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Cleveland’s Woes Continue With the Abdication of “King” Lebron James

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On July 8, 2010, Lebron James announced live before a national television audience that he would be departing the Cleveland Cavaliers for the sunnier climes of South Beach (i.e., the Miami Heat).  It is a day that will live in infamy not only for most Cavaliers fans, but for most Cleveland residents in general. Cleveland is a city that has not won a championship in any sport in 46 years. Despite Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert’s heat-of-the-moment assertion to fans that: “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE,” the likelihood of such a scenario is extremely doubtful, at best.

As a music writer, it may be a bit of a stretch for me to pull this obviously sports-related article off, but seeing how Cleveland is the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (not to mention the former home base of pioneer rock ‘n’ roll DJ, Alan Freed), I feel I am within my rights. Coming from Philadelphia, Cleveland holds a sympathetic place in my heart. Like many Clevelanders, Philadelphians have had to tolerate getting lambasted in the mainstream media for residing in a slightly less than desirable place to live/work/attend sporting events. Heck, even the two best-known shows about Cleveland and Philadelphia, “The Drew Carey Show” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” have poked ample fun at their respective host cities. 

 It is hard not to feel for “The Forest City” (is this nickname at all apropos?), and in particular, owner Dan Gilbert. The $100,000 fine levied by David Stern and the NBA league office on Gilbert for his comments, particularly those which referred to James’ actions as a “cowardly betrayal” and a “shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown chosen one send[ing] the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn,” is Draconian to say the least. Sure, Gilbert could have picked his words a bit more carefully, but think how you would feel if your only cash cow skipped town, kicking over a highly destructive fire lantern on the way (and yes, Chicago, another city in the running for James’ services, has also wound up feeling sorrowfully spurned).  

Gilbert’s words were uttered before Lebron poured even more Morton’s in the wound by publicly (and successfully) campaigning to get Cavs’ center Zydrunas Ilgauskas to join him in Miami. No apology has been issued by the Cavs’ front office and don’t expect one to be forthcoming. While sports fans have come to expect their so-called role models absconding for greener, glitzier pastures, the way in which the usually upstanding James did so here is downright shameful. “The Decision,” the name of the prime-time, hour-long special James and his team of advisers brokered with ESPN, now joins “The Drive,” “The Shot,” “The Fumble,” and “The Move” in Cleveland’s sports hall of shame.  

Cleveland fans, so accustomed to heartbreak, now have to deal with the inflammable reality that they have been betrayed by one of their own native sons. And all the jersey-burning, rock-throwing (at L.B.J.’s old “We Are All Witnesses” mural), tear-dropping and verbal mudslinging will do nothing to put out this fire.

*And does the vicious irony escape us that one of South Beach’s most famous landmarks is the Clevelander Hotel? Perhaps Voltaire was right when he said “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”