Poor Cleveland. So spurned, so snakebit, so poor.This is the sentiment that rallied sports fans behind the Cavaliers in the weeks and months following The Decision.
The sports faux pas perpetrated by Lebron James and his handlers was so overt and callous that fans could not help but to sympathize with the disregarded citizens of northeast Ohio.
Combine those injustices with widespread anxiety about the socioeconomic decline of the Rust Belt, and we all counted the Cavs as our adopted team.
We thought that Cavs fans burning Lebron’s jersey was a profound act of defiance. We interpreted the images of Clevelanders crying as evidence of the pain King James was inflicting on his former admirers.
We even gave Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert a pass after he made a douche of himself in Comic Sans. Not allowing the idiocy of one millionaire owner to outweigh the idiocy of one millionaire athlete.
But nearly a year after The Decision, it’s time for the Cleveland pity party to come to an end.
In an unprecedented oddity, Cavs fans were one of the most talked about entities in the NBA this year.
In a season defined by the overwhelming villainy of the Miami Heat, Cavs fans were framed as the antithesis of everything South Beach represented.
Cleveland ranked third in the NBA in attendance. Not because they wanted watch J.J. Hickson, but because they wanted to demonstrate the values they thought Lebron lacked.
They were the subject of lengthy feature on ESPN.com titled “Believeland” (for real) just days before Lebron returned to Cleveland. A feature that seemed intent on establishing the city itself as a human character. As if Lebron wasn’t playing the Cavs but a municipality in human form.
Each Miami high and low was accompanied by the view from northeast Ohio.
Last night’s game earned a 22.6 rating in Cleveland, the highest anywhere in the country outside of Miami and Dallas.
There’s little question that Cleveland fans have been defined by their opposition to the Heat, not their support for the Cavaliers.
In that sense, Cleveland “rejoicing” last night is understandable. If you believe that a Miami loss is equal to a Cleveland win, then Cleveland came out victorious.
But ultimately that’s not how being a fan works.
The value of winning comes from the fact that every team loses in the end while only one wins. You’re team pretty much never wins, and that’s what makes winning matter.
When you disrupt that equation and define winning as another team losing, winning has no value. In fact, you’re going to come out on top pretty much every single season.
Hitching your wagon to whatever team beats the Heat is unfair. It’s a way to gloat like a champion without actually winning anything. It’s a shortcut. And as Dan Gilbert himself tweeted last night, “Old Lesson for all: There are NO SHORTCUTS.NONE.”
Cleveland needs to go back to rooting for their own team. Because one more season of holier-than-thou tweets and incessant Heat-bashing will start to wear on those who supported them this year.
There are plenty of NBA teams decimated by the decisions of arrogant players, GMs, and owners.
There are plenty of Midwestern cities in disrepair.
There are plenty of sports towns plagued by horrible luck.
You don’t have to get over it, Cleveland, but you have to stop celebrating and go back to just being Cavs fans.
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