When will it stop? Seriously, people… when will you have had enough? I have touched on it here, and gave some input here. Get over it, and stop talking about it. This morning while waiting for a meeting to start, two people behind me started jabbering about the Chicago Bulls. I did not mind this. I like the Bulls and I like their team. But then their conversation quickly turned to the Heat.
Oh boy. I know where this is going.
To their defense, these two guys did not sound like super involved/educated sports fans and neither, from what I gathered, was from Cleveland. But the convo went like the majority of Heat conversations go and I was forced to sit and listen to these bumpkins talk about how shady LeBron is. Gag me.
“I don’t like the Heat because of what LeBron did,” says the first guy.
“I don’t either and the Bulls are fighting for the little guys,” chimes in the second.
(Squeezing my sinuses non-stop, like I’m Mitch Kramer in Dazed and Confused. I sit there in disgust thinking to myself) You dipwads realize LeBron left Cleveland for a better team, better teammates, and a better financial situation… ALMOST A YEAR AGO! How is this still a talking point??!! In all likihood, if Florida had an income tax, LeBron would be in Bulls uniform right now and still playing with Wade and Bosh. Plus, I freaking GUARANTEE that you both rooted for the Celtics in 2007. Guaranteed.
First guy, “Totally agree.”
You two geniuses also realize that this team fighting for the “little guys” has the League MVP on it’s team, had the best regular season record, and is the Eastern Conference 1-seed? You get that, right? But I will agree, that in this series, the Bulls are the underdog. But don’t act like this is some sort of Cinderella Conference Finals appearance. The 1-seed is supposed to get to the Conference Finals, right?
At this point, I am so over eaves dropping on these dopes, I take my iPad out and start playing ‘Death Racer’. (Yes, it is worth the $1 dollar if you are wondering). However, the conversation had by these two reminded me of a three-way debate I recently entered with a solid sports fan—from Cleveland—over the Heat and LeBron. Although he did not like the way LeBron left, he is past the “how he left” (and he said he speaks for most die-hard Clevelanders in this regard) his main points were:
• He does not like LeBron because he is not inspiring
• He did not like that LeBron took the “I’m gonna do me” route
• Miami Fans are not even close to what Cleveland fans are
• Any ring he wins in Miami will be meaningless
The whole “I’m gonna do me” route has been defended here at HITS; the links are at the top of this column. I would like to focus on two of the other statements as well as lightly touch on the “inspiring” comment.
“ANY RING HE WINS IN MIAMI WILL BE MEANINGLESS”
I wish we would have had this debate via correspondence, because then I would have been able to use brackets (I love using brackets [more so than parenthesis] in writing) and could have written his point like this:
“Any ring he wins in Miami will be meaningless [to Cavalier’s fans].” Or like this; “Any ring he wins in Miami will be meaningless [to me].”
But I cannot write it like that because, not only was this debate in person, but this particular Cavs fan seriously meant that a LeBron ring in Miami would be meaningless. Period.
