I proudly wore my Cleveland Cavaliers t-shirt on Thursday in preparation for LeBron James' return to Cleveland after making The Decision on July 8th, when he jetted Cleveland and took his talents to South Beach. I didn't think the Cavs would actually win the game, but was hopeful that they would have a good showing, which they didn't. When I saw the Cavs line-up and some of the players who came off of the bench, my thought was, "Who are these guys?" Many of them weren't even on the team last year. An it wasn't a matter of Cleveland picking up some high-price free agents; these were the only scrubs they could pick up after James made his decision so late in the game. It was not a lot of fun to watch.
I had at least one friend ask me, and a few others menton on Facebook, that they didn't understand what the big deal was. These people are clearly not sports fans, especially ones of Cleveland sports teams. When you become a sports fan - especially when you are raised as one, like I was - part of your civic pride, part of your identity is wrapped up in those teams. Those are not just sports teams; they are YOUR teams. So when someone pulls something like LeBron did, it's not simply a business decision, as he claims. It's personal.
And the bigger problem with LeBron's leaving is that he did it to Cleveland. I have been a Cleveland sports fan for 41 years now, and am still waiting for one of my team to win a championship. The last major sports team to win anything was the Browns in 1964 - that's pre-Super Bowl, for you uninitiated. So when LeBron came along, Cleveland felt like, "Finally! Someone is going to do it!" Especially since he said that his goal was to bring a championship to Cleveland, and wasn't going to leave until he did it. The way he did it was pretty unclassy, too, on national TV. If you're going to go, OK; don't rub it in our faces. And it was an even bigger deal after all we had gone through:
- Red Right 88
- The Drive
- The Fumble
- The Shot (I was actually at that game)
- The Departure
- Jose Mesa and Charles Nagy
- And now, The Decision
That's a lot of heartbreak for one city to have to deal with. Time and time again, our city had been beaten up in the sports world, and just when it looked like we were pulling ourselves up off of the canvas to fight again, we get blindsided. So was it just a guy choosing to go to another team as a free agent? Yes. But it is so much more to those of us who love Cleveland sports. It's one more chapter of frustration in the book of Cleveland sports. It will not be quickly forgotten, if ever. Art Modell can't really come back to Cleveland after having moved the Browns in the early 90's because he is not welcome; James will likely get the same kind of treatment for the rest of his career...
For a really good read about Cleveland and the effect The Decision has had, check out this article by Wright Thompson at ESPN.com...