Music to Tribe’s ears

January 4, 2013

You knew Nick Swisher was introduced as an Indian today. You did not know he introduced a CD in late 2011. No, you did not know that. Quit pretending you knew that. If you’re a real Cleveland fan you knew his wife Joanna Garcia is an actress. You knew he starred in baseball, football, and basketball at Parkersburg High School in West Virginia. You knew he went to Ohio State on a baseball scholarship. You knew his father Steve played catcher for nine seasons for the Cubs, Cardinals, and Padres. You thought you knew that the Indians couldn’t sign a player like Nick Swisher.

But you did not know he put out a music CD.

He did, though, back in October 2011. It’s called “Believe”, which is the name of the title track written former New York Yankee Bernie Williams. It also features San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito on guitar. No Ben Broussard, though.

Oh, one other thing you didn’t know — this is a kid’s record. Yep, Nick Swisher sings with a choir of children ages 8-13, and all proceeds go to his Swish’s Wishes Foundation, which helps children in need. So we can’t even make fun of Nick Swisher for making a CD. Well, that, and because it’s not half-bad. Swisher sings cover songs of Beatles (“With a Little help From My Friends”), Rolling Stones (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”), Sly and the Family Stone (“Everyday People”) and other’s, with a rendition of “Hang on Sloopy” thrown in. 

Sure, “Believe” isn’t even reason #1,784 that the Indians signed him, because they didn’t know it either. But it might be a Top 10 reason why Cleveland will love Nick Swisher. Swisher stared down a big chance to embarrass himself and acquitted himself on a CD that actually serves as a fun sing-a-long for kids. Nick Swisher, you are indeed Swishalicious!

Here’s a track-by-track analysis of “Believe” …

1) HEROES (David Bowie)

Swisher’s vocals would be a highlight on any Thursday karaoke night. The kid’s choir is smooth. When Swisher starts talking in between the kids singing “We can be heroes” toward the end, well, it makes everyone want to be a hero.

VERDICT: Line-drive single.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “I, I will be king.”

2) I WON’T BACK DOWN (Tom Petty)

Not being able to sing never really hurt Tom Petty’s career. Swisher does well on this song, but his earnestness doesn’t pay off as much as Petty’s nasal voice does in the original. The kids choir compares well to Tom Petty and The Heartbreaker’s harmonies. 

VERDICT: Double off the wall.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Gonna stand my ground, and I won’t back down.”

3) WHERE THE GREEN GRASS GROWS (Tim McGraw)

Swisher does well singing with the kids choir. The rest sounds like 90% reading, 10% singing. This version made me realize Tim McGraw is a pretty damn good singer.

VERDICT: Groundout to second.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “I’m gonna live where the green grass grows.”

4) LEAN ON ME (Bill Withers)

Swisher’s best effort on the CD. He gives the lyrics the perfect emotional heft and lets the kids choir do its thing on the chorus. 

VERDICT: Home run.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Lean on me, when you’re not strong/And I’ll be your friend/I’ll help you carry on.”

5) A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS (The Beatles)

Swisher shows almost as much range on this song as he does in the outfield. Sure, The Beatles wrote perfect pop songs so the template is there, but their songs can easily screwed up. Swisher shows he’s coachable, sounds great with the kids choir, and even walks off holding a high note. 

VERDICT: Double down the line.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Would you believe in a love at first sight.”

6) EVERYDAY PEOPLE (Sly and the Family Stone)

Swisher’s shows he’s a team player by giving the kids choir the spotlight on this one. He’s merely a supporting player here. Maybe it’s his designated-hitter day as the kids take the field. He starts and finishes the song with aplomb, but this is the kids’ starring vehicle.

VERDICT: Triple.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “You love me you hate me/You know me and then/You can’t figure out the bag I’m in.”

7) PROUD MARY (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Here it sounds like Swisher is having the most fun, growling out the famous “rolling on the river” chorus. His band gets some extended action on center stage in a perfectly acceptable version  of CCR’s famous song.

VERDICT: Two-hop single to left.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “Left a good job in the city.”

8) TAKE ME HOME, COUNTRY ROADS (John Denver)

This song is certainly on the CD due to Swisher’s West Virginia roots. But it also exposes his lack of vocal chops. Even the kids choir can’t mask him on this one. This is where Eric Wedge would say Swisher is a grinder.

