On this day four years ago, I wrote a post in the aftermath of The Decision. I recalled how bizarre the whole experience was, and how unfun it was to see your team and your city excoriated on national TV. I wrote that I liked Dan Gilbert’s letter, even if it was a little childish, because the people of Cleveland needed someone speaking for them that night. I made the point that it wasn’t that he left, because I couldn’t really blame him for that, but the fact that he did it on national TV that made it such a ruthless betrayal.
During that first season with Miami, LeBron seemed to embrace his villain role, and I was happy to root against him along with what seemed like the rest of the country. But despite that, and sometimes in spite of themselves, the Heat made it all the way to the Finals. It seemed like LeBron was well on his way to his first championship (of not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…) when the Heat took a 15-point 4th quarter lead in Game 2. But the Mavericks stormed back, won Game 2 and then 3 of the next 4 to steal the championship from Miami. LeBron hadn’t played up to his usual standards in the series, and he had been humiliated on national TV.
I like to think the first seeds of a comeback were sewn that summer, when in late August the Indians managed to bring Jim Thome back to Cleveland from the struggling Minnesota Twins. Thome wasn’t nearly the high profile free agent that LeBron was when he left, but he was certainly part of the disappointingly long legacy of Cleveland players leaving as free agents for greener pastures. I was there when Thome came back in 2006 with the White Sox for the first time, and he was booed pretty heavily. But over time those boos died down until, at the very least, it was a 50-50 mix between boos and cheers. And in 2011, when Thome finally returned, despite the fact that he was well past his prime, he was welcomed back and all was forgiven (they’re unveiling a statue of him next month). I like to think LeBron saw this reception, even if there isn’t any evidence to support it.
And then in 2012, the Indians acquired their biggest free agent this century, if not ever: they hired Terry Francona. The Indians’ manager doesn’t play a position, but for the first time since, well, The Decision, Cleveland sports gained some credibility. With Francona helping, the Indians managed to sign Nick Swisher (who is also an Ohioan), Michael Bourn, Scott Kazmir and others, and Francona’s first season was by all accounts a success.
But it was around that time, in 2012, when newly-ringed LeBron started talking publicly about a return to Cleveland at some point. By then I had gotten over my personal anger, and LeBron had shed his villain persona. I was back to rooting for him, having forgiven The Decision as a good guy being misled by some slimy agents and PR people. I always sort of figured he’d at least try to come back at some point. Even when he was playing for Miami, he seemed connected to Cleveland, always calling himself a kid from Akron. But I thought he’d be back when he was past his prime, maybe when he was 36 or 37 with a minutes limitation and bad knees. That would have made a good story, but probably wouldn’t have brought much more than some closure and some early round playoff exits. So even though I thought he’d be back eventually, I sort of looked forward to it in a general detached sports fan sort of way, sort of like how I’m viewing Derek Jeter’s farewell tour this year.
Two years later, and it was July 1, 2014, and LeBron was a free agent again. Everyone sort of expected him to opt out, either to send a message to the Miami front office or to give the front office more flexibility to refresh the roster. Maybe it’s just the recency, but this free agency period felt a lot crazier than the last one, maybe because LeBron kept his poker face until the last possible second. We read into everything, from meetings his agent set up to color codes on his website to accounts he followed on Twitter. I really didn’t think he’d go to a new team, but the more the thing dragged on the more it seemed like something was different.
After 10 full days of frenzied coverage, LeBron announced his decision in the most un-Decision way possible: with a classy, introspective, and heartfelt letter that talked very little about his basketball talents, and much more about his love for northeast Ohio. In that way, it probably didn’t make a lot of sense to anyone except people who live in or grew up in Ohio. (As someone who also left Ohio for warmer climates, I can verify that it’s a great place to live and to grow up. It’s also a place that’s really easy to take for granted.) By the last line, you knew what his decision was, but he said it again, emphatically: “I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”
The Heat were really good sports about the whole thing, overall. I loved Pat Riley’s statement where he said he was disappointed, but couldn’t begrudge a man for going home, as well as this tweet from the Miami Heat:
Thanks for the memories pic.twitter.com/ATASOdKdcB
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) July 11, 2014
Things won’t be quite the same as last time. On the down side, we’ve probably already seen LeBron at his best, at least in terms of a physical beast who can dominate both ends of the court. He’ll still be the best or among the best players in the NBA for years to come, but unlike his first stint, we won’t be wondering about his on-the-court ceiling; I think we’ve already seen it. But it’s off the court where things get so much more exciting. The LeBron that returns is more mature, knows his place on the team and knows his place as a leader in the community, as more than “just a famous basketball player”:
But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.
