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Indians Indians Archive LeBron Disrespects Indians and Fans
Written by Tony Lastoria

Tony Lastoria
The Cleveland Indians participated in two outstanding games at Jacobs Field the past two nights, winning both games in front of frenetic crowds at Jacobs Field. But, at least yesterday, that all seemed to take a backseat as local and national airwaves were dominated by fans irate with LeBron James, who showed up to game one in a Yankees cap. Tony Lastoria feels Cleveland's favorite son embarrassed the city, the Cavaliers, the Indians, and fans by openly rooting against his city and fans.

The Cleveland Indians participated in two outstanding games at Jacobs Field the past two nights, winning both games in front of an electric crowd that was literally in a frenzy from pitch number one in Game One on Thursday night until the final pitch and walkoff hit by Travis Hafner in Game Two on Friday night. But, while the Indians are kings of the airwaves this morning and dominating all the talk nationally and locally after that incredible Game Two win, it was another king on Thursday night who stole the spotlight from a rather huge and exciting Game One win.

By now, everyone locally and nationally knows the disrespectful public display Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James put on during Game One of the Indians-Yankees game on Thursday night. Cleveland's favorite son showed up at the game and sat in the stands behind home plate dressed in a Yankees cap and proceeded to embarrass the city, the Cavaliers, the Indians, and fans by openly rooting for the New York Yankees to beat Cleveland.

After that disgusting public display, it was all Cleveland fans could talk about on Friday, and even the talking heads nationally hit on the topic calling it "disgraceful", "childish" and "immature". And, I have to agree with them.

Look, I don't want to hear the excuses from the fans who keep saying that "Lebron can root for who he wants" or "as long as he wins us a championship I could care less if he rooted for Satan himself." This town has become notorious for excuse-making, especially when it comes to the teflon-coated James.

The problem here is not LeBron's love for the Yankees. Hey, that is fine. I can live with it. We all have a right to root for whoever we want. And in this day and age where fan loyalty no longer is regionalized like it used to be where really every city now has become a melting pot of fans cheering for different teams, it is what it is.

But, don't do it in my backyard. It is not the Yankees cap or him being a Yankees fan that is causing this firestorm. No, it the in-your-face way LeBron went about rooting for his Yankees in that game, and the way he crossed the line to express his love for them while he kicked dirt in the faces of the fans as well as the Cleveland Indians.

Had LeBron rented out a loge to see the game, or stayed him in his mansion watching the game in his home movie theater, there is no issue here. But, to put on that public display he did on Thursday night was a complete disgrace to this city and the very fans who cheer for him from November to June. To paraphrase what Queen Latifah said in an interview during Game Two last night, "it was disrespectful to show up in your homepark and do that."

Apparently, The Chosen One thinks he walks on water. While that may be true when it comes to basketball, he better check himself at the door next time if he decides to pull another stunt like that. To have the icon of Cleveland parade his way down to his seats, in the stands, and sit there and openly cheer for the Yankees, what kind of reaction did he think he would get? He was obviously stuffing it in the fans' faces, because hey, he's LeBron James.

Of course, of late in this town he might be right as you can get away with almost anything these days because of the inferiority complex of this town since Art Modell took the Browns and left town. Judging by the reaction of the Cleveland fans on talk shows and message boards both locally and nationally, there is clearly a 50/50 split on whether what LeBron did was right or wrong (and some fans did not care either way).

But, had this been Boston, New York or another city with a vocal and strong supporting fanbase, LeBron would have been attacked and eaten up by the fans like a pack of ferocious lions. Instead, in Cleveland, he gets heckled by what ended up as nothing more than a small band of neutered housecats. He can get away with it here, and you better damn well believe he knows it.

