When LeBron James wore that hat to the Indians’ game it wasn’t cool. Cleveland definitely didn’t like it, we made a huge deal about it, and as sports fans in this town we’ll never forget it.
But just as wearing that hat represented a new level of sucktitude, on Monday night at the Cavaliers’ game, Joe Haden represented a new level of awesomeness.
It was one thing when Haden was sitting courtside with TJ Ward wearing a Daniel Gibson jersey going crazy as the Cavs rallied back to win a few weeks ago. But on Monday night, dude wore a complete uniform.
I mean think about that for a second, he had the shorts, headband, shoes, whatever, the whole deal. He was dressed, ready to check in and score more points than Ryan Hollins had Byron signaled him to the scorer’s table.
But it wasn’t just the first-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns who dressed up in support of the Cleveland basketball playing Cavaliers either – his whole crew did. No, not his marketing firm; just Haden, his brother Jonathan, and his friend Rico.
All three of them sitting there courtside during the game looked geniune too. But more than that, they reminded me of high school seniors dressed up as their school’s version of the Cameron Crazies for the varsity basketball game. It is a pretty rare thing for an NFL star to do something like that these days, and it was great to see a Cleveland Brown like Haden do it.
The truth is, had he done the latter and worn a Dwight Howard or Jameer Nelson jersey and said it was because they were great friends from somewhere and they support each other or some line of best friend forever garbage that we often here from the NBA and NFL circles, it would be national news. We’d be talking about it non-stop, and there would be tons of people who no longer root for or like Joe Haden in this town. I understand all that, and it’s fair, but I also think what he did should get as much or more attention than had he done the opposite. It’s a feel-good story, yo.
And beyond just styling the hometown Wine and Gold, it shouldn’t be brushed off and forgotten that this same Joe Haden could be subsequently found in the concourse at The Q for up to an hour after the game signing autographs, taking pictures with fans, and just laughing with people who thought it was funny he was wearing a full uniform. Sure, it’s what we say our sports players are ”supposed to do”, but how many of them do it? Or how many do in a fun way like that? In support of a last place team that is awful no-less.
At the same time, nobody’s infering that Haden will one day fill the void left by that other guy. He’s obviously not football’s version of the superstar that LeBron James was or is (though he wears No. 23), and I understand that everything LeBron does is news. But Joe Haden is a top-10 pick who played like a top-10 pick in his first NFL season. He’s a baller in his own right to be sure, and as much as I was excited about his prospects as a player from watching him this season, I’m even more encouraged by the type of person Joe Haden look like he wants to be in this community.
Basically, I just appreciated him showing up like he did to that Cavs game, and I hope he keeps doing things like that around here in the future. All we’ve ever asked the athletes we root for in this town is that they be fans of Cleveland too. It’s great to see that Joe Haden is that so far.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s a shutdown corner either.