VERDICT: Pop out to short left.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON (for Swisher’s All-Star Break plans): “Country Roads, take me home/To the place I belong/West Virginia, mountain momma/Take me home, country roads.”

9) JOY TO THE WORLD (Three Dog Night)

Swisher screams this one as if he’s just downed three shots of whiskey. He’s not great in it, but the music and kids choir make this very danceable. 

VERDICT: Base on balls.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “I’m a high life flyer and a rainbow rider/A straight shootin’ son of a gun.”

10) HANG ON SLOOPY (The McCoys)

Better versions are heard nightly at frat parties in Columbus, just before everyone passes out. Still, here’s hoping this version gets played at some Indians games this season.

VERDICT: Fly out to the warning track.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “O-H-I-O”

11) JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH (Rolling Stones)

This is the song Swisher tries to most closely match his singing with the original, which is perfect because Mick Jagger is as much a singer as he is a baseball player.

VERDICT: Hot smash single up the middle.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: “But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas!”

12) BELIEVE (Bernie Williams)

Not a bad song for a couple of baseball players. The kids choir really makes this one.

VERDICT: Single up the middle.

LYRICS APPLICABLE TO INDIANS SEASON: ”All things are possible if you believe.” (I.e., What if?)


Keeping 1995 alive in Chicago

August 30, 2010

For the past 15 years Cleveland fans have been wanting to relive the 1995 Indians. Well, everything but the ending. Turns out that anyone who wanted to relive that team needed neither a DVD player nor a hot tub time machine, but merely a trip to the South Side of Chicago.

If Manny Ramirez joins the Chicago White Sox — and it’s almost certain they will win him in the divorce of Los Angeles Dodgers owners — he’ll be the 10th member of the 1995 Indians team to eventually play for the White Sox. He’ll join another former 1995 Indian, Omar Vizquel, as the White Sox battle the Twins for first place in the American League Central.

Tribe fans have been begging the Dolan family for years to bring back one of the fan favorites from the Indians glory years of the 1990s. Let him play out his waning years in an Indians uniform. It will bring goodwill back to the Tribe, and maybe even a few fans back to Progressive Field.

Instead, those of us who wanted to remember the good teams might have been well-advised to follow the White Sox. Someone in Chicago must have followed the Indians of the 1990s. Since 1997 the White Sox have had at least one former member of the 1995 Indians all but two seasons. Some you remember, some you don’t, but one things clear — the heart and soul of that Tribe team all went through Chicago at one time or another.

Albert Belle was first. We remember when he left for the money, joining up with the White Sox in 1997 on a massive free-agent contract. He was joined on the ChiSox that season by Tony Pena. Belle lasted with the Sox until 1998. There was no former 1995 Indian on the 1999 squad. Two moved to Chicago in 2001 — Herbert Perry and Ken Hill. Hill pitched just two games for the White Sox, but he wore the uniform. In 2001, Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree joined Perry. Lofton and Alomar stuck around for the 2002 season. In 2003 and 2004 it was just Alomar on the White Sox. No 1995 Indian was on the team in 2005. In 2006 Chicago signed Jim Thome and Alomar rejoined the club. Thome stuck with them through last season. Vizquel joined at the beginning of this season. Now Ramirez is moments away from donning the White Sox’ pinstripes.

And let’s not forget Bartolo Colon, who started with the Indians in 1997, pitched in three different postseasons for the Tribe, and wound up going 15-13 for the White Sox in 2003.

Belle. Lofton. Thome. Alomar. Even Colon. Thay produced 603 homers, 1,814 RBI, 102 stolen bases, and 75 wins in Indians uniforms. Then they were gone when they still had plenty of productive years left.

So far, the only comeback we’ve seen in Cleveland is Kenny Lofton, who was last seen stopping at third base in the seventh inning of Game 7 of the ALCS — while Ramirez loped after a smash to left field that could have tied the game and, who knows, perhaps propelled the Indians back to the World Series. (Oh, and Jesse Levis, who came back in 1999 after three years in Milwaukee.) Part of the problem has been that the 1995 Indians who are still playing are just too damn good for the current iteration of the Indians. Vizquel’s batting .292 at 43 years old for the White Sox. Ramirez has been a headache for the Red Sox and the Dodgers since leaving the Tribe, but he’s won two World Series rings. Jim Thome, another guy we’d love to have back, keeps ripping homers. He’s up to 18 with the Twins this year.

