And that is that as they say. LeBron and the Cavs find themselves with another bitter disappointment of a playoff run.
The loss didn't sting so much in that they lost to a team that they were clearly superior to, it goes much deeper than that. The 94-85 game six loss to the Celtics is merely another blow to a state that has taken many on the chin for the last four decades.
Many people find Ohio sports fans to be obnoxious. Outside of the Columbus Crew, Ohio professional teams have been lacking to say the least (and let's face it soccer fans, not many people outside of Columbus pay attention to the former MLS champions).
Between the Cavs, Browns, Bengals, Indians, Reds, and Blue Jackets it would take only someone who is a glutton for punishment to keep returning to these franchises expecting anything different.
But we do. Every year. This year is our year. All LeBron/Carson/Travis/Joey/Rick need is that little something extra to push them over the top (the Browns need a whole lot of extra).
Why? Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? How much more punishment can a state of fans take?
Ohio has lost over 210,000 jobs since 2000.
The Reds have lost 869 games in that time span (a .463 winning percentage). The club hasn't made the playoffs since 1995, and hasn't had a winning season since 1999. The Tribe have made the playoffs twice since 2000, losing in the ALCS in horrendous fashion to the Red Sox. I don't think their fans need to be reminded that neither of their two Cy Young pitchers (Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia) are still around Northeast Ohio.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have won only 37 percent of their games as a franchise since their inaugural season in 2000. Don't worry, Ohio fans "Carried the Flag" all the way out of the door in a opening round sweep by the Red Wings. Now the team finds themselves hemorrhaging money despite a rabid fan base and being ranked in the top 30 of professional franchises in terms of overall product by ESPN the Magazine.
The Brownies are 59-117 since their return to the league in 1999. Since that time there have been plenty of blackouts, beer bottle violence, and self-depreciating humor to last any fan base for decades. A 4-19 record against the Steelers doesn't help. The Bungles haven't had much more luck at it than the Browns, going 72-91 in the last decade. They do both have something in common though, their playoff runs have a nasty habit of being stopped by Pittsburgh.
Which leaves us with one team: The Cavs.
Since 2005 they have been a stellar 272-130. They have the NBA's two-time MVP in LeBron James and all of the Nike empire that comes along with it. The Cavaliers have placed a professional spotlight on the city of Cleveland and the state of Ohio that has been missing for quite sometime.
That's why the events of Thursday evening's games hurt so much.
Seeing the entire team stand casually on the court with a little over a minute left, accepting their fate, struck a blow to more than their personal egos. It was a shot to the entire state.
That hurt way more than a game six loss to the Magic. It definitely hurt a lot more than that four game sweep by the Spurs in 2007. In past seasons, the Cavs never surrendered despite their setbacks on the big stage.
That fit in with the Ohio mantra.
The state kept chugging along when the steel industry died. It kept going when the railroad industry died. Manufacturing outsourcing couldn't break Ohio's spirit.
But that ended last night. Like air being let out of a balloon. The Cavs gave up. LeBron gave up. There was no rage. No fighting against the inevitable. There was only resigned defeat.
That doesn't fit the Ohio mantra.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were the lone professional bright spot for a state that needed something, anything, to distract it from itself. And they were great in that role because no matter what, there really WAS next year. The Cavs were truly capable of winning the title in any given season. But not anymore.
It is 2:00 am as I type these words, I haven't written a true article in half a year. Nothing has seemed worthwhile to write about to me, save for this moment. I have no idea how the city of Cleveland or the state of Ohio will react when I wake up later to read the headlines.
When the Cavaliers quit on May 13th, they quit on more than their title hopes for the season, they quit on Ohio like every other professional organization that we love.
Perhaps it is wrong to project an entire state's happiness on a franchise, that is certainly an acceptable argument, but Ohio doesn't want to hear that. The lone positive entity in their sporting landscape has finally called it a day.
If there is one thing I recognized in last night's game it was this: it was a microcosm for Ohio. Yet another light at the end of the tunnel has turned out to be an oncoming train.
The Browns can't do it. The Reds can't do it. The Indians can't do it. The Bengals can't do it. The Jackets can't do it.
And the Cavs have seemingly tendered their resignation.
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