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Friday, February 17, 2012

LeBron and Cleveland? Let it go already!

LeBron James recently said that he 'couldn't predict the future,' and that maybe one day he would entertain playing for Cleveland again. The internet, doing what it does best, blew this statement way the hell out of proportion.

The dude was standing in Cleveland. He was surrounded by reporters, microphones, and a city that - by all media accounts - wants him to go to hell. What was he supposed to say? If I was cornered in hostile territory, being eyed suspisicially by people who want to burn my shirt, then hell yes I'm going to talk nice about them. Is he serious about it? Who knows, but in my mind it doesn't matter. It wouldn't happen for 10 years or so anyway, if it ever were to come to pass, so it's not worth even debating. I'm not a LeBron defender, but I'm not a hater, either. I just wish people would come to grips with this and let it go.

I'm from Akron, Ohio myself. That's where I'm writing this, actually, on the eve of the Cavs hosting the Heat at Quicken Loans Arena (the 'Q,' to us locals). Am I excited about the game? Yes, because I like watching basketball and I love my home team. Does it matter who they're playing? Not really. The only games I might not watch are games against teams that are playing worse then we are (hi, Charlotte!), if only because really sloppy play irritates me and if they happen to pull a no-show against a poorer team, I get really mad - and that happens regularly. The Cavs are a young, inexperienced team right now with little to no true leadership on the court. Kyrie Irving has neither the personality nor the pedigree to command respect on the court right now, and our few veterans (Antawn Jamison, Andy Varejao, Anthony Parker) also fail in that regard.

The reason I write this is because of the continued anger and confusion that the LeBron/Cleveland connection still leaves in the media, a year and a half or so since the split. Let me explain my take on the situation, from what I can see here in Akron. For everyone I know who follows the Cavs, LeBron is old news. He's not on the team anymore, and he's not some specter looming over the franchise. He's a member of the Heat now. My social circle, at least, has let that go. I’m not wishing anything ill on the man (my father actually thinks far less of Blake Griffin, for example) and he can continue his career down south in peace. One reason I think he left when he did was because young teams in the East were stacking up (Chicago, New York, Miami) to go with Boston and Orlando so there was no way he was pulling those Cavs into the Finals by himself. He may have colluded to join Wade and Bosh long before but I think this is seen as more of a big deal because it's in the public consciousness. How many other players in how many other sports may have done this more successfully? We'll never know.

The big reason we're still hearing about this is because the media won't let it go. It's lazy reporting, to just connect LeBron to Cleveland and make some obvious statistical connection, then point to The Decision as it's root. The big news networks (ESPN in particular) thinks that the public still cares. Newsflash: most people don't. I got sick of the Brett Favre retirement saga, I got sick of hearing about Barbaro, and I'm sick of people painting the LBJ/CLE parting as an ongoing issue. Some reporter will go into a bar in Cleveland, intentionally stir up a hornets nest and then say, “See? See?” with a condescending tone, pontificating on why the issue won’t die. Hey jackass, the issue won’t die because you won’t let it. Give it a rest already.

I'll admit that I was mad when he left. Was I mad at him, or the way he did it? No. I was mad because I knew the first and perhaps only true Cavalier star of my lifetime was going elsewhere and I was back to watching 30-40 win teams with the likes of Bob Sura, Lamond Murray, Dujan Wagner, and Ricky Davis as it's 'highlight makers.' Here's what it's like to be a Cleveland fan: you watch players on your team, think , "wow, they're pretty good! I think we've got a potential star here!' and then they leave and you watch them get buried or cut by the rest of the league because they weren't that good after all. Players like Sura, Brevin Knight and Derek Anderson, players who looked better to us then they probably should have because of our inherently low expectations. This goes for all of our teams, most notably the Indians. Players like Ben Broussard and Jason Michaels, who start for us but go nowhere after leaving town because they're simply average at best. It's depressing when you step back and look at it.

Long story short, the media is the only reason that the public still links LeBron to Cleveland. If he came back someday, that'd be interesting. He'd probably be a shell of his superstar self at that point and it would be a purely sentimental move, but he did allot for the team in his seven years. He made the team relevant. He made people care, and he gave us some of the best highlights in the city's sports history. I just wish that Big Media would allow us to part ways for good, or at least, until a certain unpredictable future arrives.