Saturday, December 4, 2010

I'm Angry & It Isn't Entirely LeBron's Fault

I'm angry.

After watching LeBron James almost destroy the Cavaliers almost entirely on his own, I thought I should wait before I blogged. You have to understand, I was angry. Very. So, I waited. 
I am still angry. I'm angry about a lot of things right now. I'm angry that the media wanted the City of Cleveland to implode and the National Guard to be called in. I'm angry that LeBron bopped his head to the "Akron Hates You" chant. I'm angry Anderson Varejao hugged LeBron before the game. 

I'm angry that the Cavaliers gave up, rolled over on their backs and let the Miami Heat drive a bus over them. The level of disrespect that the Cavaliers players welcomed from LeBron was something I have never before seen. Maybe they were afraid they weren't going to get invited to a party. It was like LeBron and his posse trudged their muddy boots across your new white carpet and stood in front of the TV with 10 seconds left in a playoff game.

I'm angry that a lot of the things that I am angry about aren't even LeBron's fault. He was just the final piece in a sad, painful puzzle.

I'm angry that people from Cleveland don't understand. 

I'm angry at myself for expecting them to. 

It would be cliche to say, "It's a Cleveland thing, you wouldn't understand" even if it is true.

I grew up in the suburbs, but always said, "I'm from Cleveland." I have never seen a Cleveland championship in my lifetime, but I have always been a Cleveland sports fan. That's just the way it is. 

Growing up in Cleveland, everyone clung to our sports teams to show the world what we are.  The days of Eliot Ness and being home of so many firsts were long gone. For awhile, we had WMMS and the distinction of being the Rolling Stone Reader's pole #1 radio station, but that was about it. 

Many of my fondest childhood memories were based around Cleveland sports. 

My elementary school had Kardiac Kids t-shirts made with our school name on the back (all of the schools in the district had them). I remember running home with the order form *begging* my parents for one.

I had never been to a Browns game, but I always watched them with the family all around. Like other kids throughout the city, my dad made sure I knew what the calls were, what the penalties were.  We talked about the plays. I remember having a huge crush on Brian Sipe and my heart  sinking when Ernest Byner dropped that ball.  

"The Drive," "The Fumble"and "Red Right 88" were added to the list of Cleveland sports disasters.
There were a few Cavaliers games that I went to when I was little. Sitting in the rafters at Richfield Coliseum to see my favorite, Bingo Smith play.  In fact, I had a t-shirt with the old logo, that always made me think of the 3 Musketeers, one of my favorite cartoons at the time. "All for one, one for all!" was the motto. 

Much later came "The Shot" and the Cavaliers adding to the Cleveland sports misery.

My favorite part of summer though, and still is, was going downtown with my dad to Indians games. We were terrible, but I didn't care. I won my first bike at a game, a powder blue Huffy 10 speed with a denim seat. 

Painting by Bruce McCombs,

 A couple of times a season, my dad would spring for reserved tickets, and those were great days. The stadium would be mostly empty and he would tell me to sit wherever I wanted. I was always adamant that we sat in our seats, so he would ask me our seat number, which I would read off, "Seat 5," I told him once. He said, "Well, go find a seat 5." I would run up and down the rows, through out the sections looking for the best seat 5. 

I always would ask my dad how I could get the tom-tom guy's job.  I thought that was the best job in the world. He got to go to every game and get people fired up. How much cooler could the world of work get? It took well into my adulthood before I realized, that John Adams was the "tom-tom" guy, and that wasn't his job. He was a fan. Amazing.

As an adult, I remember seeing grown men shed a tear as the old stadium was torn down and they took little bits of rubble home as a memento from a time long past. 

That is one thing that we, as a city placed on LeBron James. We took all of the Cleveland Sports Misery reel and put it on the shoulders of a high school kid out of Akron. Here was this of our own, a hometown guy that could make a difference.

We gave him names like "The Chosen One." We would later let him call himself the King. King James. We bought it. We loved it. We agreed. We were his loyal subjects. 

If you watch the Nike Witness commercial, you can see. The damn thing makes me cry every time.  Every. Time.