Don’t count on any of them playing out the string for a losing Indians team next year, no matter how hard anyone begs. Why would quality players who can still contribute to teams in the pennant race want to waste time on one of the worst teams in baseball?

So if you want to party like it’s 1995, head down to Progressive Field before the White Sox leave town Wednesday. Ramirez will be there, and so will Omar. They’ll be in enemy clothing, but if you close your eyes and listen you can at least hear their names and pretend they’re not wearing White Sox uniforms, that one is a leap away from an game-saving diving play and the other is a swing away from a game-winning, and that the future is still bright for your Cleveland Indians.

1995 INDIANS WHO LATER PLAYED FOR THE WHITE SOX

  • Albert Belle: 1997-98, 302 games, .301 avg., 79 HRs, 268 RBI
  • Tony Pena: 1997, 31 games, .164 avg.
  • Herbert Perry: 2000-01, 201 games, .286 avg, 19 HRs, 93 RBI
  • Ken Hill: 2000, 2 games, 0-1, 24.00 ERA
  • Sandy Alomar: 2001-04, 2006, 265 games, .257 avg. 19 HRs, 94 RBI
  • Alan Embree: 2001, 39 games, 1-2, 5.03 ERA
  • Kenny Lofton: 2002, 93 games, .259 avg, 8 HRs, 42 RBI, 22 SBs
  • Jim Thome: 2006-09, 529 games, .265 avg., 134 HRs, 369 RBI
  • Omar Vizquel: 2010, 83 games, .292 avg., 1 HR, 25 RBI, 7 SBs (through Aug. 29)
  • Manny Ramirez: 2010

  • Don’t try this at home

    August 2, 2010

    We were all witnesses to what looked like another devastating blow to Cleveland sports Monday night. Prized Indians rookie catcher Carlos Santana was bowled over at home plate by Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder Ryan Kalish, then carted off the field.

    Any Clevelander with long-term memory immediately flashed to Ray Fosse being bowled over at home plate by Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game. That collision broke a bone in Fosse’s shoulder. Some say it ruined a blossoming career.

    Before Monday Cleveland sports fans might have convinced themselves they just didn’t care anymore, not after everything that’s happened to our sports teams the last couple of years. Then the future of the Indians crumpled to the deck and was carted off the field.

    Cleveland fans crumpled right along with him, falling into the pose familiar to comic-book fans everywhere: hero on his knees, arms stretched toward the heavens while he’s screaming, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!”

    In the past few months Cleveland fans have had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at them. Monday night, the kitchen sink ran over Santana, knocking him right out of his shoe. Santana stayed down for before trainers put a large orange splint on his leg and carted him off the field.

    No matter the outcome — after the game Indians officials said they didn’t believe Santana suffered any damage to his knee ligaments — Cleveland fans fear the worst. Monday night was a just-when-you-thought-it-couldn’t-get worse moment.

    Clevelanders can watch every Browns game this season, preseason included, and most likely not see a collision that looks worse than what Santana suffered.

    But look on the bright side, Indians fans. Kalish was out. The Indians won, 6-5. And Santana’s not dead, at least.

    Cleveland sports fans’ hopes? That’s a different story.


    If you can’t stand the Heat …

    July 30, 2010

     

    Matthew Bellamy’s Facebook page looked like pretty much anyone else’s before Thursday morning. A bunch of friends sent him gifts, won him money in Family Feud, or sent him pets in FarmVille. His most recent status update of more than a week ago was essentially a love poem to his girlfriend.

    Then the Sandusky factory worker who turns 30 in December went to an Indians/Yankees game at Progressive Field Wednesday night. Wearing a Lebon James Miami Heat jersey.

    Overnight Bellamy became the most notorious man in the world of sports.

    The skinny: Bellamy and his girlfriend Wendy Sedlacek made their way around Progressive Field Wednesday night. The couple made arrived late, taking their seats in the bleachers in the second inning. Then they walked around the stadium for a few innings, taking pictures and talking to people, including the guys at ClevelandFrowns.com. In the sixth inning they made their way back to the bleachers. That was when, according to Bellamy, he was shown on the Progressive Field scoreboard. The crowd began booing.

