Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cleveland fans can forgive almost everything

Published: Thursday, May 13, 2010


As Clevelanders, it is what we do.

If someone makes an internet video making fun of us, it is a call to arms.

If an out of town magazine declares us the worst city in which to live, the blood boils and proclamations proving otherwise become a civic duty.

When a local sports team fails, everything goes to an even higher level.

After a Game 2 blowout at home, the worst was feared. The series was doomed. Cavaliers would surely lose to the Celtics. When the reverse happened in Game 3, travel plans to Orlando were already being made.

After the debacle of Game 5, something different happened. There was tonal shift. Many fans, not all but a sizable group, declared if that is how LeBron is going to play, then New York can have him.

That statement gives the Big Apple a Cheshire grin a mile wide. For an outsider, the belief that some of Lebron’s hometown fans would turn on him so quickly, must be shocking. I can see how it would look from a distance, but I understand it.

It doesn’t take much to be a hero in Cleveland.

The 1976 Cavaliers are beloved. They declared a ‘Miracle’ and only won a first-round series against the Washington Bullets and then played the eventual World Champion Boston Celtics close.

The Kardiac Kids of 1980 are still bought free drinks in this town and they didn’t even win a playoff game.

Bernie Kosar has achieved sainthood and he lost all three AFC championship games he played in.

Those mighty Indians teams of the mid ‘90s haunt the current team like a cherished first wife who passed away too early. Sandy Alomar, Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton are still loved in this town because the organization asked them to leave rather have them sign for big money elsewhere.

LeBron James has been the best basketball player in the world for most of his time here in Cleveland. His ping-pong ball saved the franchise. His play brought millions to downtown Cleveland. He has entertained and thrilled us in ways many of us never thought were possible. Kids in New York and Chicago now wear Cavaliers jerseys.

And yet at the end of Game 5, many of us declared don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

We have lost a lot of games in Cleveland, a lot of games. We can deal with losing.

Big games on the big stage, we have lost our share of those as well. We make up names for them.

But for all of those losses, I never thought my team would quit.

And that Cavs team quit on Tuesday night.

Play hard, give it your all and if you come up short — we will forgive you. We are from Cleveland we understand.

But for two years, the Cavs have had the best record in basketball. LeBron has been given enough talent to win. He has said over and over that he is a no excuses player. So what was that?

LeBron played like a guy who didn’t want to be there. His team folded. And fans reacted by saying ‘then go’.

I know some in this town have never liked LeBron because they assumed one day he would leave. Seemed like a dumb move to me. Here we have a special talent from right in our own backyard. Support him and hope he could bring home a championship.

LeBron is still wearing a Cavaliers jersey for at least one more game. The series isn’t over. It is hard to fathom the Cavs winning the next two games based on what we saw Tuesday night, but last year the Magic were down 3-2 to the Celtics and came back. And both the Lakers and Celtics won seven-games series in the first round in their recent championship runs.

LeBron is supposed to be the ‘Chosen One’. For he who is given much, then much is expected.

Game 5 is something I never imagined possible. If LeBron goes out with a whimper then as the Beatles said ‘Let it be’.

But if LeBron is who he believes he is, the next two games have to be his masterpiece.

Fight until the end and this town will forgive anything. But walk away without finishing the fight, an enemy forever.

LeBron's legacy on the line in must-win situation

Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The boos were loud.

And why not?

This is not what the fans signed up for.

No one can win a title by himself. In 2007, LeBron James willed this team past the Pistons and into the NBA finals. The Cavs were no match for the Spurs and easily swept away.

Spanning the last three years, the roster has been rebuilt.

You can’t win a championship with Larry Hughes, Damon Jones, Sasha Pavlovic, Eric Snow and Ira Newble.

Using owner Dan Gilbert home loan money, Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry brought in a roster worthy of the King.

Mo Williams. Shaq. Antwan Jamison. All obtained for almost nothing.

With 2007 main cogs, Z and Boobie relegated to mostly the bench, effective role players like Delonte West, Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker were brought in to fill gaps.

The last two seasons, the Cavs had the best record in basketball and for the second straight year something is seriously wrong.

Maybe last you tipped your cap to the Magic. Maybe you could say there were the better team. The matchup was against the Cavs. A perfect storm did them in.

The Celtics are not a better team than the Cavs. They might be former champions, but they only reason they had a chance to win this series was if the Cavs let them in.

Game 2 was embarrassing. How could the Cavs not come to play? In Game 4, the Cavs had a chance to step on the Celtics’ neck and they let Boston off the ground.

But last night?

What was that?

Is LeBron hurt? Maybe so, but even that can’t explain what happened.

Is there so much pressure on LeBron’s teammates that they simply choked?

The King took only four shots in the first half. He missed them all.

At the half, you hoped that LeBron would put on a cape and save his teammates as he has done before. Instead, it seemed like he shrieked from the moment. And his teammates depending on him froze and disappeared.

By the time LeBron made a shot, the game was over. Not even Teen Wolf could have saved the Cavs at that point.

This is the type of loss that destroys fans. All of our worst fears were laid out early and we had to watch them come true during a painful second half.

There is a lot of blame to spread for this loss.

For Mike Brown to play Z and Gibson in the fourth quarter to me smelled of panic. Refusing to go small with J.J. Hickson, Andy Varejao seems weird to me.

A lot of LeBron’s teammates disappeared.

But like it or not the majority has to go on LeBron’s shoulders. In the first half, it did not take long for national websites to ask if this was LeBron’s last home game in Cleveland.

Texts came from friends asking if LeBron had already left and signed with New York.

If indeed this was LeBron’s final home game and there is little evidence that this team has the heart to win a elimination game in Boston — sadly it will erase all the good memories he has brought to this town.

This game will forever leave a bad taste.

Someone told me this loss will turn the fans on LeBron and he will use that as an excuse to leave.

If that’s true. It will show his true character. It will expose him as a fraud king.

I would like to hope he is something else. I would like to believe LeBron can win a Game 6 in Boston and move the team onto the next round. And even if the team falls short, he would remain in Cleveland with unfinished business.

Because if he leaves he can never be his hero Michael Jordan.

Everyone has always said that LeBron makes his teammates better. Not so much in this series.

LeBron was given enough to beat the Celtics. He failed miserably in Game 5.

Can he inspire his teammates to win in city where the Cavs are 2-12 in the playoffs? Could he erase all momentum and pull out two games to continue a quest for the title this town has waited so long for?

If he wants to be the King, he has no choice.