Friday, July 09, 2010

James Flees, and Cleveland Takes Yet Another Hit

Lucy pulled the football away again. The nerd got rejected by the homecoming queen. The house wins again.

Good got shutout by evil. The check's not in the mail, after all. It's a week of Mondays.

Cleveland isn't a city, it's a syndrome. It's pocked. The whole town should be enclosed in a plastic bubble. It's so tainted, you need to be inoculated just to drive by it.

It's OK to wonder now: what did Cleveland do to the Big Guy upstairs?

Judas didn't even get it this bad.

Cleveland, where every headliner has closed after one night.

The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot.

Now, The Decision.

Even the locals can't wait to beat it out of town.

LeBron James, the biggest thing out of Akron since rubber, has bounced out of Ohio.

This was fait accompli. It's Cleveland, after all.

You've heard it all before, like the story of the Hindenburg or Michael Dukakis's presidential campaign.

You've heard the tale of Cleveland, where no sports championship has been won since 1964. Where even the city's athletes caution against the town.

"The best thing about playing in Cleveland," one former Indians player once said, "is not having to make road trips to...Cleveland."

The story right now is bookended nicely.

It began with another superstar's defection.

Jim Brown, aka The Greatest Running Back of All Time, led the Browns to the 1964 NFL Championship and retired a year later, fleeing to Hollywood to chase an acting career, despite opposing defenders still not having figured out how to stop him.

Now James, aka The Greatest Basketball Player Currently Who's Never Won Much of Anything, is hightailing it to South Beach, to play for the Miami Heat.

Poor Cleveland. The Land That Time Forgot.

Well, someone isn't going to take this lying down. Someone is trying to rally Clevelanders.

Revenge of the Nerds.


The words are those of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, in an open letter to fans. The all caps are his, too.

Gilbert then got downright sinister.

"The self-declared former 'King' will be taking the 'curse' with him down south," Gilbert wrote. "And until he does 'right' by Cleveland and Ohio, James [and the town where he plays] will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma."

Is this the NBA or the Old Country? Is Gilbert a team owner or a voodoo magician?

You know it's an ugly breakup when the jilted owner says, in essence, "You'll get yours."

Only in Cleveland---a city that doesn't have fans, it has outpatients.

The town's sports teams since the Browns' title in 1964 have taken turns at messing with the minds of their faithful.

The Browns, Indians and Cavaliers have won divisions, some playoff games and playoff series. They've drizzled water onto the parched tongues of their fan base, then kicked the canteen over and spilled it all onto the desert ground.

Now James has fled, and even though there was no guarantee that the Cavs would have won a championship had LeBron stayed, it's pretty damn certain that they won't without him.

Look at what happened to the Chicago Bulls after Michael Jordan left.

But at least the Bulls won championships. The Cavs got good at winning 60+ games and then taking pratfalls in the playoffs.

According to the jilted owner Gilbert, you can look cross-eyed at one guy and one guy only if you're searching for reasons for the post-season flameouts.

"He quit," Gilbert said of James and his performance in the 2010 Conference Semi-Finals series against Boston. "Not just in Game 5, but in Games 2, 4 and 6. Watch the tape. The Boston series was unlike anything in the history of sports for a superstar."

Relax, Danny Boy. LeBron James is the Miami Heat's headache now. He's going to a team with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and two other players under contract. And only one basketball to play with.

The Heat has to fill its roster, and after coughing up the dough for its three superstars, don't be surprised if you find a voice mail from Pat Riley, asking if you can give him 8-10 minutes a night.

Cleveland lost Jim Brown when he still had some football left in him. They now have lost James, the local kid, at age 25. In between they've lost fumbles, World Series leads, NBA Finals series, Joe Carter, the Barons, ALCS series leads, the Browns, and sleep.

What did Cleveland do to deserve all this?

It's the only sports town in America that ought to hold a telethon, complete with slow montages of its poor, pathetic fans, with morose music playing in the background.

Won't you please give?

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