It’s exciting to see someone with such a high profile bet so much on Cleveland. LeBron is still at the height of his powers, and could have literally been the best player on any team he chose to play for and been the king of whatever city that team was in. But rather than the glitz and glamour of Miami or the legacy of the Lakers or Knicks, he chose home. Don’t get me wrong: Cleveland’s roster is an intriguing one for LeBron and should be at the very least fun to watch when he actually takes the court, and there were certainly worse places LeBron could have chosen. But if he was looking for the easiest path to more rings, Cleveland wasn’t it. But LeBron chose the Cavs anyway, and even the deepest cynics have to admire that, at least a little bit.
What does this mean for us, as Clevelanders and Ohioans? It occurred to me yesterday that when LeBron played for the Cavs last time, we sort of took him for granted at times. Sure, he was a great player, but we always haphazardly compared him to other great players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, acknowledging LeBron’s greatness but wishing we had one of those guys with both greatness and championship pedigree. During the last four years, LeBron’s absence from the Cavs almost spoke louder than his dominance of the rest of the league: without him these last four years, the Cavs had the worst record in the NBA and didn’t make a playoff appearance. No, LeBron didn’t manage to win a championship those first seven seasons, but when the team around him was a high lottery team, it’s not hard to see LeBron wasn’t really the issue.
During LeBron’s first stint in Cleveland I think I saw him play only twice. I sort of held a grudge against die-hard Cavs fans because I’m a die-hard Indians fan, the Indians had suffered for far longer and it seemed like the Cavs were much closer to a championship. I’m much more of an Indians fan than a Cavs fan, but in the spirit of not taking him for granted, maybe this time I won’t be as picky about who wins a championship first. And even if LeBron doesn’t deliver a championship (which I hope he will), maybe we can all remember how much more fun it is to be a Cleveland fan with him than without him.
Four years ago, I titled my post “The night is darkest just before the dawn”, and I’m pretty happy about that title today because it now seems prescient. In that darkest part of the night, I never imagined that the dawn was only four years away, and yet maybe that’s where we are today. It wrapped up a great week for Cleveland, and don’t look now, but the Indians and Browns don’t look half bad right now either (my half-season review of the Indians is coming next week). LeBron (sort of) said it first, but I’ll say it again: it’s an exciting time to be a Clevelander.
According to Wikipedia, the city pictured above is the 7th most dangerous city in the world. Sports teams in Cleveland haven’t won a championship in 44 years. The economy in Cleveland is bad and getting worse. Politicians in Cleveland are corrupt, power-hungry and greedy. Lake effect snow is just a weird breeze away.
On that note, I’d like to make a statement to the national media.
DON’T FEEL SORRY FOR US.
It seems like every day I’ll flip on ESPN, CNN or one of the cable news networks and something is said along these lines:
- “…Cleveland’s economy is just terrible. Poor Clevelanders.”
- “…not a single championship in 44 years. Can you imagine that?”
- “It’s amazing that there are still people left in the wasteland that is Cleveland.”
- “Cleveland is one of the most devestated economies in the U.S….and it’s all George Bush’s fault.”
Anyone else sick of hearing this?
Let’s think about it for a moment. Cleveland’s economy, while a tad slow, still has a ton of room for growth. Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport is one of the main hubs of Continental Airlines, seemingly the only airline that is not being affected by rising fuel costs. The lakefront is primed for development (now if only those stupid politicians could do something about it…). Cleveland’s cost of living is among the best in the nation.
In sports, we haven’t had a championship in 44 years, but on the other hand, none of our teams perenially bad, either. The Indians had an off year but still had some memorable moments and are poised to contend next year. Even though the Cavs struggled with injuries and rebuilt their entire team in the middle of the season, they took the best team in the league down to the final few minutes of Game 7 of the conference semi-finals. The Browns had an improbable 10-6 season last year and just missed the playoffs. If you’re not in the mood for the conventional sports, what about a Lake Erie Monsters game, or a Cleveland Gladiators AFL game?
