Atonement With The Father

A Dis-Connection with Pat Riley

It’s probably coincidence, but no less interesting, that David Blatt was fired as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers less than 24 hours ago. Whether LeBron James knew about it is anyone’s guess. That would be interesting for other topics related to father, namely that LeBron’s father has been off limits to the media and never before discussed.

With due respect, there is no way I can comment or even speculate on it, except that it could not have been easy. He seems to tend well to his three children now.

Though a Hero’s Journey is never complete without a showdown, a reflection or realization that he or she must confront, face or come terms — that is, atone — with the father. It’s one of high culture’s most dependable rites of passage, a great themes, an ageless archetypes, and it’s tremendous emotional impact on audiences stays the same.

“When the child outgrows the popular idyl of the mother breast and turns to face the world of specialized adult action, it passes, spiritually, into the sphere of the father — who becomes, for his son, the sign of the future task, and for his daughter, of the future husband.” (Campbell, P. 125)

As the buildup around LeBron James’ free agency in 2010 and decision thereof to leave for Miami heightened, the presence of Pat Riley began to take the same arc. The media was relentless in addressing the rumors that LeBron James’ camp ran trodden on the Cav’s organization that acquiesced to his whim. This stood in stark contrast to the solidarity, credibility and firm hand of Pat Riley, owner of eight NBA titles whether as player, coach or team president.

Now that James is there and back again, he looks as his time in Miami as “going off to college”. We will never know the counterfactual on whether joining an organization like the Miami Heat was necessary to learn how to win championships.

Though it’s laden with irony that Pat Riley, in so many cases, represented the sign of the future task — to win championships and return to Cleveland.

“The paradox of creation, the coming of the forms of time out of eternity, is the germinal secret of the father. It can never be quite explained. Therefore, in every system of theology there is an umbilical point, an Achilles tendon which the finger of mother life has touched, and where the possibility of perfect knowledge has been impaired. The problem of the hero is to pierce himself (and therewith his world) precisely through that point; to shatter and annihilate that key knot of his limited existence.” (Campbell, P. 134)

LeBron has won everywhere he has ever played, but reconciling his past — as intertwined as it is with Akron — with what’s ahead is exactly what heroes do. At a young age it’s mandatory that talent, their special ability blind them to what’s missing. The full extent of their powers is unknown since the underlying knowledge and experience is absent. Though potential is eventually a call that is easy to recognize, but difficult to define.

“The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands — and the two are atoned.” (Campbell, P. 134)

The mystery of the apparently self-contradictory father a tale well worn, but it re-manifests itself across genres and subjects. Perhaps one day — or maybe he already has — LeBron James will day be able to explain, or better yet, share a moment for his atonement.

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