April 21, 2014

LeBron Brings Talents Back to Cleveland, and With Them, a Chance at Closure

The circus is coming to town. When the schedule was announced, December 2nd sounded like a long time to wait, but the “Return of the King” is now just one day away. With his return, there is a swirling of emotion and anticipation not just in Cleveland, but even nationally. Across the country pundits are peering in with morbid curiosity just to see what might happen. Will Cleveland embarrass itself? Will Cleveland prove to be a scapegoat for LeBron’s defection? Will we boo? Will we laugh? Will we chant? What’s going to happen?

Of course, nobody really knows for sure what will happen, but there’s an insulting undertow to this national storyline that has taken hold. There’s this bizarre belief that somehow this upcoming basketball game is a referendum on the city of Cleveland itself. As if the actions of the vocal minority or a crazy individual should speak for a region as a whole.

There’s no question that Cleveland has a massive inferiority complex. And why shouldn’t we? For 7 years we had to listen to TV and Radio analysts poke fun at the city and tell us how we weren’t good enough for LeBron. For 7 years virtually every NBA writer spent untold hours writing, tweeting, and podcasting about LeBron’s future which had to exist anywhere but in Cleveland because, well, why would anyone choose to live in Cleveland freaking Ohio?

And we defended LeBron against it all. We had to, sure, but we bought into it with all of our precious little souls. There was no way LeBron was going to destroy his hometown (ok, fine, Cleveland’s not his hometown….then how about his home region?) and knife us in the back without giving us the Championship he told he was going to win for us. As LeBron himself used to always love to point out, he had never given any indication that he was unhappy in Cleveland and that he didn’t want to stay. If he was going to leave, surely he would brace everyone for it and make a clear and concise argument for why he needed to leave. So yeah, people in Ohio felt pretty confident that LeBron was going to stay.

Of course, he didn’t, though. He left, without ever giving us a real good reason why he needed to leave. There was something about needing to win Championships and playing with Wade and Bosh gave him the best chance to do that. There’s no question that sounds like pretty solid logic, except of course, this was the first anyone in Cleveland had heard about this. Here we were under the impression that the Cavaliers organization was building toward something, continuously adding pieces around LeBron as he asked for them, giving him everything he ever asked for.

It was never going to be enough, though, because as is quite evident now, LeBron was never going to stay in Cleveland. That simply wasn’t the plan, and the organization, the city, the state, all of us were out of the loop. We just didn’t know it, and that’s why it feeds into our massive inferiority complex. LeBron’s defection was more than just a basketball player choosing to play for a different team. To Cleveland, this was just validation that everything all those pundits and analysts said about Cleveland was right. Cleveland wasn’t even good enough to keep one of its own in town.

Last November, when all of us foolishly believed the Cavaliers were working on building the next step toward their Championship, LeBron was actually meeting behind closed doors with Pat Riley and Michael Jordan. The groundwork for all of this was already being laid back then, so when the perspective of “Game 5” is now viewed in that context, it makes it that much easier to buy into all of that “Quitness” hoopla and it makes it easier to understand why their is so much anger, so much vitriol, so much visceral and raw emotion amongst the Cleveland fans.

Which brings us full circle to where we are today. There are so many different variables, agendas, opinions, etc that are mixing together into this perfect storm of LeBron’s return to Cleveland. There are a lot of people telling everyone else how they should act and what they should do. Some say fans should boo, some say they should laugh, some say they should cheer, some say they should walk out in protest. As Rick pointed out, there’s absolutely no way a consensus on this topic is going to reached.

What a lot of people seem to be missing, though, is that this is a chance for more than just catharsis for Cavs fans. Rather, this is our closure. I remarked on the opening night of the NBA season when the Heat and Celtics were squaring off that as painful as watching LeBron wear that Miami uniform was going to be, I simply had to watch that game to begin the healing process. That was only half the equation, though. There’s only going to be one first time we see LeBron play against the Cavaliers, and that will be tomorrow night.

Sure, for the rest of his career LeBron will be unwelcomed inside The Q as fans will never cheer him or feel a greater sense of appreciation than betrayal. Yet the anger will never be as raw as this first time, and that’s what we need to embrace. I encourage fans to react however you best feel fit (as long as you don’t harm or offend others around you). If you want to boo, then boo your heart out. If you want to laugh, laugh. If you actually think showing LeBron appreciation for the last 7 years is right, then cheer. Do what you must, but let the closure in your heart. Let tomorrow night be the true beginning of the end of this circus.

Gregg Doyel wrote an interesting piece on LeBron’s return in which he makes an emotional plea to Cleveland to not “turn LeBron into a sympathetic victim”, and I agree with much of what he wrote. I agree that it’s unfortunate that some are embracing Scott Raab’s approach. I agree that it’s scary to think what some determined and deranged individual might do. And I suppose he’s probably right that whatever happens will reflect on Cleveland as a whole, but I reject any notion of any action speaking for the city.

