“You can’t repeat the past,” cautions Spiderman.
“Of course you can,” crows a defiant Frank Abagnale Jr.
The indelible vision of oculist T.J. Eckleberg, gaze looming over the valley of ashes, is etched into the consciousness of high-schoolers past and present. Passers-by of considerable wealth witnessed the bespectacled retinas, dilapidated and omniscient, a reality check upon lavishness and pretense.
The urban jungle of downtown Cleveland is gray. It’s dreary, depressing, dreams shattered and scattered amidst cracked concrete and puddles that smell like urine. The suburbs pour in nearly every night, driving fuel-efficient sedans at speeds slower than they’d like into seedy parking garages. Cleveland’s own haunting and obsolete remnant of the past adorned an office building across from Quicken Loans Arena. An anointed savior peered out at the city, his city, arms outstretched and open, the king embracing his subjects. Ten stories worth of banner told one story of hope, of promise, of salvation.
He left for the Heat; the city burned. Burned his jersey, burned with rage, angry not at the decision but The Decision, the gut-wrenching method of departure more soul-crushing than the result. Cleveland burned LeBron James in effigy.
They ripped down his mural; we were all witnesses to the grayscale monument getting stripped down two days after national humiliation. Despite Dan Gilbert’s fiery and misguided prediction that the Cavs would win a ring before the King, the Cavs team was also stripped down. Gilbert ate crow, the King got his ring, and the Cavs are on the upswing after some lottery magic netted cornerstone Kyrie Irving.
“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare”
–Ozymandias, Percy Shelley
The team and the town were sanitized, whitewashed of the monarchy that was abandoned for fairer weather. Nothing of the era remained, save Gilbert. Gilbert is an inspired young owner, New Money, looking to flaunt success. Entrepreneur and loan mogul, Gilbert championed the American Dream. He’s a guru of self-improvement. Much like Jimmy Gatz‘s plans for self-improvement, Gilbert started honing his business acumen from a young age.
“(Gilbert) sold yo-yos, bagels, pots and pans. He’d bought candy at the local drugstore and resold it from a display in the family garage, half the proceeds going to the annual Jerry Lewis telethon for muscular dystrophy. At age 12, he bought Chef Boyardee pizza mix, made the pies in mom’s kitchen, and advertised them for sale with fliers in neighbors’ mailboxes. His little brother delivered the pizzas on his bike until the health department caught wind of it and shut down the operation.” –SI profile
Gilbert passes out booklets filled with mantras and personal business beliefs to Quicken Loans employees, cultivating a culture of groupthink. Both Gilbert and Jay Gatsby [ref] At least, DiCaprio’s incarnation [/ref] are diminutive, perhaps suggesting a need for compensation through acting larger than life.
OK, stay with me here. Gatsby is spurned by an old flame, who chose an easier path to success by marrying into established success. The currency in the NBA is talent instead of money, but The Decision is tantamount to Daisy telling Gatsby that she’s chosen Tom Buchanan. Embittered, Gatsby vows to become a self-made man. Gilbert vows, in Comic Sans, to win a title before LeBron. Gilbert’s has spent lavishly on Cavaliers salaries, as well as imported minor league hockey, D League basketball, and arena football to Cleveland, not to mention his funding of the city’s casino. It’s the modern equivalent to Gatsby’s lavish and frequent extravaganzas, winning over the people of the neighborhood.
Will Daisy choose her childhood flame over her situation of external success? Will LeBron? Gatsby finds out that, despite repeated attempts to steal her heart back, Daisy is gone for good. She took the easy path, success over love, and reaped the benefits. LeBron took the easy path, success over loyalty, and reaped the benefits.
Both Gilbert and Gatsby possess the same faults: they’re reactionary and stubborn, and out of touch with reality. Both are desperate to return to better times, fraught with pangs of nostalgic longing. Both will take any necessary steps to recapture the past. Gilbert’s preparations for 2014, when he will have a second chance to woo the player of his dreams, began this week when he re-hired Mike Brown. Gilbert called Brown’s canning a “mistake,” and tossed his checkbook at the link to the wonder years with $20 million of guaranteed money. Hopefully, Larry Hughes’ teardrop tattoo and Delonte West return as well.
But is the bespectacled Brown the Eckleberg of this story, once bright and relevant but now an ashen reminder of the past? His eyes oversaw the demise of team play on offense, and it’s hard to believe that he’ll be able to reach the level of success he had while LeBron helmed his squad. Perhaps Brown will serve as the reminder, peering over the court at a team that is no longer the same, a team attempting to rise from the ashes after being burnt by the king.
“Glad to see you again,” says Jay Gatsby, mortgage empire master.
“I’m certainly glad to see you as well,” assures a handsomely-compensated Mr. Potato Head.