Happy LeBronnukah. Hard to believe it’s been a year since The Decision. If I had a dollar for each sneering jagoff I’ve heard advise me to get over it, I’d still be unable to let go of my anger and disgust, hoping for every NBA game LeBron James plays to be his last.
Frankly, I don’t even grasp the concept of getting over it or letting go. Cleveland fanhood defines me in as primal a way as gender and race; it always has. My fanaticism is derived from the odd nature of Cleveland sports for the past half-century: Over and over, in every sport, moments of hope on the very brink of transcendent glory have — without exception — turned bitter and ugly, dying in defeat.
I know that Cubs fans feel entitled to whine about waiting longer for a championship. I don’t begrudge them their bitchery. But it’s like comparing a paper cut to a slit jugular vein. The Bulls enjoyed an NBA dynasty. The White Sox won the World Series, the Blackhawks a Stanley Cup, the Bears a Super Bowl — and by the way, no bastard stole the Bears out of Chicago, either. Nor have the nation’s media spent the past 40 years crapping on Chicago’s head.
Hey, if you think pro sports success makes no real difference in a city’s quality of life, nothing I can say will change your mind. All I can tell you is that I know how much civic pride the Steelers and Penguins have given Pittsburgh, what the Pistons’ and Red Wings’ titles have meant to Detroit. Two generations of die-hard Cleveland sports fans have lived their lives with no experience of ultimate triumph in any pro sport — only the misery of trudging season after season with the bluest balls in all the land.
LeBron James was supposed to change that; the son of a bitch told us he wouldn’t quit until he did. Then he quit trying, and ran away from home, and spent an hour on the TV kicking our nads to jelly. I’ll get over that as soon as Dr. Oz starts pitching for White Castle.
This I believe: Someone someday will win it all for Cleveland, and the town will bust a nut so fine and rich that the grin will never flee its face. I may not live to see that, but just last night I listened to Tom Hamilton calling Travis Hafner’s walk-off grand slam, and Hammy went silent for a full fifteen seconds — a radio eternity — while the roar of Cleveland fans filled my soul with jubilation. I love that noise like life itself, far more than I hate the Whore of Akron.