Thursday, July 8, 2010
By Joe Collins
You have to feel for the city of Cleveland. Have to. First, their river catches fire--thanks to an assist from industrial waste. Then the movie "Howard The Duck" came along (I mean, what could go wrong about an anthropomorphic duck crashing into Cleveland?) You had "The Drive," "The Fumble," and "The Shot." The "Mistake By The Lake" moniker was full speed ahead by this point. The Cleveland Browns were yanked from the city in 1995 and replaced four years later with, ugh, the Browns. You had the gut-wrenching '95 and '97 World Series'. And how's this for painful irony: Mimi Bobeck stuck around the city while everyone of importance left. Rocky Colavito got traded. Jim Thome left. Manny Ramirez left. Carlos Boozer left. In fact, from the 1950s to 2010, the city of Cleveland lost more than half its population, going from over 900,000 to the mid 400,000s.
And Thursday night, they could lose one more.
Granted, LeBron didn't reside within Cleveland's city limits, so I hope you'll just accept that metaphor. Multiple reports have surfaced over the last 12 hours that LeBron James will join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. His official announcement will come later tonight in a nationally televised, hour-long special that already reeks of staged cheesiness. Will LeBron pick from a series of hats like a high school footballer picks a college? Will he tell representatives from New York, New Jersey and Chicago "You're Fired?" Will he walk up to Bosh and Wade and say, "Do you accept this rose?" Even if he settles back into Cleveland, you have to feel for the people of C-Town.
LeBron James is treating Cleveland like a college freshman treats his longtime high school soulmate right around, say, September. After years of loyal courtship, he has broken free from all contractual agreements and is starting to look for other places to have fun. Or at least, there's a sizable buffer zone where it's safe to look around, you know? But since there are so many other fish in the sea, where do you even start looking places to meet people? There's quite a kegger going on right now in New York and New Jersey. Wade and Bosh are throwing a frat party down in Miami. And don't forget the party scene in Chicago--where the pieces are in place to make a serious run at a flip cup championship in no time. It's a tough choice--and maybe you party too much, make a ton of mistakes and you end up regretting everything in the near future. Such is life.
But Cleveland? That's the girl you marry. The one who has supported with you and stuck with you through thick and thin. Isn't there something to be said about loyalty?
If LeBron picks Miami, New York or even Chicago, the sports scene in Cleveland could suffer a groin-kick that is tantamount to what Pittsburgh felt on December 8, 1992. If you recall, the Pirates were a team on the rise and had just lost a riveting NLCS to the Atlanta Braves. Barry Bonds became a free agent after the season and signed with the San Francisco Giants on that fateful December day. Look what's happened to the Pirates ever since: 17 consecutive losing seasons, shoddy attendance numbers and a bitter, frustrated fan base.
At least the city of Pittsburgh had a few Super Bowl champions and the Stanley Cup-winning Penguins to fall back on. But Cleveland? Pssh: a woeful NFL franchise that has lost an average of 11 games per season since '99, a last-place baseball team and no hockey team...period. And now, potentially, a basketball team without one of the biggest drawing cards since Michael Jordan. Chicagoans: every time you see a Cubs or Sox player strike out with the bases loaded in the 9th, or a Bull not play defense, or a Bear fumble on the two-yard line, remember...it could be worse. You could live in Cleveland.
8:00pm could just as well be midnight for the sports scene in The Cleve. If there's ever a time when that city needed Jake Taylor, Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano and Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn, now is the time. Cleveland needs some "Major League" inspiration to pull out of this one.
What else does it have left?
Howard The Duck 2, maybe.
Or something like that.
Joe Collins is an assignment desk editor for Comcast SportsNet and contributor to CSNChicago.com.