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Get Over It, Cleveland

July 9, 2010

That’s officially the slowest news day in history.  Put it in the books.  Seriously, I bet the Pre-Cambrian Era was more interesting than today.

It looks like my only option is to do what everybody else did: write about LeBron.

For me, he more the reaction to this situation drags on, the less it becomes about LeBron.  Sure, LeBron is a childish jackass who killed a franchise in a city with two other dead franchises without caring or even realizing he was doing it.  Cleveland now hates him more than anybody it’s ever hate (quite an accomplishment for somebody that essentially grew up there), and with good reason — he violated the flimsy treaty that exists between player and fan, wherein the fan devotes his time and money to involving himself in the team’s (and, by extension, the player’s) success and in return the player pretends that he gives a rat’s ass about performing and winning for the fans that finance his paychecks.  It really is the highest form of Narcissistic douchebaggery to even think for a second that the fan cares more about you than the team.  No, true fans will not understand, LeBron.  It makes you question why you watch sports in the first place — as Will Leitch asks, “Why in the world are we watching these awful people?

All that said, still.  Still.  One of the reasons this is Such A Big Deal is that nobody seemed to realize just how big of a litte kid LeBron is.  As Simmons noted today, nobody else in team sports could have generated the interest that LeBron did for The Decision.  Nobody in football, baseball, hockey, or maybe even soccer in Europe could have held a one-hour special in which he “decided” which team he was going to play for and literally have the whole country watching.  Now, think about the guys who play professional basketball.  Are we so naïve that we believe there aren’t that many guys in the NBA that would have done this exact thing if they, you know, could?  I mean, really? Professional basketball players?  Eighty percent of the league (at least) would have, and the only reason everybody is so pissed that LeBron was a big enough douchebag to be in that majority is that nobody knew he was before now.  He’s a pro basketball player who’s 25 and never went to college, folks.  Quit acting so surprised.

The other reason: Cleveland sucks.  They haven’t been good at football since the 80s, they haven’t been good at baseball since Albert Belle, the Cavs have sucked ever since The Shot and they’re really going to suck next year and for the foreseeable future.  And that’s somehow… LeBron’s fault?  The Cavs were lucky to get the guy in the first place — it’s not like any other team that had the #1 pick wouldn’t have drated him.  And then they proceeded to surround him with mediocre players for seven years, culminating in a season where they were pretty good and lost in a playoff run in which LeBron looked tired and frustrated with an organization that had basically told him to do the whole damn thing by himself.  So what if “Jordan would have stayed, Jordan would have powered through”?  The Cavs drafted LeBron to be Jordan, but maybe he’s just not Jordan.  That’s not LeBron’s fault, that’s the Cavs’ fault for expecting him to be.  Dan Gilbert is completely delusional.  Maybe if you’d made it easier for the cat to win over the course of seven years, he wouldn’t be going to a place where it actually will be easy for him.  Maybe LeBron’s a wuss for not staying in Cleveland because it’s too hard, but it’s the organization’s fault for not trying hard enough to make it easy.  Again, this is a 25-year-old guy who never went to college and isn’t as Jordan or Kobe as everybody thought he was — who wants difficult when you can have, you know, easy?  Quit acting so betrayed.

Everyone is in mourning for the Cleveland sports fans right now.  I certainly empathize — I’ve never been a fan of a team that’s ever won a title and all of my teams have always sucked.  And I know what it’s like to lose the one thing that’s actually good in your sports life.  Consider this analogy: a year after the Tigers lost in that miserable title game to Kansas in 2008, John Calipari, the only reason the Tigers were ever good in the past ten years in the first place, left to go to a sexier team — not because of money, not because his chances of winning improved thaaaat dramatically, but because it was easier.  The Tigers subsequently lost every single one of their recruits and didn’t even make the tournament the next year.  Is that not the LeBron situation to a tee?  Hell, if you want to blame LeBron for Cleveland’s poor playoff run this year, you could even say that the Tigers’ loss in the title game fell squarely on the Cal’s shoulders (we lost that game because of free throws, which Cal insisted that we didn’t practice that entire year because we’d “make ‘em when we needed to”).

Well, what happened to the Tigers?  Sure, some of our fans were obviously angry, and a lot of people wanted the guy to burn in hell.  I’d like to think, however, that some of our more rational fans reacted like I did.  I still love Cal — the Tigers had sucked forever and then Cal shows up and a few years later we’re in the title game.  We’re winning thirty games every year, we’re winning conference titles every year, and we’re getting one and two seeds in the tourney every year.  It was ABSOLUTELY AWESOME.  When he left, I didn’t feel betrayed — sure, it doesn’t make sense now that you’re supposed tobe grateful they got to see him dunk a bunch of times and choke in the playoffs”, as one of Simmons’s readers put it, but you know what?  We were lucky to get Cal in the first place, just as Cleveland was lucky to get LeBron in the first place.  Getting there and almost winning is a lot better than just sucking.  I had been with the Tigers for a long time when they sucked, and Cal almost winning and then splitting was still better than just barely missing the NIT.

As tempting as it was, Tiger fans — Geoff Calkins aside — didn’t play the betrayal card.  We moved on.  We had a horrible time finding a head coach because, let’s face it, we only had like six scholarship players returning and who the hell wants to coach that team?  We hired one of Cal’s assistants who had never been a head coach before who had a doozy of a time just filling out the friggin roster.  We didn’t win the conference title or the conference tournament title and we lost in the second round of the NIT.  Did we blame all of this on Cal?  Not really.  We realized Cal’s tenure with Memphis was a gift in the first place and we moved on.  We did okay considering our situation, we have a good recruiting class coming in this year, and we’ve basically sidelined all Calipari discussion.

The only difference between the Tigers and the Cavs is that Tiger fans knew what kind of guy Cal was, while Cavs fans were caught completely off guard.  Sorry, folks, that’s not LeBron’s fault: that’s yours.  I certainly am sorry for Cleveland and I know it sucks to be in that position, but honestly: get over it.  You put too much faith in the guy to begin with, and then you put all those eggs in one basket.  Sometimes you put all your chips on black and the ball rolls to red.  The best thing to do is just to move on.  Besides, you’ve still got Manny Acta.

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