Fans Show Their LeBron Love — Through Poetry

NPR's Michele Norris talks to Dan Grech, radio news director of WLRN Miami Herald News, about the LeBron James Poetry contest. In honor of James coming to Miami, folks are invited to submit poetry to mark this event. They have received more than 1,000 submissions.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

To mark LeBron James' arrival in Miami, NPR member station WLRN and its newspaper partner, the Miami Herald, are sponsoring a contest - a poetry contest.

What better way for fans in Miami and Cleveland to air their emotions? And today, the six finalists in the LeBron James Poetry Contest were announced. Tomorrow we'll hear about the winner.

But joining us now to tell us about the finalists and what they wrote is Dan Grech, radio news director at WLRN. Welcome to the program.

DAN GRECH (Radio News Director, WLRN): Thanks, Michele.

NORRIS: Dan, how many entries did you get?

Mr. GRECH: We got more than 1,100 entries. And while the majority came obviously from Florida and Ohio, we got entries from 31 states, and we also got entries from Canada.

NORRIS: You have so many entries it's not possible for us to hear all of them, and not even all of the finalists, but if you could pick out a few and let's take a listen.

Mr. GRECH: Sure. Well, this first one is a classic Miami entry. It's basically a response to all of the hate that was coming from all around the country directed towards LeBron in Miami when he made his decision.

This is by 24-year-old Crystal Booker, who lives here in Miami.

Ms. CRYSTAL BOOKER: (Poet, Miami): Letting go is hard, we know. The king is here and we've warmed up his seat. Cleveland, go ahead and spit flames. You can't burn up the Heat.

NORRIS: Can't burn up the Heat. Okay. And that's someone working out their emotions through poetry there. What do we have next?

Mr. GRECH: You know, our next one was a pretty typical public radio response. This was from 68-year-old Mary Cox of North Miami. And she said to me, when I spoke to her, that this was her first response when she heard about the LeBron James poetry contest.

Ms. MARY COX: (Poet, Miami) So not a sports fan. Must sheepishly admit first response, LeBron who?

NORRIS: Thats pretty good. But most people I guess actually do know who LeBron James is.

Mr. GRECH: Yeah. We had one - that was a haiku. And we had one person write in who said that LeBron James sounded like a character out of Wuthering Heights.

NORRIS: Now I can't get that image out of my head with those mutton chop sideburns.

Mr. GRECH: Exactly. LeBron James.

NORRIS: What do you have next?

Mr. GRECH: So the next poem I want to play has to be an Ohio poem. We got hundreds of poems from Ohio fans. And one of the pleasures of this contest was seeing the kind of nuance and the range of emotion that these poems exhibited.

You know, there were obviously a lot of hate mail, but in addition to that, there were poems of support for LeBron, amazingly, and even poems of reconciliation and healing.

One of the finalists that I wanted to play was Paul Cance, III. He was born in Cleveland, now lives in Melbourne, Florida. And here's Paul explaining what inspired his poem.

Mr. PAUL CANCE (Poetry Finalist, Florida): LeBron was someone who promised that he'd bring a championship to my hometown, and he said he'd stay there until he got the job done. And as we know, he went back on his word and decided to go to Miami.

The Cav's owner, Dan Gilbert, promised that the Cleveland Cavaliers would win a championship and get rings before LeBron did, and that's sort of what provided me with the inspiration for the poem that I'm about to read.

Ten years of dating, she wants to wed. Take me to the altar, she said. What can I say to string her along? A ring, you'll have, before LeBron. Content with that, she brings me a beer. And now I'm good for another ten years.

NORRIS: And so, working out quite a few emotions in that little piece of poetry there.

Mr. GRECH: Exactly. You know, a kind of classic guy response if I may say so.

NORRIS: Were you inspired? Did you write your own poem?

Mr. GRECH: Compared to the brilliance that I just played, I'm embarrassed to say that, yes, I did indeed write a poem. And I'd be happy to read it for you if you'd like.

NORRIS: Well, you're not going to get off that easy. Of course you've got to read your own poem. Let's hear it.

Mr. GRECH: All right. Well, I gave mine a title, and it's called, Changing Colors.

Cleveland is red, New York is blue. Uh-oh, Chicago, LeBron will dunk on you.

NORRIS: Take that. So Dan, you might want to keep your day job.

Mr. GRECH: Thank you.

NORRIS: Good to talk to you. Thank you very much.

Mr. GRECH: You're welcome. My pleasure.

NORRIS: That's Dan Grech. He's the radio news director at WLRN.

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