Making Peace With LeBron James: A Tortured Fan Reflects on Sports Misery Capital
I'm no different from most Cleveland fans.
I felt like I had been punched in the gut when LeBron James chose Miami. I have logged my hours playing down LeBron's accomplishments in Cleveland as well as speculating how it will all fall apart in Miami.
I was just about to hang a framed picture of LeBron in the Modell Wing of the Cleveland Sports Hall of Shame, when a startling realization hit me like it was James Harrison and I was a Browns quarterback.
How can anyone possibly blame him? This city is without question the most miserable sports city in the history of the world!
We have a "beloved" football team that is one more agonizing defeat away from locking up their seventh double-digit loss season in the last eight years. We have a baseball team that just lost more than 90 games in consecutive seasons and has spent the offseason telling anyone who will listen that the only way they will sign a free agent of substance is if he agrees to work pro bono.
Finally, the basketball team, which won a pathetic 17 games the season before James came to Cleveland and changed everything, looks like it may return to that very win total the season after he bolted for Florida.
Let me make a couple things clear. I do not blame the fans for any of this. Here's a quick story:
Recently I was in Tampa, Florida and decided to attend an NHL game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Atlanta Thrashers. For those who don't follow hockey, both teams are well above .500 and were actually playing for second place in the Southeast Division.
I was sitting among a modest gathering of a little more than 14,000 fans when I looked up a noticed the giant banner hanging from the St. Pete Times Forum rafters. It was to honor the 2004 Lightning team that won the Stanley Cup.
Keep in mind, prior to 1992 the city of Tampa claimed just one professional sports team, the NFL's Buccaneers, who were perennial losers since they began play in 1976. Now, Tampa has enjoyed a Super Bowl, a Stanley Cup and a World Series appearance from the Rays, who made it the year they celebrated the ten year anniversary of their existence!
Meanwhile, the last championship in Cleveland, a city with three pro teams since 1970, occured 12 years before Tampa even had the Bucs.
What I'm trying to say is, why in the world would LeBron stick around for this? I don't know if there is a curse or if I even believe in such things. But the enormous stack of evidence is undeniable. The city of Cleveland is not meant to succeed at professional sports. Our lot is the role of lovable loser, only with enough alcohol and frustration, our fans become markedly less lovable.
So yes, I no longer hate LeBron James. While I still don't feel he is a particularly great person. I believe he lacks loyalty, is out of touch with the fans who are ultimately responsible for his salary and is pretty much the epitome of the modern day filthy- rich, spoiled athlete.
But still, as different as our views may be, I suspect LeBron feels about the same as I do in regards to a victory parade going down Euclid Avenue. It isn't happening in our lifetime, if ever again.
LeBron is simply a product of his generation. People from previous generation possessed qualities like loyalty and integrity. Those kind of people defeated the Nazis in the second World War. This generation is different. To them, there is no sense in sticking around until the bitter end. Why stay in less than desirable conditions, when you can flee to where the grass is greener?
It is the people from LeBron's generation who say they are going to "Do Me." The most annoying phrase in the history of the English language is also indicative of the attitude of the modern athlete. Just as the current Cavaliers had little interest in defending the city they are paid so well to represent on December 2nd, superstars like LeBron will never stick around in a blue- collar northern city like Cleveland, when sunny and glamorous Miami is waiting with open arms.
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