Monday, December 28, 2015

At 5pm on Christmas Day I was over my in-laws house and I was alone in the basement. My brother-in-law was cooking, my wife and sister-in-law were talking and drinking and Nyles was running up and down the stairs causing chaos and mad confusion. I had a red cup full of Crown Royal Black, and I was watching the Golden State Warriors defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers and then I saw this commercial:

Now, before I gush over LeBron and this commerical, let me say that I can't stand the man as a basketball player. I respect his abilities, his once-in-a-lifetime talent, and his two NBA titles. But he tortured my beloved Washington Wizards in the mid 2000s, and I simply cannot forgive that just because his star has shone even brighter since that time, while the Wizards have basically been treading water. Rivalries are forever. I'm an Eagles fan, which means I hate Washington and the Cowboys (even though Washington just ended our season). 75 (The same rule applies to the rivals of the Wizards: LeBron and the Cavs, the Chicago Bulls, and maybe the Toronto Raptors. I am stingy with my compliments of other teams/players, but I have to give LeBron props for that commercial for several reasons:

1) He did a commercial about Cleveland. I may have been born in Manhattan, but my dad and brother were born in Cleveland, and my mother and aunt currently live there (my mother was actually born in Akron like LeBron). I have an uncle who lives there as well. At one point I my grandmother and other family lived there, but sadly they have all passed on so I don't visit quite as much. But from 1975 (when I was born) to about 2003, I went to Cleveland at least twice a year (from 1978-1980, and 1982-1984 I actually lived there). Cleveland is far from the most glamorous of cities, but there is a certain blue collar work ethic (as there is in a lot of midwest cities) that commands a certain degree of respect. LeBron was born in Akron and considers that to be his real home, but he plays in Cleveland, and he understands that work ethic, so this commercial in an odd way, felt like an ode to my family history. That may sound like a bit of stretch, it is more palatable to look at it that way, than it is to just be giving LeBron endless props.

2) Public Enemy got some love. Public Enemy was voted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2013, and given the political nature of their lyrics, one would think that their music and legay would be pretty popular right now in these politically charged times--but that has not been the case. I've loved them since I was a young impressionable 13 year old watching the Night of the Living Baseheads video on Rap City. Chuck D wasn't the best of rappers, but he has the voice of a preacher, the intelligence of a professor, arguably the best producers on the planet, and a DJ who only talked with his hands. Their mainstream poplularity faded in the 90s, but they are huge overseas (that theme has been the case with black culture since the 1920s) and they tour year-around. LeBron used one of their most popular and controversial songs for his commerical, and hopefully that is a catalyst for folks young and old to re-visit their music.

3) The message. LeBron looked straight into the came and rapped, "Black to the bone, my home is your Welcome to the Terrordome". The "my home is your home" was an ode to Cleveland/Akron and the "Welcome to the Terrordome" part was an ode to the workout room, and to Public Enemy depending on the way you look at it. But for LeBron James, who arguably one of the biggest and marketable athletes on the planet right now, so look squarely into the camera and say, "Black to the bone", that is a big deal. Most elite-level athletes--most famously Michael Jordan are not 100-percent comfortable with using their sizable platform to send messages great and small to the masses. LeBron has spoken about about Tamir Rice, and Trayvon Martin with no hesitation or fear that he may lose his endorsements. He's seemingly comfortable with the level of blackness he allows the public to see, which is refreshing. But again, the way he says "black to the bone", even down to the scowl on his face while he says, sounds like a man who is damn near defiant about his blackness. Just scroll up to the video again, start at the 1:09 mark, and just watch for yourself.


Jazzbrew said...

I had not seen that commercial. I share you dislike (and respect) for LeBron for the same reasons but you're right -- he nailed this commercial. Well done.

Sabin Prentis said...

Is LeBron one of the all-time basketball greats? He is, no argument there. Yet, I am more impressed by his business acumen than his basketball skills. Indeed, my postive impressions are garnered when comparing him to other professional athletes but still, his off-court life (personal and business) is remarkable.

PE? Welcome to the Terrordome? Cleveland love? = Good times all around!