Is there a more unfortunate sports city? Not according to ESPN, who proclaimed Cleveland as the “most tortured sports city”. Clevelanders have known a lot of sad stories related to their beloved franchises. Billy Goat. The eight-run 8th. The Shot. The Curse of Chief Wahoo. The drive. The curse of Rocky Colavito. The fumble.
Portrayed by some of its detractors as “The Mistake on the Lake”, Cleveland residents have endured significant tragedies. With a struggling economy and high crime rates, “Sixth city” manufacturing environment decline created a somber vision of the future. Nevertheless, there are some signs of recovery. Kasich often gloats about “comeback city” although the accuracy of his statements is far from consensual:
“It’s a message Kasich has based his campaign upon, that Ohio has come back from economic turmoil, based largely on the economic development programs and tax cuts under his state leadership since January 2011. He has repeatedly called Ohio “one of the fastest growing states in the country,” and dubbed the transformation the “Ohio Miracle.” He has held the Buckeye State up as a model for Rust Belt recession recovery.
There’s one problem with that message.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ohio has now gone 38 straight months with job growth below the national average. And a recent report from the entrepreneur-driven Economic Innovation Group ranked three Ohio cities — Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo — in the top 10 of the “most distressed cities” in America. It found that 53 percent of the adults living in the city of Cleveland are not working (based on 2013 census data).
Ohio is not only not one of the fastest growing states for job growth, it is stuck squarely in the middle. (It ranks No. 24 in total job growth percentage.)”
BY DANIEL J. MCGRAW | MARCH 11, 2016
The Ohio primary is this Tuesday, and if Republican presidential candidate Governor John Kasich doesn’t win his home state, he’s likely out of the race for president. In radio and TV ads running in Ohio this week for him, the message is very clear: “Ohio is booming again, and you know he could do the same for America.”
This is the context of the Cleveland Cavaliers, immersed in one of the most mocked and ridiculized cities with professional sports franchises. LeBron James and his coming back story are well documented. After failing year after year, he moved to sunny Miami to get his “NBA Championships” degree. He managed to pass, barely. Not Magna Cum Laude (2 rings out of 4 trips to the Finals). As he sensed the end of an era in Miami (Wade’s health quickly evaporating and Bosh with multiple and severe problems) he decided to go back, quickly dispatching Wiggins for a better and more seasoned player, able to carry him and Kyrie to the NBA Shangri-La.
Last season had a bittersweet feeling for Cavs fans. If you were a cynical “C-town” resident, you couldn’t prevent yourself to indulge on self-pity, blaming the curse tradition. A more positive individual might have realized the result in the Finals had a “huuuuge” question mark: what if Love and Irving were available? The answer to that question might be answered next June.
Strategy: LeBron, the dream whisperer
Like General Moses, LeBron James can become truly legendary in Cleveland. The fandom and adulation are palpable – as it’s always been – but all Clevelanders are yearning for a NBA title. If last season was portrayed as a building year, important to develop chemistry and assimilate routines, this season the objective is clearly defined: title or bust.
Given the usual prolific production of LeBron James, the question revolves around the ability of LBJ’s partners in crime: Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. By now, everyone knows LeBron is closer to Kyrie. Regarding his relationship with Kevin, one can’t feel the same type of love.
The NBA Scholar thinks the decisive aspect of this triangle lies on Love’s production. Kyrie Irving has found a way to peacefully coexist with LeBron, after an intense and sometimes stressful adaptation period. Concerning the ex-Timberwolves, it’s been an uphill struggle. The fact Kevin Love’s usage places him circulating the three point line, discrediting his incredible production potential as a post player, has shown us a different player. Long gone are the recurring nights of 25 points and 16 rebounds. Nowadays, Love has become a third (and sometimes fourth!) option for the Cavaliers. Like most of the teams, they are trying to take a page out of Warriors book. Trying to fill the roster with several players who can hit threes with regularity has become the new normal in today’s NBA – Channing Frye acquisition was the last example.