If LeBron James played for the Boston Celtics and went to a Red Sox-Yankees playoff game and donned a Yankees cap in Fenway Park - Chosen One or not - he would have been cascaded with boos and peanuts and there may have been some arrests. Maybe that prediction is a little over the top, but the point is Boston fans wouldn't stand for it. If Tom Brady were a Yankees fan, you would NEVER see the icon of Boston step foot into Fenway with a Yankee cap on. I mean, what if Mark Shapiro were a diehard San Antonio Spurs fan and was at The Q during the NBA Finals donning a Spurs cap and openly cheering on the Spurs to victory? No, Shapiro and Brady would not do that because these guys understand a thing called professional courtesy, which is something Lebron obviously lacks.

Openly rooting for the fans in your city to lose, especially in a very meaningful playoff game where this town has had its share of playoff misery, is completely unacceptable. On a national level, Cleveland looks like a complete joke when their mega superstar is in the stands not supporting HIS fans and HIS city, but is "representing the Yankees" and cheering them on to victory. When I heard the audio from LeBron's interview with TBS reporter Craig Sager and he said "I am here representing the Yankees" I was stunned. Talk about a slap in the face to this city, the Indians, and the fans.

When people think of Cleveland sports, what is the first name that comes to mind? LeBron James. As the sports icon of this city, you have to show professional courtesy to not only the fans of this city, but the other teams as well. You better believe that Cavaliers Dan Gilbert did not like one bit what LeBron did the other night, and he or one of the PR guys with the Cavaliers probably got a hold of him shortly after the game urging him not to attend any more games. Bottom line, it is just classless, and a big shock coming from a young man who had been the perfect model athlete since his arrival.

There is another thing about this that bothers me and has me a little concerned. Being a frontrunner and with no clear allegiance to Cleveland from a sports perspective, this is somewhat surprising from a kid who grew up just outside of Akron. Many fans are probably learning for the first time that LeBron was a Bulls, Cowboys and Yankees fan growing up, did not care for the Cleveland teams, and that he has switched allegiances among his college favorites many times as well.

This concerns me a great deal because I had always thought he was one of us and did have a tie to the sports teams in this city. It was one of the things that really connected me to him as a player. Besides his God-given abilities on the basketball court, infectious smile and the way he handled himself as a young man, I was also immediately drawn to him because I thought the one thing he related to me the most was an understanding of what it meant to be a Cleveland sports fan.

Instead, I find out he has been a front-runner pretty much all his life and he has absolutely no attachment to any Cleveland team, even with the Cavaliers before he became one. While LeBron not being an Indians fan is not a huge surprise to me, I always thought he at least had an attachment to the Browns. That being said, LeBron has absolutely no idea what we as fans have been through. He has never felt that longing for a championship because as a front-runner his teams win every year or have won recently.

And here I thought when the Cavaliers won the lottery to select LeBron that he was elated to not only be in the city he called home, but play in a city that was home to some of his favorite sports teams. One has to wonder if landing with Cleveland was really all that important to him, as he obviously had no attachment to the teams in the area other than living 50 miles or so from the city.

It makes you wonder how loyal he really is to this city. It will make for interesting discussion when his contract runs out in three years, but I always felt like he had an allegiance to this city. Not any longer. If he is a front-runner for the teams he roots for and has no tie to this city other than playing here, let's just say I am a lot more nervous now than I was 48 hours ago of him leaving town when his deal expires in June 2010.

I love LeBron. The guy single-handedly resurrected Cleveland Cavaliers basketball from the dead, and has made them a team that is adored by many locally and nationally along the same lines of Jordan and his Bulls. The Cavaliers are a title contender for as long as #23 himself takes the court in this town, and the fans love him because he is one of their own being a kid who grew up just outside of Akron.

But, even the icon of the city can be criticized at times when warranted, and after his stupid mistake the other night this is one of those times. As a fan you almost have to feel like Michael Corleone in The Godfather when he found out his brother Fredo betrayed the family. "You broke my heart, Fredo. You broke my heart."

Hey, Fredo James, next time, when it comes to seeing your Yankees play against our Indians, get a freaking loge or stay home.

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