I don’t believe that terrorists speak for the Islamic faith as a whole, I don’t believe that high school kids who shoot up schools speak for the disaffected youth of America as a whole, and I refuse to believe that anything that does or does not happen in The Q speaks to Cleveland as a whole. Our society is one big victim of circumstance, and both action and inaction alike often are the result of nothing more than one internal catalyst. No matter how artfully the likes of Gregg Doyel will beg fans not to do anything stupid, no matter how much I agree and echo his sentiments and ask that everyone please not do anything disrespectful to the game or to LeBron and his family, it doesn’t matter. People are going to do what they are going to do and behave how they will behave.

All I can really do is point out that tomorrow’s game doesn’t have to be damaging to anyone. I will continue to stress that this is our chance to bring closure one step closer to us all. After tomorrow’s game, we will know what it feels like to watch LeBron play against the Cavaliers, and after that we can eventually become numb to the pain. If anyone does anything stupid and harms LeBron in any way, we will lose that closure because then any game LeBron plays in Cleveland will be a reminder of said unfortunate event. So please, Cleveland, don’t give in to any temptation that might exist in your heart. Embrace the healing, let out your frustration in the most vocal way you know how, but don’t let it get physical.

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this is no exception. I hope fans let LeBron know exactly how they feel about him and what he did to our beloved franchise, I hope the boos rain down on him louder than anything he’s ever experienced before. I hope he’s uncomfortable in the moment and I hope the Cavaliers find a way to beat Miami and send him out of town the same way he last left The Q, a loser.

  • Ron from Akron

    Here’s hoping LeQuit runs into the stands chasing a loose ball and gets bitch-slapped in the face by a fine looking lady for his trouble. That would provide “closure” fo me.

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Sorry Ron from Akron…you have no reason to be angry. LeBron didn’t drag Akron over the coals, just Cleveland. Akron is his hometown.

    Why aren’t you still a fan?

  • Slydawg

    Greg Doyel should never be associated with the word artfully

  • Jo

    No offense, Kevin, but saying just because he’s from Akron that he can’t feel betrayed is sort of… wrong, isn’t it? You don’t even have to be a Cavaliers fan to see what he did and why he should be criticized, even hated for it.

    On a more related note, I really enjoyed this article. Spot on.

  • Emily

    I mostly agree with that one article. However, I think the people who are paying to go to that game have every right to boo and chant all they want. If people want to chant “Akron Hates You!”, let them. I don’t think it’s a poor reflection on the city, because it’s the truth. Also, I don’t really care what the national media says about the city after this game. We already know how they view Cleveland.

    Of course, I hope that whatever the people in the stands do to show their displeasure with LeBron, it stays civil. Like I said, boo and chant when he has the ball. Cheer when the Cavs have the ball. Just don’t get violent and physical.

  • mike

    good lord – this notion that lebron screwed cleveland but not akron is nonsense. akron is a part of the greater cleveland area. akron is part of the cleveland media and tv market. people from akron are by default indians, cavs and browns fans. people live in akron and work in cleveland, and vice versa. the better off cleveland is, the better off akron is, and vice versa. bad things that happen in cleveland (economically) eventually trickle down and affect akron. obviously there is nothing wrong with being from akron and proud of that, or from cleveland and proud of that. im from akron, and everyone i know in akron now is just as livid about this and feels just as betrayed/duped as anyone i know from cleveland. lets not use some imaginary border between the two as justification for this debacle.

  • Chris

    Cleveland, whatever you do, just stay classy: Wear a tophat and monocle.

  • AZDave

    Right now, LeBron is the loser in all this, the villain, the narcissistic loser who stabbed a city in the heart while turning his back. Do not do anything to give this man sympathy nationally, this is the hell he created for himself, let him live in it forever. The best thing we have going for us is that no matter what he says and what he does in the future, he knows he made a mistake.. and he has to live with that everyday, forever. Luckily for us, its just a game and in the large scope of life, it doesn’t effect us the way it does him. Don’t give him the satisfaction of acting like it does.

    Go Cavs, Miracle of Richfield, part II – tomorrow night

  • Ron from Akron

    @ C-B Kevin- unless your tongue is planted firmly in your cheek, I am a Northeast Ohio native and love the Cleveland sports teams with a passion the same as anybody from, say Long Island would for New York teams. Many Akronites can stand his guts as well. Hope that clears it up.

  • Billy Thomas

    First off, I don’t care what people outside of Ohio think of us. Cleveland already has a terrible reputation and if you believe otherwise your kidding yourself. So nothing that happens good or bad tomorrow will change that.

    Second, I am not going to tell anyone how to feel or react regarding this situation. Everyone has to handle this in their own way.

    Third and most importantly. I really just want the Cavs to WIN.

