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Cavs Cavs Archive Let Burned Bridges Remain Burnt
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

CryingSome arguments put us in good favor with our peers, provided we take the right side, but we might upset the status quo with a minority opinion.  And hey, that's life.  At the end of the day, you should be able to discuss anything and everything with your friends, then still walk away as friends, no matter how heated the debate might be.

I understand how there might be a level of disappointment on one side, especially when the answers seem so obvious.  I totally get it; how can people of any discernible intelligence be so dense?  When you reach that level of frustration, there is nothing left to do, but say "good day" and part ways.  When I state that I won't grovel over the hype of LeBron James potential exodus from South Florida in 17 months, I'm not out to anger the masses, nor am I striving for a contrary view.

Truth be told, I don't actually want to talk about it, but since the Cavaliers are about ten wins south of the 8th line in the Eastern Conference, this is what people want to stake the future of the Cavaliers on, another wing and a prayer.  If it were up to me, I'd pass.  If the Cavs brass wants to tell the media there's going to be a pursuit of free agents in 2014, and to imply the man from Akron would be among those considered, fine.

DecisionThat's a wise move.  We should be so lucky to see that plan of attack from the Browns or Indians, but we settle for the Frostee Ruckers and Nick Swishers of the world there.  Of course, Cleveland has gone down this road before; it was two years of the media selling Cleveland as a market not worthy of such a talent (like, say New York would have been), and it ended with that point being confirmed with an exclamation point on July 8, 2010.

Maybe my perspective is just different as an expatriate, perhaps my perception is even completely skewed, but that was the type of protocol everyone had in mind when the phrase "burning bridges" was coined.  We never got our just due for that.  From the viral feed WEWS shared with the world of young people burning jerseys in the streets, to the "What Should You Do?" Retaliation videos, and finally the joy many took in the Dallas Mavericks postponing the inevitable for at least a year, Cleveland has gotten some get-back, but never anything that I would consider justice.

ringI'm not bitter with LeBron James ; I'm even good with the action of calling him by name, instead of just saying "the player who left" or any other plethora of phrases that denigrate him as a basketball player or as a man.  I don't "hate-watch" the Heat, even if I'm happy to root against them if I stumble upon them while channel surfing.  He's a great basketball player, maybe the best (I'm quite unqualified to debate the merits of Durant or Bryant in this context), and he's got plenty of individual accolades to accompany his gold medals and singular NBA Championship.

It has taken me a while to get here.  The 2011 Eastern Conference Finals might have been my low point, when I believed the once-hated Chicago Bulls were our only hope to preserve Dan Gilbert's guarantee, as foolish as that may have been.  That guarantee wasn't about the truth, but keeping heads cool about the Cavs in the wake of such disappointment.  And now fans foolish enough to have taken it to the bank must find a way to cope with hanging on to such a flimsy promise in the first place.

DirkWe're probably past being grateful to the Mavericks at this point, and I doubt much resentment towards the Thunder exists after Miami finished their title pursuit against the young team from Oklahoma.  We have to feel fairly silly for rooting for a season-long lockout a year ago, if we were still hoping for a technicality to deny #6 his dream.  I wasn't in that camp, but I have to acknowledge that they existed.  I feel petty for having gone dark.  I think the Heat clinched their title on a Thursday, and after going without sports radio, TV, or Internet for 48 hours, I was finally told on Saturday morning that it happened.

I was also told that it was met with little fanfare, that the June weather was a hotter topic of conversation.  The sun came up, at least twice, after the worst case scenario played out, and we all went on with our normal lives after that.  Dan Gilbert's guarantee didn't play out as we hoped it would for Cleveland, but so what?  It offered closure of sorts; the villain got his jewelry, but it shouldn't have done anything for Cavs fans, except to allow us to move forward.

I literally have no ill-will towards James, even if I throw up in my mouth a little bit every time that Samsung commercial is on.  If he wins another title, or titles, it's of little consequence to me, to be perfectly honest.  He left us to win titles, or at least to win the one he's got, maybe we should be able to accept that, since he was right.  He got what he wanted out of Miami, that something tangible.  To discuss any what-ifs in Cleveland, after the summer of 2010 is a circular argument.

KyrieThe bottom line is that he's no longer forced to carry the ringless tag that our fine area knows so well.  If he decides for one reason or another that Miami has little left to offer him after 2014, he's got another decision to make.  If that comes to be a real thing, and we don't know that it will, Cleveland might be a target destination for the man who still keeps a home Bath Township.  Some things from 2010 remain true; Cleveland isn't New York or LA, and will never even be Chicago, thus it would not be ideal for someone still seeking the global icon status.

What has changed is that the Cavaliers debatable "second banana" isn't so laughable; it won't be a toss-up between Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams, but an already accomplished point guard in Kyrie Irving.  By then, it's plausible (not likely) that he'd be actually be Irving's wingman.  If there's anything real about Dion Waiters and/Tristan Thompson come the Summer of '14, the so-called "mistake on the lake" will be an actual basketball destination.  Add LeBron James to the mix, and others will follow.

So, I get it.  Acquiring the best basketball player on the planet is, pretty much, never a bad idea.  Even if you believe in the future of Kevin Durant, or that Kyrie Irving will eclipse James as a player over the life of a theoretical contract the Akron-native would sign with the Cavs, you shouldn't have any significant grievance with recognizing James as "the best".  Of course, despite my objection with the concept, Cleveland will certainly be an option that he considers, if it's on the table.  Or, maybe he'll just toy with the notion, before crushing our desperate hope, once again.

