The following post was originally submitted to a contest for what Cleveland sports mean to me on www.clevelandreboot.com for a chance to get the post published and for a chance to win a t-shirt. I won the shirt and became a regular contributor. This is what started it all.
So we’ve learned “The Decision.” The world is still rotating on its axis. The sun still rises in the east and sets in the west. And yes… Cleveland is still standing. In fact one could make a case that the city is standing stronger and more
unified than at any other time, especially in recent memory. Everyone, and I mean just about everyone has made a case for why Lebron leaving has been a disaster the likes of which the city may never recover. While yes it would be easy to agree with these kinds of statements, is that necessarily the case? Maybe everyone is looking at this from the wrong angle. Maybe Lebron leaving is a blessing in disguise.
Losing the best basketball player in the NBA is a blow that not many teams and cities could withstand. Throw in the fact that this player was also on a career path to put himself in conversation for “greatest of all time” status and it becomes even that much more difficult to come to terms with. But this is Cleveland. We know about heartbreak. We know what it takes to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and attempt to climb back to the top. “The Decision” and its aftermath is only another chapter in the story that helps define where we’ve been, not where we are headed.
Thanks to the cowardly actions of someone whom we considered to be one of our own we begin a new chapter as both a city and as fans. The past few weeks have served as a wake up call; a realization that it’s about the name on the front of the uniform that matters. We’ve spent too much time and effort praising the talents of one player and allowing him to hold our city hostage not for the sake of the name on the front of the jersey, but the name on the back. Now the name across his chest has changed for what he believes to be the betterment of his brand and legacy. From what we can tell so far, both have suffered irreparable damage, the likes of which have never been seen before.
And that’s where the truth about “The Decision” takes an interesting twist. Every chapter thus far in our sports legacy has left us battered, bruised, and worse off. Jordan defined his legacy with “The Shot.” Elway built his legacy with “The Drive” and “The Fumble.” Art Modell won his Super Bowl thanks in part to “The Move.” The greatest run in Indians history ended with “The Jose Mesa Game” and proved that a World Series title can be bought not built. Each time, Cleveland has been left lying in a pool of it’s own fan’s blood while our murders dance with joy in celebration of victory. But this is different.
“The Decision” wasn’t a murder. It was a suicide. Lebron James, through his own actions, killed his legacy, reputation, and home town ties. This only hurts so much because we loved him so dearly. We didn’t want him to do it, but he did it anyway. The week of his free agent meetings we tried to save him from himself, but some people are beyond saving. So on “The Decision” Lebron picked up the knife and plunged it deep into himself, not the backs and hearts of Clevelanders everywhere. In front of millions on national television, Lebron James ended his legacy as the greatest basketball player of all time and Cleveland’s chosen one. Worst yet, we are left picking up the pieces and wondering why since the bastard didn’t have the decency to write a note. We’re angry, we’re bitter, and we want answers. Unfortunately those answers won’t come, at least not in the near future.
Instead of wallowing in our own self-pity, Cleveland will do what it does best. Pick itself up, dust itself off, and start climbing back up that mountain. That’s what it means to be a fan of Cleveland sports. That’s why Cleveland teams are so important to me and to all of us. We take pride in the name on the front of the uniform and the colors. We cheer unconditionally for an orange helmet, stand and applaud the tipping of a cap with Chief Wahoo on it and go insane as the wine and gold streak down the floor on a fast break. This is why I love Cleveland.
Over the past 7 years we’ve gotten away from that. We’ve relied on one player as our saving grace, even going so far as to imagine what he’d look like playing for the Browns. One person, one player cannot deliver a championship. Lebron James has proven that to us. It is a lesson we should never forget.
So when we look back on “The Decision” ten, twenty, or thirty years from now what will we think? What will we tell our children? How will we use it to help define who we are? Me personally, I’ll mark it as the turning point. I’ll explain to my son or daughter that it was a dark time for Cleveland sports and lot’s of people thought it was the end for us. I’ll explain to them “The Shot,” “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” etc. and what all of it meant to me. Tell them why it’s all important and why it all needed to happen. Most importantly, explain to them that without those things, there would be no Cleveland sports and I wouldn’t be who I am just like my dad did for me. Hopefully, they’ll understand. I’ll explain to them who Lebron James is and why he’s hated so much in Cleveland. Then, and only then, will we pack into the car and head downtown. The reason you ask? To sit along E. 9th St. and enjoy a victory parade for Cleveland. But it won’t be the first of the post Lebron era. As it turns out the end… was only the beginning.