Monday, June 6, 2011

'Forgiving' LeBron is not the issue

If nothing else, the Mavericks' Game 2 comeback against the Heat gave Cleveland fans a temporary respite against moral arbiters in the media who think its past time we lay down our armor and "forgive" LeBron James.
Even Buzz Bissinger, a vocal critic of the calculated dog-and-pony show that was "The Decision," said that while #6's superlative play this postseason won't completely wipe clean the schmutz from last summer's exercise in noxious douchebaggery, James's on-court greatness should be the lone standard on how he's ultimately judged.

"The waves of fans who still hate him need to give it a rest," Bissinger wrote. "The fans of Cleveland in particular have to seriously get a life. They were right in feeling terribly shunned. But it’s over now."
The line of thought from Bissinger and others seems to be that winning a championship will redeem That Guy in Miami (TGiM). We must collectively bask in James's reflected forehead sweat after each clutch jumper or needlepoint-precise pass because, as Esquire columnist and virulent LeBron-hater Scott Raab sarcastically opined:

"Winning is proof beyond reproof, rendering moot all evidence and argument to the contrary. If the bastard wins the NBA title, then LeBron chose rightly, suffered unfairly for doing so, and surmounted his travails as a hero."

There's no doubt that James will be viewed this way nationally, which is understandable. Clevelanders should not expect the rest of the world to rally behind us as we root against the Heat.

At the same time, the media can kindly stop telling us how we should feel. National scribes chiding us for creating "Cleveland Mavs" Twitter feeds are the same ones making asinine comparisons between James's exit from Cleveland and Jim Tressel's departure from Ohio State, as ESPN did recently. The national networks love casting Cleveland fans as the drunken sadsacks at the end of the bar, so they shouldn't be surprised when we make an occasion to vomit on someone's shoes.

It's not about hating James, either, and there is a line to be drawn here. Things got ugly for Cavaliers' forward J.J. Hickson when he sent James an ill-timed if innocent "go get you one bra" congratulatory tweet following the Heat's Game 1 victory. The tweet was met with a slew of responses from Cleveland fans, including one sweetheart who wished Hickson would break every bone in his body for canoodling with an enemy of the state.

Now, Hickson's naivety aside (Ever hear of e-mail, J.J.? Using this technology, you can send an electronic message privately.), that's the kind of shit that does have to stop. There is no doubt a vocal segment of idiots out there who really do despise James in the biblical sense, i.e. they wouldn't mind him getting stoned to death, or at least smote by a career-ending injury.

But I'd like to think that most Clevelanders who jumped out of their seats when Dirk Nowitzki drove for the game-winning layup last Thursday don't hate James with any particular virulence. For "just us folks," I believe it's a matter of two things: Firstly, we don't want the egotistical numbnuts to benefit from his bad behavior. That doesn't make us petty or spiteful - it just makes us human.

Secondly - and this one's anvil-plunging-from-a-skyscraper obvious - if James were to win a title his very first year after bolting Northeast Ohio, it would be another punch in the face of a fanbase that's taken more hard tags than Glass Joe. Look, James is probably going hoist the Larry O'Brien sooner or later - he's too good not to - and that's a likelihood Cleveland fans are going to have to live with. But James reaching this pinnacle one measly year removed from wine-and-gold would be just too much tragic irony for one city to take.

Call this a cheap excuse if you must, but you really do have to be from Cleveland to understand what we're feeling. It's not hatred and we're not some jilted lover seeking revenge. We're just tired of it all. Can't you get that, America?