Like it or not LeBron’s first NBA ring will mean something. OK? Just because Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller say it will mean less than if he got one in Cleveland, does not make it true. How would they know? They never won a ring. Pretty damn sure it will mean a lot to LeBron James. So will the second one. And the third. And the fourth. And the fifth. It will mean something to Miami basketball fans. It will mean something to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. And Mike Bibby. I could go on but I will finish by adding that it will mean something to Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
***Inspiration side note (This is where the “inspiring” statement arose. I suppose, ‘To each, their own’ when it comes to what one finds inspiring.) Long story short, Cleveland is okay with Ilgauskas in Miami because he squandered his prime in Ohio. Once you are no longer good in Cleveland you can leave. This is a confusing point he made when I asked him why it was OK for Kevin Garnett to leave Minny to play ball with Pierce and Allen. His response was that Kevin Garnett spent 10+ years in Minnesota—AKA his prime—before he went to get his ring. He tried longer than LeBron did basically. From what I gathered, you can only “stab” or “betray” a team if you are good and in the meat of your prime. Only after this prime period has left you may one receive the fans blessing to get a ring elsewhere. Pretty much: NBA fans own players like slaves. Or at least this is the thinking in Cleveland…***
The problem I have with calling the ring generally “meaningless”, is it sounds too much like you cannot see past the end of your nose. Any credibility going in to the debate, quickly dwindles the further down the road we go with statements like that. The only people you have a shot at convincing, with a “ring becomes meaningless” comment, are either other Cavaliers fans or just stupid people who have no problem being told what to think. Show that you are willing to remove yourself from your fanship, at least in thinking. IF you will not make statements such those, ultimately, you will find people will be less likely to disagree with you. Every single New York Yankees World Championship, every single Los Angeles Lakers NBA Title, and every Pittsburgh Steelers Vince Lombardi Trophy is meaningless—but it is because I am a Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Dallas Cowboy and Sacramento Kings fan. Of course they are meaningless… TO ME. But not in general. Come on, let us be grown up for a bit. Nobody is saying you cannot be bitter, but do not try and tell me that sour taste in your mouth is shared by everyone, because you lump me in to that category when you say that and I disagree.
Bottom Line: LeBron winning a ring, whether it be in Miami, Chicago, Washington, Seattle, LA, Houston, Cleveland, or wherever… is equally the same. I do not pretend that Boston’s 2004 and 2007 World Championships mean more than when other teams won theirs, because that simply is untrue. Winning is winning.
"MIAMI FANS ARE NOT EVEN CLOSE TO WHAT CLEVELAND FANS ARE"
For the large part; this is true. Cleveland fans did turn (key word) out more this NBA season, than Miami fans did. Keep in mind though, after the announcement that LeBron and Bosh were taking themselves to the place where—as the artist formally known as The Fresh Prince put it—
Water so clear you can see to the bottom//
100,000 dollar cars, everybody got 'em//
They sold out their entire season in 10 hours. It makes sense. With no records to compare and contrast with, the Miami Heat now had the best roster in the league; and arguably were the foreseeable best team in the NBA.
Anyways, in the debate, on this particular point of how solid Cleveland fans were—over Miami fans—I agreed. I continued to think this… until I did not. Hear me out.
On Monday, the Boston Red Sox made their trip down to Progressive Field for the first of three game series against the Cleveland Indians. For those of you that do not follow baseball at all, the Tribe currently carry the best record in baseball. Coming in to the series the Indians record overall was 29-15, and they were a stout 18-4 at home, another best in baseball.
In game one of the series, Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz, took the Sox in to the 8th inning with a 2-1 lead. The lead was blown by relief pitcher Daniel Bard, and the Cleveland Indians ended winning the game in thrilling fashion, 3-2. I did not get to watch the game live and watched the replay of the game from the 8th inning on. Nothing out of the ordinary stuck out. With game two, I was again unable to watch live and happily the highlights showed Boston winning 4-2. The very next day, the third and final game of the series was a matchup I was able to watch.
What makes this game kinky in juxtaposition to the first two games, besides watching it live, is the LeBron debate was renewed in my minds eye from my early mornings idiot encounter. All of the points made in debate were again fresh in my consciousness and I found myself looking at the seats behind home plate instead of the battle going on between pitcher and batter. On pop flies and foul balls, in lieu of watching can-of-corn outs, my focus fell on the crowd. Shots of the players in the dugout were overlooked as my gaze fell on these proud Cleveland fans. Only, there was one problem.
Where were they?
I thought Cleveland fans were the cat’s pajamas. Where were these “great” and “well above average” fans, whose baseball team—totally and completely uncharacteristic of itself—are found playing better than any other team in the Majors. Beyond that fact, you have a Tribe team, playing against a ballclub known for traveling well. The Boston Red Sox always boost the home clubs attendance. I did not get it; no one was at the park. I thought to myself, “What gives?” Are these not the fans responsible for 455 straight sell-out games over the span of five and half years? Should not the best team in The Show, sell out their games whether it is day or night? I checked the box score attendance for each game. Not what any would want it to be.