    However that would be quite storybook and as we all know that just isn’t Cleveland’s style. It wouldn’t surprise me if #6 hits that game winner as that would be much more typical.

  • Dan

    In my opinion, it really does not matter how we react, the media will spin it however they see fit, and most of the clueless idiots will agree with whatever is written.

    I remember it being reported that Lebron was confused and affected when they made fun of him at the Espy’s, like he did not realize that he would be ridiculed.

    I hope it is the same way Thursday when the boo’s rain down on him, and I hope it is written on his face that “Jesus, I really screwed this up”. That would be enough for me

  • C-Bus Kevin

    Sorry everyone…I forgot the SARCASM CAPS.

    Consider my tongue firmly planted in cheek.

    Saying Akron and Cleveland are totally separate places is like saying your right hand and your left hand operate independently of each other.

  • Matt

    Bullsh*t, I’m with Raab…Are we going to worry about Cleveland getting a black eye when many already treat us, and our city, as a national punchline? Vengeance is sweet as hell…and Gregg Doyel is an abominably awful writer from Cincinnati who doesn’t deserve to speak for our state and our city.

  • Mike E

    my take is that the clevo/akron comment was a joke referring to Lebrons “cleveland kids” didnt like me thing….could be wrong, but thats what it seemed like.

  • mike

    sorry if i misunderstood the sarcasm! i read that comment after i read this article by Reiter on Fox Sports (http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/LeBron-James-still-loved-in-Akron-113010)

    so i was already annoyed to begin with.

    there is no sarcasm in that article though. his angle is to separate Akron from Cleveland, and to establish that Akron still loves LBJ despite what he did. ridiculous.

  • swig

    It will only truly hurt if he starts draining last second jump shots [over Craig Ehlo] to knock us out of the playoffs.

  • mike

    How’s this for pie-in-the-sky, diffuse the situation: LeBron and Maverick reach out to Gilbert (obviously, this would have had to happen before today) to arrange a video introduction by Gilbert giving a few kinds words about LeBron’s tenure in Cleveland and a little “hey, relax a bit, cheer for a W, and no foolishness”….THEN, he leads into a brief video of LeBron, who gets a one-minute, contrite, appreciative and humble recap of his time here and his ties to the area.

    Clearly, this is an impossibility, but it’s what I thought SHOULD occur when I gave this game a thought…

  • Matt

    @Mike congrats, you have the same idea as Albert Belle… http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2010/11/albert_belle_is_hoping_lebron.html

  • EK

    Quitness Eve…cant wait

  • Harv 21

    Our planned chants, his transparent and predictable little attempts to defuse hostility – ugh, this has devolved to competing infantilism. Truth is, we know that the guy we now ridicule is the exact same self-obsessed monster we worshipped. Thursday feels like preparation to rid ourselves of our self-loathing for embracing him via scream therapy. Is that “closure”? Ok, I guess for some.

    Says a lot about us if we need this paradigm of the stunted, narcisstic athlete to regret what he did in order for us to feel better. So he’s a turd. I don’t want to put my face next to him and scream angrily at his turdness. Would rather try not to gag as I scrape him off and wash my hands, quickly. And would be thrilled if he never entered The Q again.

  • mike

    @Matt

    Wow…cool, I guess – Hadn’t read that. I just wish I could hit like old Albert. I have consciously avoided a lot of this maelstrom of media prodding in hopes of taking the high road (as Belle suggests). Seriously, I am not planning on watching.

  • mgbode

    as long as noone “crosses the line” I see this game as a defining moment from the national perspective of Cleveland.

    we are not a championship contending team, yet our fans have been showing up in great numbers and being supportive.

    will our fans be viewed like Warrior fans as fanatical and loud and as great fans of the team.

    or

    will our fans be viewed more like Knick fans who are just appreciative of basketball even if it is the ‘other’ teams players who are putting on the show.

    I think we all know the answer.

  • Omar’s Magic Glove

    Great article! James and his camp are acting scared from what I can tell. Them (Maverick and James) leaking stories to ESPN (Broussard) about the Miami Coach maybe getting fired is great. Try to do anything possible to get the attention off of yourself instead of taking responsibility, things might work out. Until Yahoo calls them out for it. Man, Yahoo is all about bashing James. I like it!

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    I wonder if that kid with Miami jersey who sat in the bleachers at the Jake is going to show up tomorrow night? :)

  • mgbode
  • Harv 21

    Did someone quote Gilbert as being over it? Hmmmm.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=aw-gilbertlebron120110

  • Omar’s Magic Glove

    Wow, back to back awesome links! Thanks! I knew Gilbert had to be investigating!

  • Fred Beene

    @25 Thanks for the link. Beautiful piece.

  • http://dneckel.blogspot.com/ DannyN

    Will he even go down as the most hated sports figure in Cleveland? http://dneckel.blogspot.com/2010/12/lebron-james-public-enemy-1.html