    From there, YouTube videos show the couple surrounded by empty seats at the well-attended game as fans pelted them with some empty and some filled beer cups and obscene chants. An usher came to check their tickets. Soon after Bellamy and Sedlacek had a police escort right out of Progressive Field and into infamy.

    Then Bellamy’s Facebook profile exploded, as some of his 1,500-plus friends chimed in. The first message regarding the incident came around noon on Thursday, when a friend wrote, “Where (sic) you at the Indians game last night?”

    Oh, yes, he was.

    Even Bellamy’s online friends were divided over whether he should have worn the LeBron Miami Heat jersey. A long discussion on Bellamy’s most recent status update, confirming it was indeed him in the jersey, found people both angry at LeBron but saying Bellamy had guts for doing what he did.

    Most everyone who isn’t his Facebook friend doesn’t like him one bit.

    Bellamy is unrepentant. In interviews with local news stations Bellamy talks about the incident. He appears a bit unnerved despite his defiance. His newest Facebook update from late Thursday night tells people to say what they need to his face.

    Well, they did at Progressive Field Wednesday night. And here’s what Bellamy had to say to some questions God Hates Cleveland Sports asked him through Facebook:

    1) Where did you get the jersey? Gift, you get it yourself, or what?

    “I bought all three jerseys. A guy I work with has them for sale!!”

    2) Did you burn your LeBron Cavs jersey before you got the LeBron Heat jersey?

    “Nope, have all his Cleveland jerseys still, as well as some high school jersey. I’m just a fan of his, love him, and I won’t turn my back on him!!!”

    3) Did your girlfriend dump you yet, or is she standing by her man? (I am assuming she is your girlfriend.)

    “Nope we will always be together, she’s always got my back, thanks.”

    4) You were wearing an Ohio State hat, so at least you don’t completely hate Ohio. What would you do if you were at an OSU football game and some guy showed up in a Michigan jersey?

    “Yes that was an OSU hat, it matched, and I always will love all Ohio sport teams. Its painful but i love them, actually last year I was in Michigan at the game all decked out in OSU gear, face painted and all!!!”

    5) How many Steeler jerseys do you own?

    “Not a Steelers fan at all, hate them with a passion!!”

    6) Did you think you would get the reaction that you got? Was it scary?

    “Was expecting some boos but wasn’t expecting the level it was taken to, scary at times but over all hilarious, I mean, really, get over it he’s gone. Does Cleveland ever hold talent!!”

    7) Who was worse to you, the Indians fans or the Yankees fans?

    “Indians fans by far were worse. We need and deserve a winning team. Maybe we wouldn’t be so bitter.”

    8 ) Did the police offer to let you stay if you took off the jersey or moved to another spot, or were you gone the moment they got involved?

    “They moment the officers came, I was gone, and totally disrespected by everyone, including the cops.”

    9) I just told two people who didn’t know what happened about what you did. One said, “That takes guts.” The other said, “People from Sandusky are mentally ill anyway.” Which is true?

    “I will wear what I want, nobody else’s opinions matter to me. If I let what other people said get to me, I would get nowhere in life.”

    10) Why did it take til the 5th inning for the fans to get on your case? Were they slacking off?

    “It took that long for people to get some beers in them, and muscle up.”

    11) Will you be taking your jersey to South Beach, or anywhere else? Will you wear it to any more Cleveland events, like, say, the Heat/Cavs game or lunch with Dan Gilbert?

    “I’ve already contacted a buddy that works and the Gund (note: It is now The Q.) I will be at the game and will continue to support LeBron. If Cleveland would have made the right moves or sacrifices like the Heat did, he would still be here.”

    12) Do you even like the Cavs?

    “Love the Cavs, love the Indians, love the Browns, it’s just painful to watch at times. We will get so close but yet we’re so far away, they will mess up a wet dream.”

    13) Is there anything else to do in Sandusky besides come up with plans to piss off an entire city’s sports fans?

    “Cedar Point and the lake that’s about it. You don’t have to like me but don’t hate me cuz I’ve done nothing to hurt the people.”

