Cleveland sports can be described as many things. Depressing, gut-wrenching and eternally simultaneously optimistic and pessimistic are just a few.
One thing the three major professional teams in Cleveland cannot be called with a straight face is cool.
Being uncool comes with the territory of the city’s championship drought, turning old enough to receive an AARP card this coming December.
And yet, the Cavaliers are somehow now the “cool” team in the NBA. And I’m not sure I’m crazy about the way that feels.
It goes beyond being the title favorites in Las Vegas the season after receiving the first overall pick in the draft.
There’s nothing I want to see more than a team in Cleveland win a championship. And so I was ecstatic when the return of LeBron James to the Cavs signaled a very real opportunity for that to happen.
But I also knew to hold my breath.
The Browns in the ‘80s, the Indians in the ‘90s and the Cavs in the 2000s were all teams that seemed just as destined to bring home a trophy as this upcoming edition of the Cavs. Of course, as we all know, those squads each came up empty in a more heartbreaking fashion than the last.
So when James announced his return, I told myself, “Dream today, but save the celebrating for the parade.”
For the four years James played for the Miami Heat, I found myself glaring at everyone I passed by who was wearing Heat gear. Not only because I was admittedly still bitter about James leaving, but because I could not stand people that simply hitched on with the “cool” team.
After all that I and the generation before me had suffered, waiting for our Cleveland teams to deliver, it infuriated me that so many people could openly flaunt taking the cheap and easy “thrill” of a championship over the real blood, sweat and tears experience.
And now, suddenly, the Cavs are “that” team.
Look, I know there are a ton of Cleveland fans out there, and not all of them can remain as passionate through the four years of garbage that the Cavs put out in the between-LeBron era. But I was at last year’s preseason game at the Schottenstein Center as well as the one this week, and I can tell you confidently that many people came out of the woodwork for this team.
Last season, there were about 11,000 people at the preseason game. This year, there was a sold-out crowd of more than 19,000. At last year’s contest, you could hear a pin drop, while this year’s sounded like a playoff game.
On Tuesday, the Cavs announced they are throwing a fan fest before the home opener against the New York Knicks on Oct. 30. That event is scheduled to feature comedian Kevin Hart and rapper Kendrick Lamar.
I’m sorry, but that is just simply not how it is supposed to go in Cleveland.
After all that these teams have gone through, we have to know better than to count our chickens before they hatch. Confidence is great, but that only gets you so far.
So what exactly are we celebrating with this fan fest? The Cavs’ “coolness?”
All I’ve ever wanted from my teams was a championship, not to be trendy.
If all this attention and bandwagon-hopping is a byproduct of that possibility, then fine. And if they win, please invite Kevin Hart and Kendrick Lamar and Drake and whoever else wants to suddenly convince the world that they’re a Cavs fan to Euclid Avenue for the parade.
But please, for now, let’s remember what the real focus is here and save the festivals for a real accomplishment.