Like Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel have done, LeBron James must create the perfect story for these younger, impressionable players – create his very own Superman script, customized for them. Kyrie seems divided between his branding pursuit and some emotional misconceptions. As for Love, we sometimes have the feeling he’s out there playing comfortably numb, oblivious to Cavs big picture. According to Lue, they seemed too worried about their brands…
Will he stay in Cleveland playing for this system? The comparison to Chris Bosh comes to mind. Unlike Bosh, though, who was in a different stage of his career, (already acclaimed as one of the best players in the league) Love has seen his value decrease as the LBJ and Kyrie duo seem to grab all the headlines. In all fairness, the Kevin Love we knew is nothing but a distant memory.
LeBron James role in this story? He must “sell” the idea to Love and Irving that winning this year will make them immortal in Cleveland. Not an ordinary feat. A once in a lifetime event. Epic material.
It’s not hard to sell this notion. Considering the years Cleveland has been waiting, you don’t need to push the limits of your imagination to realize this team will forever be carved in this city’s sports history. All the glory and hysteria that would follow, especially if they can do it against the Warriors (the definitive payback!), would be no shorter than a 24 hours party people scenario. There would be no shortage of laudatory articles. Non-stop celebration. A summer of love for the usually sad Clevelanders. As LeBron James said in his secret diary (a NBA Scholar exclusive!):
Outside shooting regressing (like the hairline), they say… I’ll show them all. The King and his Cavaliers will bring a Championship to Cleveland. The bliss… I can picture it. It’s so vivid in my mind… I’ll set the record books straight, win three or four Championhips and retire with the Crown… these Warriors kids have nothing on me… enjoy the fanfare, splash brothers. The King will finish your nice story. Nothing personal. You just can’t mess with the King.
At last, sailing to Cleveland glory
By narrating his vision, LeBron can inspire an “all or nothing” attitude from his colleagues. By now, LBJ has seen how miscalculations and arrogance can destroy the noblest of ideas. As we saw him at the sidelines, coaching with his good friend Tyronn Lue, there was a feeling LeBron James is probably more determined than ever. Stoked.
In the port of Cleveland, plenty of ships make their way through the great lakes. Steady and determined, Ohio’s prodigal son also wishes to lead his crew to the expected destination. Last year was too painful. Even Andrew Keith was called to do his thing: http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2015/07/28/local-shaman-will-help-cleveland-sports-fans-cleanse-citys-sports-curse
This deal isn’t hard to figure out. Plain.
It’s not only painting the right picture, though. LBJ should take the kids to some “field study” trips. Teaching them what it means to be from Ohio, what’s it all about. The blue collar attitude. Hard-work. The uphill economy that once was. Getting away from Edgewater, downtown and west side. Showing them the harsh reality of the poorer districts. Taking them to Johnycake lock. Pieces of history.
During the spring of 1828, a flood caused the Furnace Run Culvert to fail and the canal to silt. Several canal boats ran aground and were stranded at this canal lock. As supplies ran low, canal passengers and the crew ate johnnycakes to survive.
LeBron should act as the middle man between the past and the future, between gloom and the joyful atmosphere in the upcoming Summer. He knows he can’t do it alone. He learned that the hard way, last season. Making it in Cleveland can be a tricky proposition. 7th most dangerous city.
He needs allies. Love and Irving should be all in. So the fruits of this chemistry can take all of them to the promised land, fulfilling his destiny and making Irving and Kevin perpetual love child’s of C-town. Resonating beautifully and loudly like the amazing Cleveland Orchestra. Finishing the night in XO, an exquisite choice for trendy Clevelanders. They might even eat some traditional Friday night fish fries watching fireworks in the sky. Connecting the old with the new, the tales of starvation with the times of bonanza.
The end of an era.
The curse, defeated.