As I sit here in my Brooklyn studio writing this post, I still don’t think it has fully sunk in that two guys from Sports Illustrated and the MMQB were here interviewing me for a video feature on FantasyTrophies.com. As a ten year old I would draw images of athletes from the covers of SI, totally enthralled in capturing every detail. I would then cut them out and tape them to my bedroom walls as my little shrine to sports greatness. So to now have Sports Illustrated interested in something that I’ve done just doesn’t seem possible. After all, I’m just a guy from Cleveland, Ohio that hand crafts trophies for fantasy sports leagues. A Super Bowl MVP or Cy Young Award was never in the cards and I never dreamed the magazine that I so loved as a kid would actually one day interview me.
Matt and John’s reaction, upon entering my studio, made it clear that they thought they made the right decision. Matt admitted that the story of me starting in my parent’s garage and now producing trophies in a shop in Brooklyn was what drew him to the story. Hearing about how Jay-Z, Curt Schilling, Cole Hamels, and other celebrities play for my trophies was just icing on the cake. The real story was on how I found a niche that I love and was able to build a business off of that. Something that I know that ten year old boy would’ve thought was pretty cool as well.
If you grow up in Northeast Ohio like I did, you understand the agony that is associated with it’s professional sports teams. From “The Drive” to “The Fumble” to “The Shot,” each one drives a stake of pain deeper into the collective souls of every fan. Just say the name Jose Mesa to a Clevelander and you might get a beer thrown in your face just before seeing a right hook coming your way. Because of these heartbreaking memories, (along with the river once catching on fire because it was so polluted) Cleveland has been the butt of jokes for years on end. It’s something that you just learn to take and shake off when you hear national media use your home area as a punchline to a tired and overused joke.
Friday’s decision by Lebron James to return to Northeast Ohio and the Cleveland Cavaliers however helps to change that punchline into something entirely different. Lebron understands the pain of the area. He grew up in it as a kid who followed the Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers and experienced the heartbreak right along with so many others. His letter in Sports Illustrated demonstrated his understanding that Cleveland has been without a championship for 50 years when he said, “Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”
I, like so many others, said one championship in Cleveland would be worth at least 5 in Miami. Lebron seems to agree to some extent. He knows what a title would mean to an area that has been so deprived for so long. He also knows what his return means for so many business owners in downtown Cleveland who struggled to stay afloat in the wake of his decision to go to Miami four years ago. The economic impact he’ll have on Northeast Ohio will be immeasurable. Just ask people in Chicago what Michael Jordan meant to their city financially.
Lebron’s decision will undoubtably keep the Cavaliers in title contention for years to come. However, his return means more than just the hope of raising championship banners. For many it means the difference between struggling to stay open and being able to pay your bills. And for that reason I’m most excited to see Lebron return home.