Six Points: If LeBron James is LeGone, Expect a Sonic Boom!

Christopher MaherCorrespondent IMay 17, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 13:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands by in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 94-85.  NOTE TO USER: User Expressly Acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The fat lady serenaded Greater Cleveland once again, and it hurt more than ever.

We’re pissed.

They quit.

In the litany of Cleveland collapses ESPN rubs our noses in every day through their multiple cable outlets, this one hurts more than all the other ones in my lifetime combined.

LeBron quit. The whole team quit.

And that’s not us.

1. Yes, we’re pissed off. We’re REALLY pissed off!

Never mind Willie Mays and The Catch of Vic Wertz’s line drive in 1954. Way before Six Points was ever thought of.

Let’s at least go back to the last championship to grace the south shore of Lake Erie, in 1964.

The Upset

Every bookmaker and their family had the Baltimore Colts rolling the Browns, but thanks to rabid Cleveland fans having the numbers to the Colts’ hotel rooms keeping them awake all night and 79,544 deafening fans in Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the underdog Browns laid a 27-0 whitewash on the favored Colts in the 1964 Championship Game.

We can still take pride in this one, even though most of us weren’t even thought of at the time.

Now, the litany of disappointment:

Browns return to NFL Championship, lose at Green Bay, 24-12. We lost to a better team. It happens.

Baltimore 34, Cleveland 0, NFL Championship. Lose to a batter team, it happens.

1969: Minnesota 27, Cleveland 7. See previous year.

1972: Miami 20, Cleveland 14. Or whatever the score was. No way a team with Mike Phipps at QB had any business giving the 17-0 Fins the biggest challenge they had all year. No quit in that team.

1975-76: Miracle of Richfield. Plucky Cavaliers team, only six years into their existence, loses to Boston after an injury to a star player. Things happen.

Red Right 88. A generation later, this call is still debated, but I would have called it the same way, given that kicker Don Cockroft was inaccurate and nursing an injury, and at around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, kicking the football was like kicking a cinder block. Stuff happens.

1985-86: Miami 24, Browns 21, Orange Bowl, first round of the playoffs. A scrappy 8-8 Cleveland team gave the Dolphins all they could handle, but if they kept running the ball down the Fins’ throats as they did in the first half, things may have been different. I was there.

1986-87: The Drive. Enough said. I was also there, and showing the class we have, after it was all done, more than 80,000 Browns fans in Municipal Stadium gave the team a standing ovation after a loss. That made me more proud to be a Greater Clevelander than ever.

1987-98: The Fumble. An overrated disappointment. John Elway’s Broncos had the game under control most of the time, and even if Byner had scored, it still would have left Elway a minute or more left to tie it. Greatest Disappointment? Modell playing politics and panicking, shipping Byner out of town to the Redskins for Oliphant.

I forget Oliphant’s first name, but at least if he was named Pat Oliphant, Cleveland would have been blessed with one of the greatest editorial cartoonists of all time.

1988, or whenever it was: The Shot. Michael Jordan’s shot over Craig Ehlo at the Coliseum in Richfield, the play that began Jordan’s career at a long-suffering city’s expense.
See? 1988, or whenever it was?

That puts the Cavaliers in the proper place in the Cleveland sports hierarchy. It may have been 1989. Most of us don’t bother to look it up.

AFC Championship. Denver 37, Cleveland 21. The Browns were running on fumes by that time, as the following 3-13 season would prove.

1995: Tribe’s first World Series since General Motors invented tail fins. Good pitching beats good hitting, Atlanta proved it, and stuff happens.

1995: The Move. The ultimate heartbreaker. Cleveland is a football town. So is Akron. That’s our heritage. Please respect it, Mr. James, but more regarding that will be saved for another article.

1997: Game Seven in Miami. Things like this happen once in a while.

2006-07: The Sweep. No problem for us, as we got beaten by a better team, and there were nothing but green lights and blue skies ahead, or so it seemed at the time. What happened?

The Quit. Going back more than a generation, none of the aforementioned teams just freaking quit. Freak things happened, they were vanquished by their betters, but NONE of them quit.

That’s not us. We’re not quitters. We stick through things, bust our asses to make things work, and if we can’t, there’s always unemployment compensation. And if we’re on unemployment compensation, we get up and do our damnedest to get off of it as soon as possible.

That’s our world, Mr. James. Is it yours?

2. Who Are We?

We’re starved for a championship, and we’ll pack the house for any team that can potentially get us a ring.

In the 1980s, Greater Cleveland (and that includes Akron) filled the Coliseum in Richfield for a freaking indoor soccer team called the Cleveland Force, of all things!

While a championship team in soccer (see an MLS team here, anyone?) was something we did not care about, we wanted the damned ring.

Mr. James, we thought you wanted one, too.

But you quit, and we don’t.

