Wednesday, July 12, 2006
At Least He Understands
I'm not sure whether Akron Beacon Journal columnist Terry Pluto reads this blog, but it's clear he understands why something like this exists. His column today about LeBron James' contract extension contains the exquisite lead: "Guess what Cleveland sports fans love to do best? Worry." Exactly. That's the core competency required of any Cleveland sports fan given our ignominous history.The James things seems rather ridiculous, doesn't it? As near as I can tell, he's around for several more years. In fact, in the pantheon of modern sports, four more years is a lifetime. But you can't satisfy the Cleveland fan so I hope James doesn't even try. Whereas Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, fill-in-the-blank, have sought greener pastuers elsewhere, James at least has decided to stay put for now. The fact that Cleveland fans are still fretting is proof that the two worst things for Cleveland sports fans is not getting what they want and getting what they want.But I have a different spin, anyway. LeBron is a phenom, a unique talent on par with say Tiger Woods. But he plays in easily the worst major professional sport. Until LeBron arrived and, I would argue, even since he arrived, the NBA is still an afterthought. It's a boring game with a season that's a good 30 or so games too long and a byzantine playoff system that makes most of the season they do have highly irrelevant. The only reason Cleveland fans are at all gravitating toward the NBA at all has more to do with the fact that we are into a third generation since a world championships in either baseball or football than it has to do with a love for basketball. James represents the clearest prospect of a championship in the near-term with the Indians floating rudderless and captained by the cheapest and least-capitalized owners in all of pro sports and the Browns undergoing their third (!) rebuilding program in less than 10 years.If you want proof, just listen to the idiotic sports-talk radio in Cleveland. During the Cavs playoff run, the talk was still dominated by the Indians. As soon as the Browns open camp, they will dominate the airwaves. In other words, only a handful of callers care who the Cavs draft or sign, what defenses Mike Brown might run, or whether Damon Jones will ever develop either D or J. And that won't change because this is first, foremost, and always a football and baseball town. But Cleveland fans are so desperate for any kind of success they'll fake interest in the NBA. The only thing they're worried about, and they are worried, is that if/when James leaves, the chances of winning anything are even further off in the distance as we're likely to continue to drift further into baseball oblivion and the Browns will be on their 8th rebuilding program.