And if you want culture, Cleveland’s got that too. Little Italy is full of mom-and-pop shops and restaurants that makes Cleveland Heights (maddeningly) like the streets of Rome. The Chicago Tribune has called Cleveland the hot new dining scene. Playhouse Square is probably the best theater district between New York and Chicago.
It’s easy to focus on Cleveland’s shortcomings. But if you focus on the good, you find that Cleveland is a pretty nice city to live in. And the media feeling bad for us works against us in two ways: 1) it scares new people and talent away from the city, and 2) it’s against most true Clevelanders’ nature.
Instead of complaining about the weather when it’s bad, Clevelanders notice when it’s good and enjoy it. Instead of being fair-weather (pun intended) fans of the Browns, Indians and Cavs, Cleveland fans support the teams when they’re bad or good (particularly the Browns). Instead of wistfully dreaming of the Pacific coast or Atlantic coast, Clevelanders drive up to the tenth largest lake in the world and enjoy a day at the beach.
Don’t let the media attack or victimize our city. Living in Cleveland is a lot better than its made out to be, because, like anywhere else in America, with some hard work and a little bit of luck, anyone can excel.
I’m proud to live in Cleveland, and like Fausto Carmona, I’ll defend it.
This is an article I’ve wanted to post for a while, but driving home from Giant Eagle last night has pushed me over the edge. It’s a fact of life that there are people who are good at things, and there are people who are bad at things. I think this applies to all skills: there are people who are good at baseball, there are people who are bad at baseball; there are people who can cook, there are people who can’t; there are people who can use a computer effectively, there are people who can’t.
Generally, if you can’t do a certain skill, or you aren’t very good at it, you tend to avoid it (yes, Mom, for cooking, that means you). The one skill this does not apply to is driving.
I’ve heard that there are bad drivers everywhere. Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston traffic is usually what is among the worst. After driving in New York this summer, it occurred to me that in New York, Chicago, LA and Boston, there are just too many cars. You could put professional drivers in those streets, and there would still be traffic jams.
It’s places like Little Italy, in Cleveland, OH, that drivers are just bad. Here are some examples of people who should really just take a break from driving:
- The way-too-courteous guy. I have no problem with courteous driving, in fact I encourage it. But don’t be too courteous. Don’t be one of those guys who stops in the middle of the road on a two-lane street to let the guy coming from the other direction turn left. There are two things wrong with this: 1) it slows down everyone else who is behind you, causing them to curse and question humanity’s existence, and 2) the other guy doesn’t expect you to. The second point is the most important here, because when the other guy doesn’t expect you to let him turn, he won’t turn for a while, until there’s that awkward hand waving exchange and he finally gets it. The other guy expects you to follow the rules of traffic, which is that the only vehicle with more right-of-way than a vehicle going straight down a street with no traffic lights or stop signs is an ambulance or fire truck.
- The merging ninja. Look, I don’t really care if you’re going to merge in front of me. (I do have a problem with it if there’s no real reason for it, or if you should have done it a while ago, but generally, it’s how traffic moves and I’m okay with it.) If you’re going to merge in front of me, use your turn signal. There are few things that get under my skin faster than someone merging in front of me without a signal, because there’s absolutely no excuse for it. It doesn’t conserve gas to not use your signal for 2 seconds, it increases the risk that I’m going to hit you, and it’s against the law that the rest of us follow. I often wonder why people do it: do they think I won’t see them? Are they thinking, “well, I’m about to cut this guy off, but maybe if I don’t use my signal he’ll think ‘Hmm, there’s another car in front of me, how’d that get there? Oh well.'”
- The guy who plays too much Risk. When you’re sitting at a traffic light, this is the guy who pulls into the intersection from the adjacent street and gets stuck there, either because he’s too afraid to make his left or he feels that the road is territory to be claimed and he wants the prime real estate right in the middle of the intersection. It’s for reasons like this that the state of Ohio will not allow me to carry grenades in my car, because if I was allowed to do that, I’d just roll a grenade under any car that got stuck in the intersection and prevented me from moving on a green light.