3. NFL is No. 1 here. NBA will always be third.

The last true superstars we had in this region in terms of our economy and government were John D. Rockefeller, Harvey Firestone, and Tom L. Johnson.

Okay, add John Seiberling and Cyrus Eaton to the pantheon.

What we have looked for since then have been lesser leaders, like Paul Brown.

Brown went from the head coaching position at Ohio State to coaching the Great Lakes Naval Academy to being the head coach of a team that bears his name.

That team achieved its dynasty status long before either one of us was conceived.

Every Sunday, 73,200 people fill a stadium designed by C students at the Walmart College of Architecture to follow that team, which has been mostly abysmal since its reincarnation of 1999.

We want it BAD!

Do you, Mr. James?

Yes, as far as the Indians are concerned, the trotters at Northfield Park often outdrew the Tribe during the ownership of Vernon Stouffer in the early 1970s.

Nonetheless, Tribe fans filled Cleveland Municipal Stadium to its baseball capacity of around 74,000 to ring in every season of hoping beyond hope.

In the 1990s, when you were in your adolescence, Mr. James, Indians fans set a then-record of 455 consecutive sellouts.

We want it BAD, and we hope you also want it and we hope you want it HERE.

Basketball? Even in the Browns’ worst times in the 1970s, they still drew at least 50,000 fans to the 1931-built Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

In the abyss of the Ted Stepien era at the Coliseum, the Cavaliers averaged about 3,900 attendance in a 20,273-seat arena.

Mr. James, you may be an international superstar, but in Greater Cleveland and Akron itself, your sport will always be a distant second to football, and probably third behind baseball.

Before you started hanging out with Jay-Z, remember the crowds that watched you play football as a sophomore at St. Vincent-St. Mary, I understand you were a very good wide receiver, and as great as you were on the hardwood, your football crowds were larger.

That’s who we are.

If you want to stay here, live with that. And if you don’t flat-out quit, we want you to stay.

4. It’s the economy, stupid!

President William Jefferson Clinton’s advisers used that as their campaign mantra in 1992, and it worked well.

Personally, I watch the NBA and give it slightly more credibility than I afford the WWE, but it’s the economy, stupid.

Far be it from Six Points to be a fashion critic, but “Sir, you’re over 50, short, and Caucasian. I don’t think that LeBron James jersey works for you.”

Sir, God bless you. That LBJ jersey works for Greater Cleveland, anyway.

Since LeBron James signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, every home game has been a sellout, with 20,562 fans packing Quicken Loans Arena nightly.

If every Cavaliers fan who shows up in person spends $100 each, including the ticket price, that means over $84.3 million is pumped into downtown Cleveland in any season not inclusive of playoff games, and Six Points ’ estimate is designed to be conservative, to say the least.

Your 8-year-old will not drop the big bucks, but on top of his $50 ticket, he’ll spend money on peanuts, pennants, and Pepsi, and come close to that C-note.

Now, take the 28-year-old who take his wife or girlfriend out for sushi before the game, buys tickets far more expensive than $50 each, pays $20 or more to park, and goes out for microbrews before the postgame traffic clears, and Six Points ’ guesstimate of $100 spending per ticketholder is skewed far higher.

Further, if in Greater Cleveland alone (forget the international audience on ESPN and TNT) 100,000 more people watch the games at restaurants, sports bars or at private homes, they should be good for at lest $25 per game.

Sure, some will sit home and drink coffee on occasion while watching the Cavaliers, but other times they will go out, buy the wings, pizza, and microbrews, tip their servers, and a $25 per head figure is also conservative.

The bottom line is that, no matter how much Six Points has ample reason to disrespect professional basketball, Six Points cannot disrespect over $200 million per season flowing into a region’s coffers that desperately need replenishing.

5. Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

And, face the strain.

In Greater Cleveland, we’ve been facing the strain since the inception of the Cavaliers franchise, and for longer than that.

When the Cavaliers were founded in 1970, the city of Cleveland had a population of slightly under 751,000. When the receipts come in from the 2010 Census, we’ll probably come in at half of that if we’re lucky.

Akron’s population has been halved since 1960.

Yes, that’s you, Mr. James.

When the Cavaliers were founded, Greater Cleveland (including Akron) was a top 10 market in terms of population in the United States. Now, we rank 19th.

When the Cavaliers were founded, some Cleveland public schools outperformed many of their suburban counterparts.

Just to inform others while not rubbing our own noses in the fact, Cleveland’s public schools, once among America’s best city districts, are now are among the worst in the United States. Yes, and the sun came up in the east this morning.

Since the Cavaliers were founded, Greater Cleveland has probably lost more Fortune 500 companies than it harbors today.

Every day, we face the strain.

But every night, we stand up, rise up, do the “all for one” thing whether we can afford to or not and pack the Q. Whether we can afford to or not.

Mr. James claims undying loyalty to Akron.

Others clain their own allegiance to Cleveland.

Six Points is Switzerland in this matter.

