On July 8, 2010, Lebron James announced liveÂ before aÂ national television audience that he would beÂ departingÂ the Cleveland Cavaliers for the sunnierÂ climes ofÂ South Beach (i.e., theÂ Miami Heat).Â Â It is a day that will live in infamy not onlyÂ for most Cavaliers fans, but for mostÂ Cleveland residents in general. Cleveland is a city that hasÂ not won a championship in any sportÂ in 46 years. Despite Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert’s heat-of-the-moment assertion to fansÂ that: “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’Â WINS ONE,” the likelihood of such a scenario is extremelyÂ doubtful, at best.
As a music writer, it may be a bit of a stretchÂ 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 mentionÂ the formerÂ homeÂ base of pioneer rock ‘n’ roll DJ, Alan Freed), I feel I am within my rights.Â Coming from Philadelphia,Â Cleveland holds a sympathetic place in my heart. Like many Clevelanders,Â Philadelphians have had toÂ tolerate gettingÂ lambasted in the mainstream media forÂ residing in a slightlyÂ 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”Â have pokedÂ ample fun at their respective hostÂ cities.Â
Â It is hard not to feel for “The Forest City” (is this nickname at all apropos?), and in particular, owner Dan Gilbert.Â The $100,000 fine levied by David Stern and the NBA league officeÂ on Gilbert for hisÂ comments, particularly those whichÂ referred toÂ James’ actions as aÂ “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,”Â isÂ Draconian to say the least. Sure, Gilbert could have picked his words a bitÂ more carefully, but think how you would feel if your onlyÂ cash cow skipped town, kicking overÂ a highlyÂ destructive fireÂ lantern on the wayÂ (and yes, Chicago,Â anotherÂ city in the running for James’ services,Â has also wound up feeling sorrowfullyÂ spurned).Â Â
Gilbert’s words were uttered before Lebron poured even more Morton’s in the wound by publicly (and successfully)Â campaigning to get Cavs’ centerÂ Zydrunas IlgauskasÂ to join him in Miami. No apology hasÂ been issued by the Cavs’ front office and don’t expect one to be forthcoming. While sportsÂ fans have come to expect their so-called role models abscondingÂ for greener,Â glitzierÂ pastures,Â the way in which the usually upstandingÂ James did so here is downright shameful.Â “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.Â Â
Cleveland fans, so accustomed to heartbreak, now have to deal with theÂ inflammableÂ realityÂ that they have been betrayed by one of their own nativeÂ sons. And all the jersey-burning, rock-throwing (at L.B.J.’s old “We Are All Witnesses” mural), tear-droppingÂ 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.”