John Kass: LeBron's return proves he's a Midwesterner at heart

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If you're from the Midwest, you probably hated LeBron James.

Who didn't?

Not true hatred, of course. I'm talking about sports hatred.

Sports hatred isn't something a sane person acts on. But sports fans feel it. It's cold and bitter as you watch that one athlete from that other team who seems to cut your heart out year after year after year.

LeBron is that athlete.

But no matter how hard I try, I can't hate him anymore. And you probably don't hate him anymore either, not the way we once did. That's gone.

LeBron is going home to Cleveland after four years in Miami, four years of South Beach glamour, four NBA Finals and two championship rings.

He's devious enough to have planned it. He left Cleveland for Miami, and during those four years, Cleveland hit rock bottom, and Cavaliers fans hated him the most. Over those years, the team picked up plenty of young talent.

So LeBron now returns to reap the love and perhaps the rings to come. And the rest of us? Try as I might, I can't hate him anymore. Perhaps it's because I recognize an ancient pattern in all this.

You see it in literature, the adventure of the hero of many faces, the young man on a quest who is all but dead and buried before finally making the return home.

LeBron James isn't an archetype. He's a ballplayer. But he's pushing 30, his knees won't hold up forever and his odyssey is about done.

This last LeBron chapter is The Return.

Perhaps it's a Midwestern thing, about family and neighborhood and the people who knew you when you were a kid. I'm not saying other people, born in other parts of the country, don't feel it. Sure they feel it. They often talk about it.

But Midwesterners act on it.

The only time our Midwestern insides feel comfortable and settled is when we're home. It's tribal, this business about being part of a clan, whether you're from the city and can still smell the neighborhood in your memory or if you're from some town surrounded by soybean fields.

Iowa knows this, and Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and Minnesota. Michigan and Missouri know it. North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ohio know it, too.

Cleveland knows. Chicago knows. LeBron knows.

And the outlanders trying to mock it? Or the ones who call us "The Heartland" as they fly overhead?

You can't explain it to them. They can't comprehend it. It's as if they're from another country, without the language for understanding.

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Three-year degree [Poll]

A Johns Hopkins University analysis, published by the Progressive Policy Institute, recommends that U.S. schools consider shifting toward a three-year higher education degree to cut college costs instead of the current four-year model. Would you welcome such a change?

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