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.