Blaise Pascal once said that, “It is the fight alone that pleases us, not the victory.”To witness the Cleveland Cavaliers be thoroughly outplayed by the Miami Heat was certainly disheartening considering the significance of the game. The fact that the Cavs seemed pre-occupied with hugging and giggling with the player at the center of the storm rather than legitimately trying to make a statement to the fans and even themselves was completely baffling and insulting. Though, with the way the landscape of the NBA has altered over the past decade, it should be no surprise that the players in the league feel much more of a bond with their opponents than they do with their own fan base. Gone are the days of the “Bad Boy Pistons” of Detroit who likely took greater pride in paying the medical bills for the other squad’s star than covering the check for the post-game meal with the team who just defeated them. Hell, one of the leaders from those Piston teams, Rick Mahorn, was suspended two years ago as an assistant coach for a WNBA team after he allegedly shoved a female player during a brawl. Of course, the merits over whether or not the physical conduct of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s went overboard can be debated. However, there is no denying that the association’s brutal nature has morphed into a type of congeniality that one would expect to see at a pickup game for a church picnic. And that is where the great disconnect in today’s NBA lies.
Anyone who watched, listened or even read about Thursday night’s game could understand how meaningful this game was for Cavs fans and the entire Greater Cleveland community. The 18th game of this regular season was by far the most important for the Cavs and one where they needed to try to win at all costs. Instead, the raucous, sell-out crowd was treated to lifeless, lackluster play from the home team and even worse, tender embraces between some of the Cavaliers and former high-school state champion LeBron James. Speaking after the game to media members from all over the planet, James channeled his inner Michael Corleone when he stated, “It’s not personal” regarding his relationship with his former admiring fans. So, here is a man who branded himself as a “hometown hero” that understood the agony of the area and whose sugardaddies at Nike erected a billboard in downtown Cleveland with him posing as a messiah figure telling the natives that it’s strictly business. Although, the players on the Cleveland Cavaliers bench didn’t take James’ obnoxious announcement personally that they weren’t adequate enough for his talents, the fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers did, and for that, we as fans are the biggest losers of all.
We are losers for worshipping a spoiled egomaniac who never returned any gratitude or respect and believing that our unflattering signs and chants would inflict the same amount of pain that we burdened after his departure. We are losers for assuming “our” team composed of multi-millionaires actually embraced the name on the front of their jerseys as much as what is listed on the back of it. We are losers for ignoring how we essentially hold the cards regarding power in professional sports. When mega-douchebag and recipient of 18 separate criminal charges, Matthew Bellamy announced that he was going to sport a Braylon Edwards jersey at the Cavs-Heat game after being removed from Progressive Field for wearing a LeBron Heat jersey this past summer, the media was fascinated with how much of a masochist this individual was. But after feeling humiliated and deflated after Thursday night’s game, it occurred to me that indeed I along with every other Cleveland sports fan is an even greater masochist than Mr. Bellamy. As Browns, Indians and Cavalier supporters, we feel compelled to flock like sheep to as many games as we can regardless of the quality of the actual product. In fact, in a desperate way to rationalize our thankless loyalty, a badge of honor is worn on our chests for wolfing down the largest amounts of shit sandwiches. Gladly, the local organizations take advantage of our delusions and attempt to guilt us into believing that it is one’s civic duty to return every year for more misery. The entire vicious cycle is such a tragedy considering how a beautiful game that provides many lessons can become so perverted due to the inordinate type of money it produces. So, perhaps it would be wise to treat professional sports as an intelligent consumer rather than a diehard fanatic. After all, it’s just business.