- The mobile businessman. GET OFF YOUR CELL PHONE. You should have to take an extra license test if you want to be legally allowed to drive while talking on the phone (or eating, or smacking your kids, operating your iPod, etc.) while driving. I take pride in my ability to drive safely while on my phone (via Bluetooth, if possible) and operate my iPod (normally just simple “skip track” operations), but I think this should be a privilege, not a throw-in with the rest of your license.
- The indecisive guy. This is the guy who likes both lanes on a four-lane street so much that he drives in both lanes at once. What’s worse, he’s normally driving 5 MPH under the speed limit and it’s impossible to get around him because he’s blocking both lanes. Normally, he’s trying to avoid parked cars in the right lane. Here’s a thought: get in other lane, like the rest of us.
By the way, I realize that we’re on the same road together (in some cases, for hours). But I don’t need to hear about your political beliefs via bumper sticker. Incidentally, the worst offenders of the people described above tend to have “Kerry/Edwards ’04” or “End
less this war” or “Legalize marijuana” stickers. If you want to discuss your beliefs with me, pull over to the side of the road, get yourself a fair trade organic soy milk latte, and we’ll talk about it once I get off the road and less angry about the traffic I just went through.
Don’t wait up.
It’s actually turned into a beautiful Sunday evening in Cleveland – no better time to sit next to an open window, watching a baseball game (not the Indians, who stunk up another one today) and blogging.
- I guess the Indians are a great place to start, actually. Last year, when I turned on the Indians game to watch, I would stay on SportsTime Ohio for the entirety of the game (and more, if it was a good game and I wanted to see highlights). This year, I don’t mind watching the Indians pitch, but if they’re at the plate I have a tendency to change the channel, particularly if Ryan Garko, Jhonny Peralta, or David Dellucci are batting. Last year you always had this feeling that victory was always just around the corner, and the Indians would find it or come very close to finding it. Even if they were down in the ninth, it seemed like they would always figure out a way to get guys on base and make it interesting and occasionally they’d pull it out. This year, we have had one walk-off win (if I recall correctly) and I don’t think we’ve won at all after trailing after 8 innings (except maybe very early in the year).
My point is that when the Indians are playing, the fans aren’t having fun anymore. And I can’t imagine the players are having much fun. For those of you who get on me constantly about writing in this thing, remind me sometime in the coming weeks to write a midseason review of the Indians, once I have some time to gather my thoughts.
- Anyone notice that traffic in Cleveland is especially bad? It seems like you can’t go anywhere without hitting construction (and it’s particularly bad right around where I live, on Euclid Avenue and Mayfield Road). I’m okay with construction, but I wish government projects were run like small business projects. If Lazorpoint were to run a project like these construction projects are being run, the client would have fired us or never done business with us again. I’ve told the guys I work with that if you live on the Ohio-Indiana border or Ohio-Pennsylvania border, you should hear a traffic report that sounds a little like this: “…and if you’re going to Ohio today…just don’t. Go around. Take the route through Kentucky and Virginia, because that whole state is just a mess. Back to you…”.
And when you hit those construction free oases, it’s still very likely you’ll run into a driver that has absolutely no idea what they’re doing. I think if you were to give a driving test to every driver on the road, only 10% would pass.
How do you solve this problem? Remedial drivers tests are an option, but I see both sides of that argument: on one hand, drivers who are adults in most cases absolutely need to drive in order to get to work, be productive and provide for their families; on the other hand, drivers who can’t drive are safety hazards to drivers who can.
The only solution that really has any possibility of working is everyone taking responsibility for their actions.
Hold your laughter please.
- Anyone find it funny that one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign promises was ending our national debt, but now after her campaign is over, she finds herself $22 million in debt?
I’m kind of out of shape on this blogging thing – my endurance is low even though I didn’t write that much. Oh well…
I’m 3/4 done with my college career, and without a doubt the last year was the hardest. The good news is that this time next year, I’ll be planning for life after college and hopefully becoming more of the person I’d like to be.