Chris GrantWith the light of day on the horizon, per the recent play of this season's chapter of the Cavaliers, it's hard not to consider keeping an open mind to the idea of a second go-round with the current Heat small forward.  The bottom line, despite our pride, is that LeBron tends to play on the teams that win more games than they lose.  If there's anything genuine about the young core of the Chris Grant-built team, it's likely that James could easily put this team into a title conversation on his first day back.  You'd really have to be the type to cut off your nose to spite your face, to be a Cavs fan that rejects this.

I am in the minority; I just don't want him back.  I like winning, and want to see the Cavs do it, believe me, I do.  I don't need Herm Edwards to reiterate to me that you play to win the game, and winning is usually the most important thing, but not in this case.  Keep in mind, I'm speaking of these terms in the present tense; and things can change, but I just want to put the shoe on the other foot, because I remember what it was like.  It wasn't that long ago.

The 24-hour news cycle hasn't changed my perspective so much that five years is ancient history, so I can still remember the 2007 ALDS "Yankee Cap Incident" that triggered years of speculation that he was dumping us for the lights of mid-town Manhattan.  As an Indians fan, I can't say that it bothered me; remember it was our Indians who were victorious that week.  The mainstream took it upon themselves to make our proud region inferior.  Our hero never really played the hometown card to have our backs, and we were just stepped on as low-income peasants, not worthy of such stardom.  To make a long story short, we were stomped on as a fan base and as human beings.  The Cleveland I know has a backbone; we're a proud people, aren't we?

Knicks jerseysWe need not grovel.  We need not allow our desperation for a night of glory and a summer parade down Euclid Avenue compromise us.  Of course, I want to see the downtown area light up on game nights as I saw in June of '07 and even in May of '08.  I know that the root of that economy boost starts with LeBron James being featured every night they opened the doors at The Q.  We have to remember that he didn't walk away gracefully after the seven great years we gave him as fans, seven grateful years, he only put an exclamation point on the vitriol we'd taken from the rest of the world for over two years.

Now, I don't know how important playing in Northeast Ohio truly is to James; only James really knows what's what with that.  But, let's just say that it means the world to him, especially after (possibly) multiple titles in Miami, and being denied that would devastate him.  How just would that be?  A basketball prodigy like our former #23 probably isn't used to the concept of reaping what you sow, but this would be it.

football helmetSounds silly, doesn't it?  Am I really in a position to say that winning isn't the only thing?  How dare I own this position of pride, when the alternative to pride might be that rare moment of closure in all this Cleveland sports misery that's found new ways to disappoint us, year in and year out?  Who am I to state that this is the thing that's more important than hoping this particular scenario leads to breaking whatever aura has haunted us since 1964?

Honestly, what I say doesn't make one iota of difference with regard to the team that I don't work for, or the region where I don't reside.  If it happens, if we're somewhat blessed with a World Champion in a Cleveland uniform, I'd simply prefer it not be tainted with these circumstances that involve forgetting how narcissistic and embarrassing to our city that the events of July 8, 2010 were.  For me, it's a thing of pride; maybe I'm being ridiculous.

burnOf course, the consolation prize to dealing with this involves Cleveland winning more, so, for me, if I don't get my way here, it is far from the end of the world.  At the end of the day, I'm going to root for the name on the front of the jersey, even if I am not particularly excited about the one on the back.  However unenthused I am about the prospect of re-building the bridge James (and also Dan Gilbert and the jersey burners of Lakewood) burnt, I'm not so petty as to not root for the Cavs because he's on the roster.

I will be smiling ear-to-ear when Cleveland wins it all, there's little doubt about that.  In the moment, I will either be past everything that bothers me about this in theory or have removed myself from any conflict, but you'll have to forgive me if I don't spend the next 30 months wanting it or counting on it.

It isn't a matter of forgiveness; I'm upset, but I'd really prefer it if the man didn't say he was sorry for anything.  He had the right to walk away from Cleveland, and broke no laws of the land in doing it in the method he did, but there's no undoing the malice that motivated him to smear us like he did.  It used to bother me that he won games, let alone adoration from anyone outside South Florida.  Now, he's got his title, and I'm not sure it would bother me all that much if he wins three in a row.

It reminds me that Jordan hasn't won four in a row, and would likely mean that Kobe hadn't either, so how could he leave Miami with a streak running?  I mean,  I understand it's Miami, but it isn't the Marlins.  That's probably the worst-case-scenario for Cavs fans, especially the ones who are anxiously anticipating his return.  Then again, there could be another Decision-level embarrassment; what the bleep do we really know at this point?

ClevelandI realize I may not be saying much to help support my position, but I am saying that we don't know how cruel this world can be to Cleveland.  I can't do what the status quo dictates Cavs fans do for the next 30 months; I am choosing not to place all my eggs in that same basket again.  I don't think LeBron James is intentionally spiteful, but I don't care to give the world (of antagonists) the joy of letting him disappoint me or letting me down again.

I could be very wrong about all of this, but for now, it's best just to let the ashes of this burnt bridge rest as they lie.  Our wounds have healed, and I'm not for ripping open old scabs, even if I'm in the minority.

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