Game one: 19,225 fans.
Game two: 23,752.
And game three had the most with 26,408 people in the park.
That is an average of 23,128 fans. Progressive Field seats 43,345 people. Where are you Cleveland? As a Cleveland sports fan, how can you point your finger at the Miami Heat for not showing up during the NBA regular season when your fans are currently doing the same thing with its very own baseball team? What is even more peculiar about your lacking presence at Progressive Field, is it does not fit your fan track record. Like the majority of most sports bases, teams that play well get more people in the seats. The great fan bases show up regardless. After some consideration I just have to say sorry Cleveland. I cannot, in my honest evaluation, lump you in to the great fans bases. Maybe the Browns might get a free pass here, but I would have to look in to a bit closer. In regards to basketball however—sorry, I simply cannot do it after doing a bit of homework.
THE FIVE SEASONS PRIOR TO LEBRONS ARRIVAL
SEASON // TOTAL ATTENDANCE // AVERAGE PER GAME
1998-99 // 352,992 // 8,610
1999-00 // 603,702 // 14,724
2000-01 // 650,775 // 15,873
2001-02 // 596,115 // 14,539
2002-03 // 471,374 // 11,497
THE FIVE SEASONS AFTER LEBRONS ARRIVAL
SEASON // TOTAL ATTENDANCE // AVERAGE PER GAME
2003-04 // 749,808 // 18,288
2004-05 // 784,249 // 19,128
2005-06 // 792,391 // 19,327
2006-07 // 837,883 // 20,436
2007-08 // 839,074 // 20,465
LeBron James did not walk in to this great tradition that is Cleveland basketball. The Cleveland fan tradition is a byproduct of LeBron James. Say thank you Cleveland. You owe it to the King.
Bottom line: Taking your attendance numbers before and after James strolled in to Quicken Loans Arena, and what is currently going on with your baseball team—Cleveland fans are no different than Miami fans. Perhaps a bit better, but nowhere close to being leaps and bounds better.
The wheels are greased for the Heat to face the Dallas Mavericks for a 2006 NBA Finals rematch. This is the story that should be talked about and less of the same crap that has been recycled over and over for the past year. With Mark Cuban plotting about this in his secret lair for the last five years, this time around, I suspect the Mavericks will not repeat the same mistake they made in ’06 if they happen to get up 2-0 games to none on Miami. I thought it would be the Thunder and Heat, with Miami clinching in six, but with Dirk Nowitzki driving the coaches loco during the NBA playoffs… this series will go seven. It has to. The sports storybooks will not allow anything else.
Final thought: Causal fans that call the Chicago Bulls the ‘little guys’ are something that I need to get past. It appears that you are, at the very least, trying to be informed and making an attempt to form your sports opinions. We all have to start somewhere. There is no perfect science to any of it. Sports are the most objective thing ever. I thank you two anonymous geeks for your annoyance this past morning. I got a column out of it. And lastly: Get over yourself Cleveland. No one likes a sore loser. Save your tears for your pillow at night. If wasting your gifts on team that cannot help you anymore than it already has is something that you find inspiring, then so be it. I am inspired by people who are smart; and I mean that in general and with money. People know how to protect what is theirs (some may call it “I’m gonna do me” route) and most importantly—people put themselves in situations to accomplish their goals. Another way of saying it, is I am inspired by people who recognize their reality and remove themselves from situations that keep them from their goals. That is you Cleveland. You were the bad situation and that is why LeBron left. That is just who you are. Accept it. Did he do in the best way? No. But that does not change the fact y’all needed to break up regardless. Cleveland, you have more important things to do than root against LeBron and the Heat. I would be more focused on your two lottery picks. To cockily say, “I will debate LeBron’s departure as the wrong choice all day, and win” is the foolish attitude that will always keep you from what you want most. A championship.