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.

Advertisements

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.


Perfect embarrassment

May 4, 2010

 

When Asdrubal Cabrera meekly grounded out to Blue Jays pitcher Brett Cecil to start the seventh inning Monday night – the 18th straight Indian to head right back to the dugout – who knew that the most embarrassing performance in downtown Cleveland Monday night would take place not quite 100 yards from the Progressive Field bleachers?

That’s what happened after the Boston Celtics opened a 25-point lead en route to a 104-86 victory over the “Hey, but we won 61 games this year, that’s got to count for something, right?” Cavaliers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conferernce semifinal playoff series at Quicken Loans Arena.

Not long after Grady Sizemore walked to ruin Cecil’s perfecto, and right about the same time Jhonny Peralta singled Sizemore home to make both the no-hitter and shutout disappear, the Celtics opened up a double-digit third-quarter lead against the Cavs. The home team never got closer than 10 the rest of the way, falling behind by as much as 25 with nine minutes to go.

Celtic point guard Rajon Rondo pitched his own version of a perfect game at the Q, dishing out a Boston-record 19 assists. So did washed-up forward Rasheed Wallace. He got up off the couch and turned in a nearly perfect shooting night, hitting 7-of-8 shots for 17 points in 18 minutes. In his first six playoff games this season, Wallace had scored just 21 points total. Yes, Cleveland fans, you still have to muster up the hate for Rasheed.

The Indians having a perfect game tossed against them, or a no-hitter, or even the combined two-hit, one-run effort Cecil and Kevin Gregg turned are expected outcomes in this season of 3½ runs per game.

But the Celtics shooting 47% on 3-pointers? Six Celtics scoring in double figures, including all five starters? Kendrick Perkins scoring 10 points and grabbing nine rebounds while missing just one shot against the Cavs’ big men? Mo Williams making just 1-of-9 shots? LeBron James playing as if he were more worried about lifting his right arm over his head than playing for an NBA title?

All perfectly atrocious.

A beer bottle thrown onto the court after Boston’s Paul Pierce rassled Williams to the ground will probably be the least amount of gripping Cleveland fans will do while waiting for Friday’s Game 3. There’s already caterwauling at Real Cavs Fans, a Brian Windhorst article advising fans to calm down (like that’s going to happen with nothing but the Indians between now and Friday to distract us), and a practice on an off day for the Cavs.

So enjoy the next couple of days, Cleveland fans. Maybe the Indians will get no-hit. Maybe a Browns player will get arrested. Maybe Cleveland will end up atop another list that no one likes to see.

Whatever comes between now and Friday’s Game 3, nothing will be more embarrassing than what happened in The Q Monday night.


Be like Mike, but don’t be like Bulls

April 27, 2010

 
The Chicago Bulls are a lot more similar to the Cleveland Cavaliers than you might think.

Oh, no, not this year’s version. Not any version in the recent past, and most likely not any version in the near future. No, right now the Cavs are one of the NBA’s elite while the Bulls are a guest body on CSI. They’re just here to further the story along for our favorite characters, like LeBron James.

Yes, right now and for the foreseeable future, the Cavs are a 60-win juggernaut and a marketing dream. As long as LeBron James is here, that is.

Which is where the Chicago Bulls come in?

The Bulls are still viewed as NBA royalty. Because of Michael Jordan the Bulls are viewed as one of the NBA’s premier franchises, a team whose return to glory is only a matter of time.

Only problem is that outside of Michael Jordan, the Bulls don’t have a glorified past. Which means they probably don’t have a glorified future. Really, the Bulls have been an irrelevant franchise for much of their existence.

Consider: take out the Jordan era (1984-1998) and the Bulls have played 29 seasons. In only nine of those years did the Bulls finish over .500. Nine out of 29 years. With Michael Jordan? Six NBA titles. Without Michael Jordan? They haven’t even won six playoff series. The Bulls have posted a 4-14 mark in playoff series without Jordan, never winning more than one series in a given season.

Take out the Jordan era and the Bulls have a 1,027 – 1,318 won-loss record. That’s a .437 winning percentage. That equates to 35 wins per season. That’s irrelevancy.

What does any of this have to do with the Cavaliers? Well, before LeBron the Cavs were 4-13 in playoff series. Only once did they win more than one playoff series in a season. That was in 1992 when they lost to the Jordan-led Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. And, in the 33 seasons before LeBron James joined the Cavs they were 1,172 – 1,502.

That’s a .438 winning percentage.

The Bulls without Jordan and the Cavs without LeBron have exactly the same history.

Fortunately for Cleveland fans, the teams don’t have the same present or the same future. We hope.

Where Jordan and LeBron differ is their connection to their cities. Jordan had nothing to do with the Bulls before joining them in 1984, and virtually nothing to do with them since leaving in 1998. He was really nothing more than a hired mercenary.

