The writer of this column explains why the LeBron James decision to return to Cleveland had absolutely no bearing on the outcome of his day*. And why he too, is considering going home.
Before anyone ever cared whether I would write a column kind of about sports, I was a kid from Marin County. It’s where I woke up in the morning. It’s where I ate cereal. It’s where I was editor for my high school paper until I got kicked off the staff for leaving class early too many times because it was during fifth period and I wanted to get to Little Caesars before the lunch rush. It holds a special place in my heart. People there saw me grow up and now when I go back they say things like “Do you have a job?” It drives me, them not being able to guess whether I can be gainfully employed. My relationship with Marin County is bigger than this column. I didn’t realize that when I started writing this. I do now.
Remember when I was sitting up on the hood of my yellow Volvo 20 years ago in my high school parking lot smoking a stogie before leaving for college? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving somewhere where I could walk and get a sandwich from my house. I had a job at Target. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Oregon, for me, was almost like college. Actually, it was college minus the part where you do well in school. Those four years helped me learn that I didn’t get into Stanford. But without my experiences there, I wouldn’t be able to write this now.
I went to Oregon because flannel was cool at the time and I didn’t want to go to school in Southern California and wear flannel and pretend that I had an excuse. Even today, they wear beanies and scarves when it’s like 85 degrees on the UCLA campus and I just don’t get that. Maybe it’s because they do it on The Bachelor and that makes it OK? I don’t know. Anyway, that’s what I did. I went to school in Eugene and wore some flannel. I met some good guys there. I still talk to some and will probably never talk to others, except when they post some shit with their kids on it on Facebook and I guilt myself into “Liking” it. Nothing will ever change what I accomplished at Oregon. And what I accomplished was building an 8-foot beer bong that was nicknamed “The Fallopian Tubes” because of how it resembled a certain part of the female anatomy. It was a reverse wishbone shape. Funnel off the top, branching into two long arms so you could ostensibly “race” the guy next to you. Some frat stole it off our balcony like the second week after we built it.
I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work. Like no, literally. I have a day job. I have to work.
When I left Marin County in my teens, I was on a mission. I was looking maybe to actually hook up. And I think I hooked up a time or two, because college. But the people I hooked up already knew that feeling. After Oregon, I went a long, long, long time not hooking up. My goal was to still hook up as much as possible, no question. But the girls I was trying to hook up with didn’t want anything to do with me. They told me to stop trying so hard. Of course, being a guy, that made me try harder. And so I slipped into this impossible ditch that resulted in me wearing a mustard yellow turtle neck to parties, growing a chin strap and ending evenings out in a cab with five dudes getting a slice at 3 a.m. Every. Fucking. Weekend.
I always believed I would return to Marin County and finish my career there. But, let’s be fucking honest. There’s no way I can ever afford to move back, unless I finally figure out a way to code an app that shows lonely dudes where chicks who just got dumped are out drinking with their girlfriends. I recently had a son and I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I basically think it would be like when I was there, except there’s no more Thrifty so I guess that means no cheap ice cream.
To make the move I would need the support of my mom and girlfriend and about $7 million to buy a fixer which needs new countertops. I listed those three things on a piece of paper and showed my mom and girlfriend. Seeing this list was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I have no way of making at least $7 million.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to a guy who barely squeaked by most of his life and then worked for newspapers for awhile and then newspapers folded and that guy made me want to maybe squeak by in my own life. And then he left? How would I react? Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes (see: August, 1997 to February, 2011). Who am I to hold a grudge?
I’m not promising better columns than this. I know how hard that is to deliver. I’m not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to write better, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process. My patience will get tested. I know that. If I find $7 million I will go into the situation as the old head and I will work with talented young writers. I think I could help elevate them or at least let them burn through enough venture capital money to hook up like I tried to back in the day.
But this is not about some column. I feel my calling here goes above the written word. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one. I have no idea why I wrote “in more ways than one” or how many ways that actually means. It just sounded like the right thing to say to the guy who actually wrote this for me. I should have told him to take it out because it’s one of those things that if people have actually read this far, they’ll just gloss over that part.
My presence can make a difference where I live now, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Marin County, like the hundreds of middle-school aged kids who go to the 7-Eleven I used to go to and steal candy from there even though they have money, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much with at-risk families who bring home less than $350,000 household a year, needs all the talent it can get.
In Marin County, nothing is given (to the government) if you have the right tax guy. Every garden has a gardener. You watch your nanny work for what she has. Even if you don’t give a lot back to the community, there’s always a charity golf tournament or buying something pink during that one cancer month and posting pictures of it online.
Moving back to Marin County won’t be easy. There are seven million reasons why I shouldn’t even talk about it. But I’m ready to accept the challenge.
*As whispered in the ear of Lee Jenkins while he was in one of those back massage chairs they bring to your work once a quarter.