have more star power than the Cavaliers, perhaps giving LeBron the best chance to win now, it is difficult to say that winning in Cleveland would not have been possible. The Cavaliers were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference this season, and they have been one of the best teams in basketball in recent years. Under the leadership of new head coach Byron Scott, a three-time NBA champion and former Coach of the Year, the Cavaliers could certainly contend in 2010-11 with LeBron as their on-the-court leader. Winning in Cleveland would not have been easy, but it would have been more meaningful than winning in Miami. The Heat won a title in 2006 and the Florida Marlins have won two World Series titles in the last fifteen years. By no means is Miami a sports powerhouse, but the city is certainly in better shape than Cleveland with regards to championships.

Winning multiple titles in Miami may cement LeBron’s place as a basketball icon, but he will never be loved in south Florida as he was in Cleveland. The Heat are Dwayne Wade’s team. As long as he continues to play in Miami, he will be the leader of that team, and the face of that franchise. D-Wade will always be Batman, while LeBron will just be his sidekick, Robin - still important, but not the player the team is built around. As with Boston’s Big Three, Kevin Garnett may be the best player of the group, but Paul Pierce is still the centerpiece and captain of the franchise.

I have never been a LeBron fan. I have nothing invested in the city of Cleveland, other than the fact that I drive through it on my way to Notre Dame, that I enjoyed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and that I have been to a couple of games at Progressive (Jacobs) Field. Without a doubt, he's one of the best basketball players of our generation, but the egotistic attitude that LeBron and so many other sports superstars have today makes it difficult to cheer for him. The spectacle of The Decision, the wall-to-wall ESPN coverage, the highly publicized meetings with team representatives, and the fact that LeBron joining Twitter was a recent headline, are among the many reasons he has become an unlikable star. With last night's decision, he had an opportunity to show fans that sports stories actually can play out how we all wish they would - with a storybook ending.

Only time will tell if Wade, Bosh, and LeBron can make Miami the center of the basketball universe, or if Dan Gilbert's Cavaliers will be able to back up the bold proclamation he made last night on the team's website. LeBron may ultimately go on to win several championships, whether in Miami or another city later in his career, but The King's legacy took a hit when he went on national television and seemingly struggled to say, "This fall, I'm gonna take my talents to South Beach and the Miami Heat."

Twenty years from now, when LeBron has retired and is being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, we will look back on The Decision as a turning point in his career. Perhaps the point that separated him from being The King, the leader of a franchise, and the face of a city, to being just another superstar with dozens of accolades and in the big scheme of professional sports, a couple of meaningless championship rings. If LeBron had gone on TV last night and said, "I'm staying at home," we would still be hearing the cheers coming from his home state, and he would have kept himself in position to be mentioned in the same breath as the all-time greats. The Jordans, Birds, Magics, Russells, and Kobes of basketball lore.