By Steve ruman
Forgive and forget!
Such was the message Thursday night in Niles when the Mahoning Valley Scrappers hosted Bring Back LeBron Night at Eastwood Field.
The promotion took part during the Scrappers-Jamestown Jammers game.
As part of the effort to sway LeBron James back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Scrappers encouraged fans to post thoughts to James on a giant card as they entered the stadium. The card is scheduled to be delivered to James.
Fans also gave their testimonials on camera for a video scheduled be posted to social media. Some brought their Heat apparel to donate to a Miami charity. Other James-related events took place throughout the night.
The promotion was the brainchild of Scrappers group sales manager Chris Sumner. Sumner also spearheaded two previous James-related promotions. In June of 2010, the Scrappers hosted a “Stay In Cleveland” rally. Two months later when James opted to take his talents to Miami, the Scrappers hosted Jersey Demolition Night. Several boxes of James-related apparel were shredded and sent to the Miami Heat front office.
“I’m a big LeBron fan, but I’m an even bigger Cavs fan so I was upset with his decision in 2010,” Sumner said. “The Jersey Demolition Night was a way for fans to vent their frustration at losing LeBron. Tonight is about letting LeBron know that we’re ready to move forward.”
Based on fan reaction, it appeared that most in attendance shared Sumner’s sentiment.
Jared Thomas of New Castle, Pa., took a moment to sign James’ greeting card. His message was simple: “No hard feelings.”
“Fans hated to see him leave, but I understand why he did it,” Thomas said. “He can definitely do some good for the Cavs, so I hope he comes back.”
Paul McGowen of Youngstown had a similar message for LeBron.
“People in northeast Ohio love their sports, so when LeBron left they took it personal,” McGowen said. “But it’s been four years and we’re ready to welcome him back. Deep down I think LeBron’s heart has always been in Ohio.”
Kevin Karch of Warren was at Eastwood Field in 2010 to have his James jersey and posters shredded. On Thursday he was wearing a handmade “Return To Cleveland” shirt.
“A part of me won’t ever forget how he left, but the Cavs fan in me wants to see a winner and he can bring a championship to Cleveland,” Karch said.
Still, there were those in attendance who weren’t so forgiving. Ralph Morrone of Poland entered the stadium wearing a James jersey which had its name and numbers crossed out with electrical tape. Morrone said he previously lived in Cleveland and attended all Cavs home games between 2001 and ’03.
“I got that he left, but the way he did it and what he said, I’ll never forgive him for that,” Morrone said. “He took the coward’s way out. I’ll never be able to root for him again and I hope he stays away.”
So if James does decide to keep his talents away from Ohio can Scrappers fans expect Jersey Demolition Night II?
“Oh, absolutely,” Sumner said. “The forgiving will turn to hate again, and fans will once again be anxious to revolt.”