    Bellamy seems a little shaken by his night at the opera. When I spoke with him through Facebook chat, one of the first things he said to me was, “I apologize.” But he is also clearly unrepentant. I believe he’s more upset over things that his girlfriend went through at the game than anything he went through. He appears to be the kind of guy who has his convictions and stands by them, come what may. Whether he was actually trying to provoke a stadium filled with nearly 30,000 people or just trying to show his support for his favorite player is up for debate. Clearly not everyone shares Bellamy’s opinion of LeBron.

    In the Cleveland Frowns post, Bellamy was quick to point out a scar on the back of his head that he says came about from being mugged and pistol-whipped in Sandusky. His own bio on his Facebook page says, “I just love having a good time, I’m not right in the 4 head so i’m good for a laugh.” Perhaps the two are related. After Wednesday night, everyone can agree on that middle part. The laughs? That’s for you to decide.


    Nothing left to lose

    May 14, 2010

    Here’s the irony: Cleveland sports fans actually expected to win a championship this season. Can you believe that one? We actually thought we were going to win it all. We convinced ourselves that 45 years of heartbreak were going away in another month. LeBron plus Shaq equals NBA title. It was going to finally be all ours. 

    God must be enjoying a hearty laugh after this one. Probably his biggest laugh of all. 

    Really, how could we have let ourselves fall into this trap? ESPN rolled out the Cleveland Sports Heartbreak Montage on cue tonight, with the announcers even apologizing for showing it. But there it was again, playing peekaboo, jumping out at us just when we thought it was going away for good. This has become such a cliche that it’s probably on file for all sports broadcasts, even Vancouver at Montreal hockey games. Its a misery cliche.

    The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. The Mesa. Now add The LeBromination to it.

    What a disaster.

    Judging from most people’s reactions it’s not just another sports season that’s been put to rest. No, Thursday night’s playoff elimination at the hands of the Celtics was a eulogy for the entire city of Cleveland.

    And based on previous storylines, maybe they are right. Many say the Saints helped save New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, with this year’s Super Bowl victory putting the city back on its feet. The storylines for Michigan State’s basketball team’s run to the Final Four in Detroit two seasons ago was said to be cathartic for that city.

    If sports can save a city, can they also kill it?

    LeBron James means more to the health of his franchise than any other athlete. If he leaves the Cavs, they become a lottery team playing in front of less than 10,000 people per night. A perpetually kicked-in-the groin fanbase will turn its back on the team. Dan Gilbert will lose millions. The Cavs have always been the third wheel of Cleveland sports, relevent only for a few years in the late ’80s and early ’90s and again during LeBron’s career. Should he leave, it means the team loses the best player it will ever have. It will be years before the team recovers, if it would even be able.

    The Indians have sunk to sad-sack levels. The Browns were on the verge of fan mutiny last season and look mo better for 2010. And now the Cavs have collapsed two straight years after posting the NBA’s best record.

    Forty-five years of heartbreak boiled up with the Cavs’ loss to the Celtics. Forty-five years of anger rose up with the LeBromination. We were all witnesses once again to yet another Cleveland sports disaster.

    And this one feels like a backbreaker.


    Lack of fan support is a LeBromination

    May 13, 2010

     

    It’s the elbow, stupid.

    It really is.

    Ever since Tuesday night when LeBron James and company looked like the Star Wars crew at the end of The Empire Strikes Back – beaten, defeated, ready to give up – Cleveland’s best athlete has been taking a nationwide pounding. They’re calling him a quitter. They’re accusing him of throwing Game 5 against the Celtics. They’re saying he can’t wait to get out of town and join the Knicks.

    Heck, we’re calling him those things right here in Cleveland. We should be ashamed. Ever since he received his first Cavaliers jersey, LeBron James has been nothing but positive toward the city of Cleveland. He’s carried us through some dark moments and given us our greatest hope for a title. And now in his darkest moment, when he’s trying to play through an injury that would probably sideline him for weeks if this were the middle of the season, Cleveland fans are abandoning him. Instead of supporting LeBron, we’re abandoning him.

    LeBron is not quitting on the team or the city, folks. The answer is really quite simple. It’s the elbow.