The people in the commercial weren't actors. They weren't flown in from LA. We were proud of LeBron. He was one of us. He stood to put Cleveland on the map. This was our chance to show the world that we are something. I watched the commercials and swelled with pride. This is Cleveland now.

We had a chance. This guy, full of puff and swagger - and skill - was going to get the city of Cleveland a championship. 

All of a sudden, Cleveland games were a sell-out. Cleveland games were the marquee games. When I lived in Indiana, the Cavs games were the Lakers, the Celtics...championship teams. 

I took on the swagger. I had more pride in my city. Sure, our Browns and Indians were terrible, but ... look at the Cavs. Look at LeBron. 

And then ... well...

We started to see that maybe...just maybe, LeBron wasn't perfect. 

Stories would filter out here and there about the antics of him and his "posse" through out the city. Being rude and disrespectful to servers and bartenders (and I am sure if you have ever read my blog you know how I felt about that), ridiculous demands...all mentioned in hushed whispers, behind closed doors. 
Outsiders would talk about the monster we were creating, and would be shot down double barrel style by us.  How dare you talk about our King like that? You're jealous...a poor sport! 

I even called the Papa John's pizza in Indianapolis to give them 9 levels of hell after the t-shirt controversy.

And then...

LeBron made his "Decision."  

This is where outsiders get the story twisted and can't understand for their lives why we can't "get over it."

I'm not angry about LeBron leaving. OK, that's a lie. I am. But, if he stood before the city and said, " I love you all and thank you, but it is time that I move on..." I would have lived. I would have been angry, but I wouldn't have the urge to burn his jersey. 

But LeBron, an Ohioan...I won't even insult him and call him a Clevelander, as someone from the state of Ohio, he had to know that first, nothing good has ever come out of naming a sports "situation."  Everything horrible in Cleveland sports has a name. 

A title. 

"The Decision."

I don't know what planet that LeBron James lives on that he thought it was in his best interest to give his move a title. 

 Watching the ESPN debacle, I almost...*almost* felt sorry for him when he made his announcement. If you watch it (and no, I won't link it here), there is that brief moment that he looks like he is going to vomit. LeBron had to have a brief flash of, "Hey, this might not be the best idea."

But then he took his talents to South Beach. Not Miami. South Beach.

And then the stories started trickling he never had a conversation with Joe Tait. Joe Tait. Not even his rookie year?

More stories about his posse and their extravagant demands.

Owner Dan Gilbert's infamous comic sans letter.

What did we do? Was this somehow our fault?

In a word, maybe. I think as fans we put up with LeBron because we wanted to win. We wanted to believe that he was a *good* guy. We wanted to believe that he was one of us. 

Sadly, he never thought of us that way. LeBron made comments that growing up, he hated Cleveland.

Hated Cleveland.
Those comments make me angry. More angry than ever that our team let him win.

The Cavaliers allowed James to go to the bench and chit chat. James was comfortable in the most hostile, uncomfortable environment imaginable. Cavs players hugged him before the game. They allowed him to chat the bench up when he was on the court. I know I said that before, but I can't believe they allowed that to happen.

I had dreams after the game of the ball boy giving LeBron a hard shove and to shut up. That guy would never have to pay for another drink in the city of Cleveland for the rest of his life.

The fact that it was the conduct of the players and not some drunken Bluto throwing a car battery onto the court that embarrassed Cleveland makes me angry.

The Cavs have a long way to go to win the support of the fans back...not because they lost, but because they gave up.

Am I still a fan?

Yes. Maybe a little smarter, maybe a little wiser, but I will always be a fan.

I'm from Cleveland.


  1. I couldn't have said it any better. We'll get over him & the loss of his talents. All it takes is a floor wet from perspiration, a slip onto an already Lt. elbow and...he'll have to find some other talents to get him by in South Beach.

  2. This is beautifully said. A lot of us who live every day with the media reminding us that our little team is "all right" but the other ones are "hot" build up a lot of pride and let our stars get away with stuff. And sometimes, we have to sit back and really examine things. And we've been saying what you were saying, "If Lebron had just handled it like a human being ..."

    As I read more and more stories about his posse, I'm absoltuely horrified at what THEY were able to get away with. Hopefully, Miami will make the little prince grow up. And Cleveland has a lifelong fan in me. (Unless they're playing the Jazz.)