Cleveland, Ohio: long known as the mistake by the lake. A city haunted by The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, the '95 and '97 World Series fiascos, and losing the Browns to Baltimore, then having to watch as the players who had once been beloved Browns win a Super Bowl as the Ravens.
If you are a Cleveland sports fan or have spent any time in the city, then you know the stories all too well. You greet the arrival of a new season with skepticism no matter the sport. You have already got your excuses for all the reasons why your team was a disappointment ready from the first snap, jump-ball, or first pitch.
Optimism is not in your vocabulary.
That being the case, the 2008-2009 version of your Cleveland Cavaliers might just be the cure for what ails you. For the purposes of this editorial and all future articles written from now until June, I will refer to them as simply "Team Cleveland".
In a generation of "I" sports athletes, Team Cleveland has the good fortune to have the ultimate team leader in LeBron (aka "TheBraun") and an organization that has nurtured that team philosophy.
The two Dan's (Danny Ferry and team majority owner Dan Gilbert) have done the unthinkable—they have put together a team of talented, unselfish, good-natured guys that seem to genuinely like each other. Not only that, but coach Mike Brown is the leader of a team of coaches who are just as talented and unselfish as the players they are paid to coach.
The only thing that seems to be missing is the YouTube clip of everyone in the organization, from the owner down to the janitor, holding hands singing Kumbaya.
TheBraun is the catalyst, but he is by no means the only reason for Team Cleveland's fast start this season. Mo Wiliams came over in an off-season trade from Milwaukee and has fit into the offensive system, as Ace Ventura would put it, "like a glove."
Brotha Red Fro (Delonte West) has made a seamless transition back to his natural position of shooting guard. Why everyone is so surprised that he is playing so well there is a mystery to me. I seem to remember that he was the shooting guard along-side some guy named Jameer Nelson that led a once beaten St. Joe's team deep into the NCAA tourney just a few years ago.
Big Z, already armed with an 18-20 foot jumper, has expanded his range to include three-pointers. So now when TheBraun is down in the paint playing the four, he may have four teammates behind the arc giving him all the floor spacing he could ever wish for.
Ben Wallace's defensive pedigree and presence has elevated what was already a strength of the team, and has Team Cleveland at the top of the league in multiple defensive categories. Not the least of which being average margin of victory. Need proof? How about an NBA league record nine straight victories by 12 points or more?
Say what you will about the size of the guards starting for Team Cleveland, but that shortcoming is easily remedied by the ferocity that is evident in the defensive mentality that this team has adopted since game one in Boston.
The bench bunch of Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, Anderson Verajao, Sasha Pavlovic, and Wally Szczerbiak, along with up and coming rookies JJ Hickson, and Darnell Jackson are not only the loudest cheerleaders for Team Cleveland, but also their biggest source of support.
They give the team the luxury of allowing TheBraun to rest up. So if the need arises, he can do his usual superman routine in the fourth quarter.
And if the early season results are any indication of what is to come as this team grows and gels together over 82 games, the bench bunch won't be the only ones cheering. They will play a major role in the team securing a one or two seed in the playoffs come April.
The rooks might get enough burn to develop the trust of the coaching staff, which could only help when it is time for playoff basketball. And all of those excuses that you have stored away for what you believe to be the inevitable failure of another Cleveland sports team may well have to stay locked away.
At least until the Browns' training camp starts.