    Remember the 2008 AFC Championship game between the San Diego Chargers and New England Patriots? Chargers superstar running back LaDainian Tomlinson sat on the bench wearing a parka most of the game, his expression hidden by his tinted face mask. New England won the game. He was heavily criticized after he left the game, especially when it was revealed Charger quarterback Philip Rivers played with an ACL injury that required surgery and several months of rehab. Even though Tomlinson gave it a go at the beginning of the game, sitting on the bench away from his teammates has overtaken his legacy.

    Now, LeBron is doing the opposite. He’s trying to avoid the LT2 legacy. LeBron is gutting it out and not making excuses. Instead of praise ala Willis Reed of the Knicks starting Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals with a torn leg muscle, our reaction has become a LeBromination. Because LeBron is masking his true feelings, we think he doesn’t care. It’s 180 degrees the other way.

    We know this because LeBron has been telling us this for the last couple of weeks. It doesn’t exactly take a Doc Jensen dissection of Lost to figure out what’s keeping Cleveland from its championship hopes this time around. Yet no one’s reading between the lines.

    It started after the series finale against the Bulls on April 27. LeBron gave us the first hint of what the future held with this postgame comment:

    “It bothers me because I don’t know what it is. Hopefully it doesn’t continue to bother me. But I’m not concerned. Cleveland fans have nothing to worry about. They have no reason to panic. I don’t think it’s that serious.”

    That quote was LeBron’s big mistake. He told Cleveland sports fans there was nothing to worry about, which would be like Greece’s president telling his country’s citizens that the current economic meltdown is like being 10 cents short for the pop machine. Tipoff is enough reason for a Cleveland sports fan to panic. LeBron’s elbow falling off? Worse than Terminal Tower toppling over and flattening The Q. Still, we believed him because we need something to believe in. False hope will do.

    Reports quickly followed about an MRI that revealed no damage, and another that merely showed a strain. 

    After the Cavs struggled against the Celtics in Game 1 of their playoff series, we heard this from LeBron regarding his elbow:

    “Throughout the game it loosened up. I have a no-excuse policy. This team has a no-excuse policy. … We’re about coming out and competing against the Celtics.”

     There’s the money quote. LeBron is not denying there’s something wrong with his elbow. He’s implying there’s something seriously wrong with his elbow. And he’s saying it’s not an excuse for his performance. LeBron is old school. He knows the game’s history. He knows the great players don’t hide behind injuries. They tough it out. And that’s what he’s doing. If you’re healthy enough to play, you don’t use your health as an excuse.

    It certainly can be a reason though.

    After being whipped by the Celtics in Game 2, this was what LeBron said about his elbow:

     “I’m going to continue to try to be the player I am and not use this elbow as an excuse. I’d never use an injury as an excuse. It’s just two games. I understand the burden and the pain Cleveland fans have. I don’t feel pressure at all. I’m looking forward to Game 3.”

    There it is again. The elbow is obviously a problem. But LeBron won’t use it as an excuse. He won’t even use it as a reason, even though it obviously is the reason why the Cavs are about to sink to the bottom of Lake Erie.

    Then LeBron went out and whipped the Celtics from the start in Game 4. He scored 21 points in the first quarter and thoroughly demoralized the Boston crowd as the Cavs dealt Boston its worst home playoff loss in history, 124-95.

    All that talk about the elbow? No big deal. It was probably just a little pain. LeBron wouldn’t let it stop him.

    Until Game 5. After the convincing performance in Game 4, LeBron put up probably his worst performance in his biggest game. He looked disinterested. His jumpers were straighter than Fausto Carmona’s pitches. He heard the boos from the home crowd, all because his elbow doesn’t work right. All because he was trying to play through a devastating injury to bring the home fans what they so desperately want – a championship.

    Now he’s being hammered from left to right like a soccer ball. What should be hailed as the most gutsy performance by the premier athlete in the NBA is being called a gutless try by a quitter. We should be praising the hometown man trying to bring the hometown fans what they desperately seek. Instead, we’re turning against LeBron because our previous relationships have ended so badly we can’t possibly believe he’s doing anything but quitting on us.

