Between the United States not playing in the World Cup and the threat of the Columbus Crew leaving for Austin, it’s been a grumpy sports summer for my inner fan.
Now LeBron James has again decided to leave Cleveland and the national media — once again — seems to be cheering about it.
This might be a good time to check up on my inner fan, knowing full well anyone with well-reasoned opinions probably isn’t welcome …
Journalist Michael: Are you going to behave or do I have to find that straightjacket again?
Fan Mike: Yeah, I’ll behave. But don’t expect me to be happy.
JM: Happiness is fleeting, especially when it comes to being a sports fan — and doubly so in Northeast Ohio.
FM: It didn’t feel fleeting two summers ago. Then again, neither did LeBron’s tenure in Cleveland. I blame Kyrie Irving.
JM: Kyrie Irving chose being "The Man" over another possible championship. Without LeBron, he’s never won a thing in the NBA. Now he’s a guy who’s gone through three major knee surgeries by age 26.
FM: Meaning ‘Uncle Drew’ already is to be considered as fragile as he is talented. Obviously, one thing he didn’t learn from LeBron was durability.
JM: That said, I don’t believe that’s the reason LeBron went west. I think, given the omnipotence of the Golden State Warriors, James thought there was no way to get another title in Cleveland, so he went to Los Angeles for business reasons as much as anything.
JM: The man isn’t severing ties with the area. He’s opening a public school in Akron this fall, for goodness sake. He’s offered a small fortune to help city kids get to college. The city of Akron hasn’t had anyone this generous since the Seiberling family’s height of power.
JM: Let’s not forget, he did break Cleveland’s 52-year title drought. He gave Cleveland that moment you were waiting for since you were a kid.
JM: And I can tell all of that has absolutely no bearing on your feelings about him going to Los Angeles. Hasn’t he earned the right to determine his own career path?
FM: By NBA rules, he’s earned the right to do whatever he pleases. Yes, he’s a better human being than the vast majority of NBA players. Yes, he’s the greatest small forward in NBA history. Yes, he’s been brilliant off the court, in terms of business, philanthropy and being a role model.
FM: But Michael Jordan won all his titles with the Bulls. Magic Johnson only played for the Lakers. Bill Russell only played (and coached) for the Celtics. Why is it than when Cleveland produces a megastar, he always feels compelled to seek fortune and championships elsewhere?
JM: Do I detect that you’re annoyed at Cleveland fans for not letting LeBron have it like they did in 2010?
FM: Frankly, yes. I know after four straight trips to the NBA Finals, some folks in town were feeling lukewarm about the whole experience and seem to be satisfied/mollified by winning that title in 2016. Are you kidding me? Do you remember what it felt like to win 20-30 games every season?
JM: The enthusiasm for these Finals was way down compared to pervious years. I think a lot of fans realized that LeBron did a Herculean job just getting the Cavs to the Finals — and realized the Warriors were vastly superior on paper.
FM: The Warriors were the better team on paper in all of the last four NBA Finals. (Man, do I wish the Cavs could have been healthy in 2015). But runs to the Finals should never — ever — be taken for granted. In his heart, LeBron has to know that his streak of eight consecutive Finals appearances will end next spring.
JM: Because the Warriors were already dominating the league and they just added DeMarcus Cousins to their roster?
FM: The 1972 Lakers or 1986 Celtics would have had problems beating the Warriors the last two seasons. Now perhaps the best center on the market joins Golden State? No wonder some folks are saying its not worth it to play the 2018-19 NBA season.
JM: Look, I know you’re not going to be rational about this …
FM: And why should I be? You’re forgetting I’ve been Cavaliers fan since I was five. I fell in love with this team listening to Joe Tait well past my bedtime back when World B. Free was the main attraction. I’ve endured a lot of crappy years with this team and really would prefer not to go back to them.
JM: So you’re saying, as I’ve always believed, that rationality and fandom after often the antithesis of each other?
FM: I’m saying I love the Cleveland Cavaliers and the team’s prospects without LeBron James took an enormous hit. Even in the weaker Eastern Conference, the Cavs just went from "Finals favorites" to "possible lottery team" in one fell swoop.
JM: Well, the Indians are in first place…
FM: Don’t even try. I trust Major League Baseball’s economic system even less than the NBA. Regardless of whether the Tribe wins it this year, some major market is going to throw money at Michael Brantley. Cody Allen and Andrew Miller to break up the team.
JM: Sounds like you’re a bit paranoid to me.
FM: Albert Belle. Manny Ramirez. Jim Thome. CC Sabathia. LeBron James — again. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean teams with deep pockets aren’t after Cleveland sports stars.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_RPC