Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Since Cavs quit, fans will soon follow

The Browns won on Sunday, but the Cavs have stolen local conversation way from the Browns — maybe for the last time ever.

To say Cleveland sports fans tend to overreact to the ups and downs of their teams is obviously an understatement.

However, I think it is only a slight exaggeration that the Cavs’ humiliating loss on Thursday to the player who left and his new team could, one day, be pointed to as the beginning of the end of the franchise in Cleveland.

Sure it was only a regular season game, just one of 82 and all the significance was only in the hearts and minds of the Cleveland fanbase themselves.

We like to name our losses in this town, but this was something more. We understand losing what we don’t accept is quitting.

It is why fans took LePippen’s game five against Boston last season so personal. Many were ready to say just leave after that game, but having to watch LeBum rub our faces in leaving was too much.

Thursday’s laydown has been the subject of conversation ever since, particularly among people who barely watch sports. Sure there is anger and disgust, and as that fades it is going to be replaced by apathy.

The Cavs did not even need to win against Miami. If they would have played hard and fought the Heat until the final minutes and still come up short, the bandwagon would have swelled.

All of Northeast Ohio was prepared to fall in love on Thursday and instead fans left that game feeling betrayed.

We can understand an egomaniac mega-millionaire thumbing his nose at us and taking his talents elsewhere but how does our team — a group of players thrown under the bus by this punk superstar — roll over with smiles and hugs.

The business model this season for Dan Gilbert was risky enough. Most of the tickets for this season were sold before ‘The Decision’ was made.

Gilbert needed his team this season to play scrappy, earn one of the final playoff spots and hope that this town’s love of the underdog would lead to tickets sales for the 2010-2011 season.

That dream is over. Even if the Cavs would make the playoffs, which seems very unlikely, a large portion of the potential fan base won’t notice because they quit caring.

The Cavs are fortunate that there was a road trip scheduled following the debacle that was Thursday.

If there wasn’t, it seemed likely they would be booed out of the building by their own fans.

I don’t know if irony is the right word, but the only thing that could reduce some of the flames of hatred towards LeFraud was indifference and passivity of his former teammates. Maybe reduce isn’t the right word but at least some of that disgust was transferred.

The last few years outside the Lyin’ King the most popular Cavs among fans were Sideshow Bob and Boobie.

Fans ignored the shortcomings of Anderson Varejao because he played hard. He flopped and took charges. He fought for rebounds, but he exposed himself on Thursday.

I doubt he remains a fan favorite going forward.

His giant hug and playfulness with his former teammate instead of competing woke up a lot of fans to the new reality of the NBA. Players don’t care about winning. They care about their friends.

Well at least on the surface. Daniel Gibson learned a lesson of his own on Thursday. He thought LeJerk was his buddy but learned he was only a pawn.

One would have thought Gibson would have figured that out with how LePunk handled his last week in Cleveland playing pickup downtown while the whole time plotting to embarrass the city on national television.

Gibson tried damage control on Friday but if he wants to remain the most popular Cav, he better step up and show some fight. But frankly, it may be too late.

The Cavs were recently on a verge of a championship. Instead the Chosen One quit in the playoffs. He jumped ship in the off-season branding his teammates as losers.

Those teammates lived up to the moniker on Thursday. They kissed LeVillian’s butt and rolled over and quit without a fight.

Now the fans are going to quit on them.

Apathy is going to blanket the Cavs and soon it will be like the days of Ted Stepien all over again, except with loud music, an obnoxious announcer and various types of groups aiming to pump up the crowd.

So it will be a lot like the player who left, a lot of hype but utterly unsatisfying. However if the Cavs decide to leave town, there won’t be nearly as much anger.