I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, so I have a great and undying love for a set of sports teams who are on the cutting edge of finding new and original ways to break the hearts of a city. Along with this comes a deep hatred for the few who have become personas non gratas around town. Art Modell. Jose Mesa. Carlos Boozer. And of course, LeBron James.
Needless to say, I want to see LeBron lose and lose badly. Hell, I don’t think “our former self-proclaimed king” would be welcome in my home, even if he brought Chris Bosh with him to act out a one-man version of Jurassic Park (surprisingly, it’s his Jeff Goldblum that steals the show). I will make no bones about the fact that I want to see the Oklahoma City Thunder destroy the Miami Heat. So why do these Cleveland-made Thunder posters make me so uncomfortable?
I know this kind of hatred for a team or player is pretty normal. Sports breeds rivalries. How many Red Sox fans have said, “I have two favorite teams. The Red Sox and whoever’s playing the Yankees”? Who can forget how Toronto fans received Vince Carter when he returned to the Air Canada Center? But there’s a difference between rooting against the guy who broke your heart and adopting another franchise to cheer as your own. The former is normal. The latter is sad and weird and somewhat pathetic.
I can hear my fellow Clevelanders now: “Pathetic? Of everything to happen in Cleveland sports, this is pathetic?” And maybe they have a point. After all, last year the “Cavs 4 Mavs” movement got some moderately positive press. But last year, the Cavs were a team without a future. They were a one-man team who had just lost that man. They broke the record for most consecutive losses. No one was about to fault Cleveland for not wanting that year to end in a LeBron title that would validate all he had done up to that point. He needed a comeuppance, and the city needed literally anything to cheer about. “Cavs 4 Mavs” made sense.
But here we are a year later, and the future looks bright. Kyrie Irving spent the season establishing himself as a future All-Star, Tristan Thompson looked like he could grow into being the third or fourth best player on a contender, and the Cavs still managed to get a high draft pick in a pretty deep draft. Our home is nearing order.
That’s why I was disappointed to see #OKCle. I thought we were beyond needing another team to bring us happiness. I thought we were back to counting on our boys in the Wine and Gold for that.
I understand where the impulse for these logo mash-ups come from. When Cavs owner Dan Gilbert sent his famous and vitriolic (and Comic Sans’d) letter on the night LeBron left Cleveland, the national media killed him for coming off as a sore loser and a bitter ex-boyfriend. But in Ohio he instantly became a hero. We felt like a train had hit us. We felt small. But Dan Gilbert gave us something to rally around: “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.” So rooting for Oklahoma City is rooting for this prophecy. It’s holding out hope for not just an eventual championship, but an eventual championship that is all the sweeter for it coming before our traitorous ex could win one.
I get that. But why can’t we quietly root for Oklahoma City? Why can’t we let this be about them and their great fans? Why can’t we let this be a referendum on LeBron’s play in the clutch? Why do we have to “adopt” a team? Why do we have to make this about us?
I can’t wait until the day when we can root against LeBron without having it be a big showy ordeal, screaming out to the nation, “Remember how he hurt us!” I can’t wait to sit down with friends and watch a Heat game without all of them asking me about how much I hate their star. But I guess most of all, I just can’t wait until we can get back to the days when the team we rooted for in June was the same team we rooted for in January.
Maybe next year.
All photos via the amazing Real Cavs Fans message board. It’s an awesome website full of devoted fans, who are the definition of “the real deal.”