Jordan was born in Brooklyn, grew up in North Carolina, and attended college at the University of North Carolina. He joined the Bulls only because the Portland Trail Blazers made the mistake of drafting Sam Bowie over Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft. After retiring from the Bulls for a second time in 1999, Jordan came back to the NBA for a second time a year later, this time as part-owner of the Washington Wizards. Then he made his return to the court as a member of the Wizards for the 2001-02 season. After Jordan retired as a player for good after the 2002-03 season, he was fired from his management position with the Wizards. Now he’s back in the NBA as head of an ownership group of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Meanwhile, LeBron was born and grew up 40 miles south of Cleveland in Akron, has built a home between here and there, and has surrounded himself with his family and high-school friends since the day he arrived in the NBA. The only thing anyone can find to criticize LeBron about are his sports allegiances – he roots for the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys, not the Indians and Browns.

Maybe the Cavs weren’t much before LeBron crashed the party. But they stand to be a whole lot while he’s here. That’s the other reason Dan Gilbert will do everything short of locking LeBron in the Q basement in order to keep The King here after his current contract expires. The Cavs are back to irrelevancy if LeBron leaves. The Cavs are back to being the Chicago Bulls if LeBron doesn’t sign a contract extension this summer.

And who wants to be the Bulls?


Noah’s bark

April 19, 2010

 

So Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah thinks “there’s nothing going on” in Cleveland.

(Except lose basketball games.)

Plenty of people think Joakim Noah is wrong. Ask any of them and you’ll find there’s all kinds of things for athletes to do in Cleveland.

Just ask current third-string and future ex-Browns running back Chris Jennings just found something to do the other night. At The Velvet Dog in the Warehouse District in the early hours of last Saturday morning, he allegedly punched a bouncer in the mouth. Maybe Noah can hook up with Jennings for a night on the town.

And it was just a year ago that Cleveland native and Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whitner had a big night out at Cleveland’s House of Blues, just a short jog from Quicken Loans Arena. At 3 in the morning on a Saturday last October, police used a Taser to subdue Whitner and break up what was termed a “near riot.” Whitner was celebrating his former Glenville High School teammate Ted Ginn Jr.’s birthday that day. Maybe Noah was upset that he was a week late for any Ginn birthday celebration this time around.

Noah might be in luck tonight. TNT is broadcasting Game 2. If the network sends Charles Barkley to town, he’ll certainly be able to show Noah a good time. He found one in 1996 at The Basement nightclub in The Flats when he got into an altercation. Jeb Tyler sued for damages he alleged were suffered during a fight with Barkley. A jury acquitted Barkley of all charges a year later. Noah and Barkley could at least commiserate about what a boring town Cleveland is, since Barkley spent most of last season cracking on the city.

If that doesn’t work Noah could track down former Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards. The now-New York Jets wide receiver always seemed to find something to do in Cleveland. That included a night out at The View nightclub — even closer to the Q than is the House of Blues. Last October Edwards allegedly assaulted a friend of LeBron’s after a night out. Not long after, Edwards was shipped out of town. But if he’s back in town he can show Noah around.

Who knows, maybe they’ll run into a Playboy Playmate of the Year. Former Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia enjoyed plenty of nights out with Playmate Carmella DeCesare, now his wife in 2004. On one of those nights out (fittingly named?) Tramp nightclub, Garcia and DeCesare ran into one of Garcia’s old girlfriends, Kristin Hine. Oops! A catfight ensued, the results of which were sorted out in court. DeCesare was acquitted of assaulting Hine, but has a fine story to tell. Maybe Noah’s just looking for his own story to tell.

It’s not just athletes that find things to do in Cleveland, either. Sportscaster Gary Miller, then with ESPN and currently an anchor for radio stations in Los Angeles, had a big night out during the World Series in 1997. Visiting the same club as Barkley had a year earlier, The Basement, Miller was arrested for peeing out an upstairs window. He pleaded no contest a couple months later. Noah most likely didn’t encounter any long bathroom lines anywhere he went in Cleveland, making him think there’s nothing going on here.

Then there’s former Cleveland State basketball coach Kevin Mackey, who found something to do in the summer of 1990 even though it wasn’t downtown. That’s when he was filmed leaving a crack house in the company of a prostitute. Certainly Noah isn’t looking for this kind of excitement, but Mackey’s just another example of a sports figure who had no trouble finding something to do in Cleveland.

Noah might not know it, he might think Cleveland sucks, but there’s a long history of athletes finding something to do in Cleveland. He’ll probably fit right in if he ventures out on the town. One thing Noah can be assured of, though, is that after Monday he won’t need to find something to in Cleveland until next season. The Bulls ain’t coming back here ’til then.


Whew, crisis averted

October 30, 2009

 

The Cavs are better than the Timberwolves. Shaq made three whole baskets and grabbed seven rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Celtics have become nearly 30 points better than the Bulls after a seven-game playoff series against them last season. Boston is now 3-0. Orlando went to New Jersey and won. And Toronto just finished losing at Memphis. Memphis!

Oh, but at least the Knicks lost. In double overtime. To Charlotte, a team that scored 59 points in its first game.

Feel better?