Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cavs fans don't have to be ashamed of who they root for tonight

The storylines of this NBA Finals have been ridiculous.  Nearly overshadowing which, in the absence of such a huge team of villains as the Miami Heat, would be seen as one of the great basketball series in recent memory.

First, the Heat victory over Chicago was "the vindication of LeBron James".  The media, which had by and large seen the Heat as underdogs in the previous two series, now seeing them as inevitable champions. And saying now that LeBron was vindicated for his "decision," if not the way he conducted it.

Then there was the huge game two collapse/comeback that tied the series 1-1.  All of a sudden the whispers came back about LeBron not being able to finish.  And the Mavericks ripping home court advantage.

Game three, of course, gave home court right back to Miami, as Dirk's last second shot fell short.  As so it began again, the "three of four best players on the court will win 4 out of 7 every time" argument.  (One that many Clevelanders have been fearing throughout the playoffs, mind you, and one that is not hard to logically arrive at, either.)

Game four, in an eerie replay of Cavs-Boston last year, had an ineffective and often apparently disinterested LeBron James just standing around as the Mavericks win.  The volume of criticism now was deafening, and LeBron knew it. He tweeted "now or never" before Game 5, knowing that he screwed up yet again--for reasons unknown, but unfortunately tawdry rumors arose again.  Some rumors were that he was mad at Dwayne Wade.  Some were much worse.

Game 5 however, was not to be for Miami.  Although they had a perfect stretch in the fourth quarter that siezed the lead, Dallas refused to let that become the gut punch it could have so easily been.  And with a flurry of drives and miraculous shots, they pulled away from Miami and now stand one game from the championship.

The criticism of LeBron James, nearly universal, is so tough, that even should Miami pull out two wins at home to win the trophy, I don't think it will go away.  Charles Barkley is on record saying that many hall-of-famers can't stand the way the Heat threesome basically threw a championship party before training camp even began, talking about 7 championships "like it is that easy."

Throughout the entire Finals, however, a small but vocal chorus has been telling Cleveland to "get over it". Thursday night after Game 5, ESPN actually had a reporter in some Quicken Loans Arena-area bars, polling fans and *shockingly* finding that most of them, if they are rooting, are rooting against the Heat! Nevermind that "rooting against the Heat" is about as common in any city in the US as "complaining about the weather."  Except, in both cases, in south Florida. Stan Verrett, the B-team Sportscenter anchor, came right out laughing at Cleveland and told us we need to get over it. And Buzz Bissinger, in Newsweek/Daily Beast, was quoted:

The fans in Cleveland in particular have to seriously get a life. They were right in feeling terribly shunned. But it's over now. The continued whining has become noxiously pathetic.
Really?  Whining? Is that what's going on?  Not cheering against LeBron?  Is anger not to be expected?  And if not anger, don't you think Cleveland fans deserve to have--nay, SHOULD HAVE a rooting interest here?  Our homegrown star, who was worshipped here, and who vowed to bring a championship here, decides to handcuff the organization for years, then for a final three weeks, and skip town leaving the Cavaliers high and very dry.  So I think rooting for that pompous ass to lose is entirely expected. How exactly, is it "over now"? One could argue that many other parts of the country shouldn't have a rooting interest.  But that's not true either.  What he's done, what the Heat have done and how they've acted before they've deserved it, have given ample reason for fans to hate them. Even this week, when LeBron and Wade were caught on camera mocking Dirk Nowitzki's illness. And hate them, fans do.  The same scene can be found in bars from coast to coast. But you won't hear about that on Sportscenter tonight.

But through it all, Clevelanders in particular have obvious license to root.

Sure, it's not our championship.  Not our Super Bowl.  And winning a game in Miami is far from a foregone conclusion for the Mavericks.

But I'll be watching.  And so will most Cavs fans.  And we'll be rooting.  And there's nothing wrong with that. But I'm sure ESPN will whine about us, no matter what happens on the court.