It’s time to realize that if the Cavaliers drop back down into Fratello-era mediocrity, much less Stepien-era Suck Zone, that we’ll have to wake up the Rottweiler and load the shotgun, as we have a franchise thief waiting.

And franchise thief will serve us our morning coffee as we read about the NBA leaving town.

Yes, we’re talking Seattle. Starbucks! Yum!

Remember a franchise called the Seattle SuperSonics?

Well, Seattle lost that franchise, and they were almost as pissed off as we were about losing the Browns. And, Seattle has a deal to bring the franchise back that is almost as good as the deal Cleveland got to exhume the Browns.

It might be even better. It does not involve C students from the Walmart College of Architecture designing their new arena.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, as president of the Seattle Basketball Club, sold the team to Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, who promised to keep the team in Seattle.

Bennett then reneged on the promise over issues concerning the 1967-built Key Areana, moving the team to Oklahoma City for the 2008-09 season.

This brought a groundswell of protest in the Pacific Northwest in the form of an ad hoc organization titled SOS (Save Our Sonics), and Bennett agreed to leave the city of Seattle its team name, its colors, and its history.

Bennett also agreed to pay $30 million to the city of Seattle if a new SuperSonics franchise was not established by the 2013-14 season.

And, without further ado, that leads Six Points to...

6. Dan Gilbert as businessman

We love Dan Gilbert, don’t we? Of course we do! He changed all the ugly blue seats in his newly-named Quicken Loans Arena from blue to wine as he reinstated the “new expression of wine and gold colors,” he laid out megabucks to re-sign LeBron, signed 98-year-old Shaq (oops), but overall, the best overall owner in Cleveland, right?

Maybe, not so much.

While there’s no questioning the aggression Gilbert has exhibited in the pursuit of a championship, Six Points has to raise some questions.

Dan Gilbert, who made his fortune from Quicken Loans, has already put off construction of his casino for at least one year.

Ohio voters have been traditionally been loath to approve gaming in the state, and now, the man gets what he wants and puts it off?

Quicken Loans has made much of its profits from subprime mortgages.

If Mr. Gilbert can pull off a successful credit default swap on an NBA franchise that will immediately lose an estimated $100 million in value if LeBron James walks out the door, Six Points will be impressed!

Maybe, he'll sell it off to Iceland.

Sorry, Mr. Gilbert, the check’s in the mail.

Seriously, you are Dan Gilbert. Or anyone else who owns a basketball team in a post-industrial football town.

Forget about the basketball thing. You have a high-end entertainment business.

By high-end, I mean the tickets are pricey, there’s a limited market that can afford them, and you, as an astute businessman, can read the writing on the wall.

Where would you rather operate that business if it lost almost 25 percent of its value?

Okay, yeah, it’s rough out there, and Six Points is writing for his fellow Greater Clevelanders, above all else.

But, we have to “keep it real,” as any businessperson would.

If you bought a split-level ranch in an outer-ring burb of Cleveland for $220,000, and its value dropped to $185,000, you might hang in there for the time being. But what would happen if the neighborhood went to hell?

You’d do the same thing Six Points will not blame Dan Gilbert for doing. Move.

Where would you rather put that upscale entertainment business? In a city where one of 10 homes are vacant, or in a city that is the home of Starbucks, Nordstrom, Boeing, and Microsoft?

Mr. Gilbert, I am sure, is a much smarter man than Six Points . Not only is the writing on the wall, it’s bigger than the “Witness” billboard.

Extra Point: I’m also an Akronite.

Yes, I was born there. Until the second half of kindergarten, I lived there.

Still, always an Akronite at heart, like Mr. James.

Six Points ’ old neighborhood was way cool. West Akron, solid middle class, big houses on postage-stamp lots. Not far from where Chrissie Hynde grew up years before, actually.

Mr. James, you take pride in Akron, as you should. The way things look, I won’t get to join you on your annual charity bike ride through Highland Square, and I may always regret that.

Six Points remembers an Akron where if you lived on the east side of the city, the stench from the rubber plants would choke you, so I thank good fortune to this very day my early childhood was spent on the west side.

Yes, I’m old enough to be your father, or maybe by contemporary Akron standards, too old.

Be glad I wasn’t. You would be too short, too slow, and half-white, and asking me if I wanted fries with my order. If you were lucky.

At the age you were attending Portage Path Elementary in West Akron watching Michael Jordan and the Dallas Cowboys, I was attending Rushwood Elementary in Northfield, watching the Miracle of Richfield.

The Cavaliers never made it all the way then, and we’ve had more lean years than good, but as a community called Northeast Ohio, we all pulled together, as we do for all of our teams.

I hope you stay here. I’ve always rooted for any and all Akron athletes, back to the days of Nate Thurmond on the original “Miracle” team, and Michael “Dynamite” Dokes, the Akron boxer.

Now that we have this bond, Mr. James, please NEVER quit again.

And if you plan to quit again, please leave.


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