    The quotes have become more obvious the last couple of days. The blog Fear The Sword claims that LeBron is playing with a torn elbow ligament that will take six to eight weeks to heal. A shot to numb the elbow helped him perform in Game 4, but that remedy is only available every 10 days, the blog claims. Then Plain Dealer Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst tweeted this Wednesday:

    LeBron also talked about elbow, hinting about plans, severity: “The elbow is an issue I’ll deal with in the offseason.”

    So in ironic Cleveland fashion LeBron James has been accused of being a quitter at exactly the time he is giving his most to the team. At precisely the time LeBron is doing anything he can to help his hometown team to their precious championship people are claiming he is turning his back on us in order to head to the Knicks. At the exact moment that LeBron James needs his fans the most we are giving him the least support.

    This truly is a turning point for Cleveland sports. It’s going to become the moment we as fans look back on with greatest shame.


    There was always next year

    May 12, 2010

     

    There’s always next year, they say. They say it especially often in Cleveland, where usually there’s only next year. Our hopes go poof year after year, no matter the sport. Still, year after year battered and bloodied Cleveland sports fans get up, clean themselves off, and soldier on into the next season, the next sport, the next year.

    There’s always next year, we say.

    Until there isn’t. After Tuesday night, when the Cavs suffered their biggest home playoff loss in their most important game in franchise history, even next year looks like it’s been taken away from us.

    The fallout from Tuesday night’s 120-88 at the hands of the Boston Celtics isn’t about a team with the best record in the league on the brink of being knocked out of the playoffs before the NBA Finals for the second straight season. It isn’t about the mystery of LeBron James’ poor performance and his subsequent indifference about it. It isn’t even about the last 45 years without a championship.

    No, the fallout from The Debacle at The Q is all about next year. Or rather, the lack of it. It’s about the lack of hope. Because no matter what anyone might say, the reality is that the best player the Cleveland Cavaliers will ever have – heck, the best player that most people alive right now will ever see wearing “Cleveland” on his chest – might have played his last home game in his hometown. And if LeBron James leaves town he takes next year with him.

    You could see it on Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s face during Game 5. He looked like he had just watched his house burn to the ground. The rest of us felt like we’d just watched our dog get run over. Even Jose Mesa was disappointed in the Cavs Tuesday night.

    What next year will we be waiting on if LeBron leaves after a second-round collapse against the Celtics? The Browns’ next year, with 35-year-old Jake Delhomme at quarterback? The Indians’ next year, after trading Cy Young winners in back-to-back season? The Cavs’ next year, with a team that can hardly win with LeBron having a bad game, much less without him even on the court?

    Losing to the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs would be a kick in the groin, but that’s all it would be if LeBron were with us for the long run. We’ve suffered those before. But if LeBron skips town with next year in his back pocket, well, that could be a death blow to the Cavs in Cleveland.

    Wait til next year? We’ve been waiting for it, ever since 1964. There’s been heartbreak along the way, plenty of it. The Browns have been stopped on the goal line of the Super Bowl. The Indians were a grounder away from a World Series title. The Cavs have already made one NBA Finals with LeBron and a supporting cast made out of balsa wood. OK, none of them have won the ultimate prize. But we’ll give it another go. We’ll wait til next year.

    Wallowing in Cleveland sports misery used to kind of be fun. We’re all in this together. We’ve accepted the defeats over and over, knowing we could pick ourselves up off the mat to stare down the next blow. Even though our teams have been bad over the years there’s always been something good to look forward to. The Indians and Browns have crashed and burned over the last couple years, but we still had LeBron. Before LeBron arrived we were still hopeful about the Indians while forgiving the Browns their missteps simply because they had returned. When the Browns left town the Indians distracted us with some of the best teams in baseball. Pre-Jacobs Field we had the Cavs of Mark Price, Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, and Craig Ehlo. And before the Cavs caught our attention we had Bernie Kosar and the Browns making runs that were stopped a goal-line short of the Super Bowl.

    We’ve always been miserable, but we’ve always been happy. There’s been bad times, sure, but they always came alongside good times. Our stories were like those of people who lived through The Great Depression and called it the good old days. There was always next year – always.

    Not anymore. Not if the Celtics beat the Cavs and LeBron leaves. Not if LeBron becomes LeGone. If this ends badly Thursday night – and the Las Vegas bookmakers have made the Celtics one-point favorites – then it might just end, period, for a lot of Cleveland sports fans.


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