Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In Cleveland, it's another year of living vicariously

For Cavaliers fans, the strange bedfellowing of last year's NBA Finals continues this summer, just with a different potential paramour. The question is, what kind of relationship can we really have when our newest crush barely knows we exist?

Last season's wooing of the Dallas Mavericks was all hand-holding and restaurant desserts, admittedly. The wounds of The Decision were still fresh, and Clevelanders happily climbed into Mark Cuban's bunk as his team sent the Heat back into the swirling vortex of evil from whence they came.

The Cavs for Mavs movement was a fun and ultimately cathartic frolic for a fanbase one ugly season removed from the departure of That Guy in Miami (TGiM).  There was a savage satisfaction in Miami's ouster, made doubly lovely by James's undeniable role in his team's defeat. 

Miami's back in the championship round, starting tonight, and the media is salivating over a focused, mean-mugging James who now apparently "gets it."  (If you didn't see, James scored a bunch of points in Game 6 against Boston and made a really scary face that the cameras caught in dramatic close-up.) Perhaps the brand new "Cavs forThunder" Twitter handle, created about two seconds after the last buzzer sounded in Miami Saturday night, is a reaction to the media's latest pants-straining hard-on for LeBron. Something to help Cleveland fans rage against the dying of the light, or something.

It doesn't seem like that, though. Because we already did the "Cavs for (Team Playing Against Miami) thing last year. It's like a joke that's funny the first time you hear it, but loses its punch each consecutive time it's uttered. We need some new material.

It's not about the national media perspective of Cleveland, either. Moral arbiters like Jeff Van Gundy are always going to chide Clevelanders for rooting against James, as if any other city that was treated in such shabby fashion wouldn't fire invective at the rat for all eternity. (It's hard to take a semi-entertaining oddball like Van Gundy too seriously, though. He's like the doddering uncle who rambles about the "Zionist banking conspiracy" at Thanksgiving dinner. You want to be offended but can only laugh, because hey, That's just Unky Jeff doing his zany Unky Jeff thing. Now, pass the stuffing.)

Cheering for the Thunder is fine. Plenty of folks outside of Cleveland will be doing the same. Publically hitching our star to another city's team a second year in a row is something else, however. Oklahoma City getting a parade does nothing for the Cavaliers or Cleveland. Creating Twitter feeds and intertwining logos of the two teams, as if the cities are truly in this thing together, comes off as a little bit silly 12 months after the Cavs for Mavs movement briefly ensnared our hearts.  

The Cavs have a huge draft coming up, a budding superstar of their own, and a fairly long way to go before they're in the same position as the Thunder. Fun is fun, but living vicariously through another city's team will only take us so far.