Cleveland Cavaliers: Just Basketball?

Well, I expect many here in NE Ohio will still be sucking a tailpipe this morning, following the implosion of the Cleveland Cavaliers last night in game five of the playoffs with the Celtics. And I’m not a big fan of pro sports. So I’m inclined to opine that this is just a basketball game. Hey, there are important matters to fret about — the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico among them and the shameful legal posturing now taking place among the companies responsible.

But this isn’t just about basketball. It’s about a community that desperately wants to associate with something positive. And the Cavs — unlike the local economy, outlook for jobs, housing market, public schools and so on — offer some hope of being the best. I saw that for many years in Pittsburgh — where the Steelers and Pirates helped forge an identity as the “City of Champions.”

Maybe that’s too much to ask of a professional sports team.  But the expectations for the Cavs are were certainly high — along with the potential for disappointment. Here’s from Deadspin: “LeBron Plays Basketball Poorly; City of Cleveland Placed on Suicide Watch.” Oh, my.

And with last night’s loss the fingers of blame are pointing in every direction — including at LeBron James. Here’s Marla Ridenour, writing in the Akron Beacon Journal, “Terrible play maddens fans“:

Those who have watched James since his days at St. Vincent-St. Mary are baffled by his lack of effort in the past two games. Usually on nights when his shot isn’t falling, he loves being the facilitator, playing Magic Johnson instead of Michael Jordan.

Conspiracy theorists will find plenty to debate.

Is James tired (from two years of nonstop basketball)?

Hurting (from his injured right elbow)?

Unhappy (with what looks like his team’s lack of chemistry and the decision-making of Brown)?

Ready to leave town (lured by last weekend’s wooing of the New York press)?

Or do the Celtics just have his number?

It seems like a stretch to believe that even if James had made up his mind to depart in free agency this July, he would pack it in. He’s always been a team-first player, showing no hint of unselfishness on the court.

But the boos were loud and long on Tuesday, and James could not be absolved from the blatant displeasure.

Ouch. Something tells me that we have reached the point here where this is more than just about basketball.

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