While economists usually think of wages as being determined by the marginal product of a worker’s efforts, some industries also rely on “tournaments” in which workers aspire to prove themselves by succeeding at a major challenge, such as earning partnership in a law firm or tenure at a college. I thought of this recently when I learned that the local basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, will be participating in the postseason playoff tournament that begins this coming weekend.
When I first moved to Cleveland and learned that our football team, the Browns, was once again losing, I was surprised at how much passion the people of this town put into their thoughts about this situation. I soon learned that what Cleveland wanted most of all was a championship team, something it had not had in many years.
There are three major sports teams in town, and all of them struggle in their own ways, despite loyal fans that show up and cheer, no matter what. In my first few years here, a new baseball stadium was built and for a while the baseball team did well, even beating the Yankees on a trip that it hoped would end with winning the World Series, something it had not done for 50 years, in the end, that did not work out. The football team had a series of new star players, coaches, and new general managers, one after another, as it struggled to make its mark on the game. A huge insult came one year when the owner of the Browns picked them up and took them to Baltimore, where they were renamed the (Super Bowl winning) Baltimore Ravens. The city of Cleveland was angry at that betrayal, but not as angry as it was only a few years ago.
For some years, not long ago, things started to look bright when an amazing basketball player from the Cleveland area joined the Cleveland Cavalier’s basketball team. The team won game after game, finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel promising a championship for this tired city. But just as Cleveland fans started to focus on our basketball team, the star player decided to move to Florida, where he joined the Miami Heat and helped them win two championships. I have never seen the people of Cleveland so angry. T-shirts with his number on them were burned, and a large billboard of the player was painted over.
However, just when things looked bleak for the ever faithful fans in Cleveland, that player decided to return to our city. He is back now, and has assumed a role of not just an excellent player but also a leader to the team that has come together with him at its center. Soon, the team started to do something that Cleveland teams seem to have such difficulty doing; win games. And then more games. And now, for the first time in so very long, the fans of our Cleveland basketball team are very hopeful as it heads to the post-season playoffs.
My daughter has heard stories about what it is like to be part of a college that wins an NCAA championship, and I hope that she gets to experience firsthand what it is like to be part of a city that wins a championship of their own, after so many years of longing for one. And so, as we enter this weekend’s games, I have only one thing to say to my adopted town; “Co Cav’s!”
Speaking of basketball, my heart and thoughts go out to the family and friends of Lauren Hill, an NCAA basketball player from the College of Mount Saint Joseph in Ohio who died last week. Please know that her battle inspired many throughout higher education, and that her loss is felt profoundly.
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