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Tuesday, November 9, 2010
'Grandmothers' standing by LeBron

By Marty Gitlin
Special to Page 2

AKRON, Ohio -- Alder Chapman wasn't torching her LeBron James jersey. Pat Idley wasn't stomping around, cursing the name of the Cleveland basketball star who took flight to Miami. Rose Porter wasn't holding up one of the signs reading "LeBron: On the Way to Miami, Go to Hell."

Grandmothers don't express such sentiments about their grandchildren.

Granted, none of the three are technically James' grandma. Nor are any of the more than 200 members of the LeBron James Grandmothers Fan Club, which Chapman founded in 2006.

LeBron Grannies
Alder Chapman, president of the LeBron James Grandmothers Fan Club: "You don't hate someone making a decision in his life."

Members range in agefrom their 40s to their 90s and must be real grandmothers. They embrace that role in spirit and action. And their love for James has not dissipated one iota since he announced as a free agent he was packing his bags for Miami.

The vast majority of Cavaliers fans reacted angrily after James announced his decision. They claimed he had humiliated the franchise and the city on national television.

But the love the Grandmothers Club members feel for James never waned. In fact, it now boasts more members than ever.

"If we're his grandmother, we're always his grandmother," says Porter, who serves as the chairperson of the club's mentoring committee. "You can't just disown him. He's our grandchild and we all just love him. I was hoping he would stick around because he lives in Akron, but we also know that if that's what he wants, that's what we want for him."

Chapman, who knew James' mother and grandmother growing up in Akron, echoes those sentiments and chastised those who were transformed into James haters after he bolted Northeast Ohio.

"Grandchildren are forever," said the club president, during a recent gathering at Wally Waffle. "We spoil them and we love them. We never expected people to act like they have. I've heard children stating that they hated LeBron. To me, that's teaching hate. You don't hate someone making a decision in his life."

Club members consider themselves missionaries for the LeBron James Foundation. Among their current goals is to collect 200 coats for the Helen Arnold Community Learning Center in Akron.

The group's objectives and goals include helping young adults reach their potential through education, self esteem, single parenting and employment. Its mentoring service includes help with jobs searches, resume writing, parenting skills and goal-setting.

The LeBron James Grandmothers Fan Club was born when Chapman began calling her friends and letting them know when Cavaliers games were on television. Soon she hatched the idea of starting the club -- though she had never met James. Her love for James was cemented when she met him at a Thanksgiving event hosted by his foundation in 2007.

"He's so down-to-earth," she says. "You feel warm around him."

Among the club's 2010 projects was creating a cookbook coordinated and designed by Idley with recipes they all contributed.

The names of the dishes pay homage to James and his former Cleveland teammates. Included are "The Chosen One Smothered Chicken" and "Mo's Breakfast Brunch Cobbler," which honors all-star guard Mo Williams.

Though they still root for the Cavs, Chapman, Idley and Porter answered in unison when asked which NBA team is their favorite.

"The Miami Heat!" they screamed without hesitation.

What do you expect grandmothers to say?

Marty Gitlin is a freelance writer for Sports Media Exchange, a national freelance writing network.

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