- After work tonight, a friend and I decided to try to get one of those famous 23 cent pizzas. Actually, the original plan was to get more than one – as many as possible, actually. Unfortunately, we weren’t counting on every single Clevelander having the same idea. The talk radio people like Mike Trivisonno (who is normally fun to listen to, for the record, but has his moments where he’s just an absolute moron) were very annoyed that so many people were taking advantage, and as the previous article states, there were some issues. But tomorrow is another day, and by this time tomorrow, we’ll all remember that Papa Johns doesn’t really make great pizza.
- The Indians took a series in New York (mostly thanks to Cliff Lee and David Dellucci, two oft-maligned southpaws on this blog), but another southpaw, Travis Hafner, is really struggling.
All you can hope for with Travis Hafner is that he’s seen video of his swing from this year (and presumably last year – last year he wasn’t ever bad enough to merit drastic reconstruction on his swing, but it might have been enough for him to develop some bad habits) and compared it to video in 2006. To me, after watching the video, it’s pretty obvious. Of course, it’s far easier said than done – but the season is still young, and Hafner has plenty of time to turn it around.
Ben Francisco is up, and is getting regular playing time, which is nice to see. He’s had some good solid hits already, and his defense in the corner outfield spots doesn’t leave me holding my breath as much as Dellucci.
- And now a message from every mathematician in the world: “To Hillary Clinton: It’s Over”. She doesn’t seem to think so, and I guess when you have as much money as the Clintons do (although that amount is dwindling, because she keeps loaning herself money) you can alter math.
One thing I’ve noticed about John McCain recently – his supporters are far easier to get along with than either of the Democratic candidates. Perhaps the Democrats are a little edgy because they see McCain gaining ground quickly while Obama and Clinton battle it out, but seriously, there is no need for the fawning on the message boards: “OMG PRESIDENT OBAMA I LOVE YOU” or the hatred: “OMG PRESIDENT CLINTON II BARACK OBAMA SUCKS”.
I’m typing this from my work laptop and I’m really not a fan of the keyboard or touchpad (I have a docking station and a mouse at work, but not with me at the moment), so I’m going to adjourn. Once again, I apologize for the lack of updates lately – hopefully I’ll be on a more regular schedule soon.
It’s a sunny April morning in Cleveland, Ohio. Normally, in April, its either snowing and 30 degrees or sunny and 65 degrees, but today, we’ve struck a compromise, and its sunny and 35 degrees outside. It’s okay for me, I get to watch baseball tonight without having to play it.
- In a rare feat of good news, Wal-Mart is doing the right thing. Although it’s probably not for the right reasons (I can see it now, on the front page of CNN.com: “Wal-Mart is evil”) it’s still nice to see that this story is resolved without any further conflict. One notices, however, that the whole situation could have been avoided if this guy (or his lawyer, not that it’s his job or anything) read the fine print.
- Front page of ESPN.com/MLB:
Inside, details about the past 5 seasons for David Ortiz and how he started. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy any article about how the Sox are overrated. But honestly, the fact that an 0-11 start merits a full front-page as well as a two-page writeup for David Ortiz is solid proof that ESPN is biased. No, maybe its not the analysts, maybe its not the anchors. But the people who decide the content are.
- I’m not sure how Apple’s stock continues to rise, thanks to reports like this one that the 1/3 of iPhone users have a second phone. I see three reasons for this:
- AT&T is an absolutely terrible network. I like to think of cell phone providers like grocery stores here in Cleveland: Sprint is like Whole Foods, because it’s far too expensive but quality in the end; Verizon is like Giant Eagle, because it’s quality and good value in the same package; and AT&T is like Dave’s, because you never really know what you’re going to get.
- Corporate users have to be able to check their mail via Exchange, which Apple somehow forgot about when they released the iPhone.
- I’m going for a workout, and I want a phone with me. Do I really want to take my $500 phone with me when I’m running (particularly if it won’t be replaced by my office)? No, I want to take a little flipphone that’s more durable and not as big a deal if it cracks or gets dirty.
- How I Met Your Mother was on Monday night, and it was pretty funny. However, these days it seems like the chemistry between the group is gone for some reason. Maybe that’s realistic, but part of what made the show so fun was the chemistry between everyone early on.
- Fausto Carmona is on the mound tonight for the Indians, and here’s hoping our pitching is about fifteen times better than it was on Monday. Just think: games like the one on Monday are what our friends in Detroit get to watch all year long…
- Quote of the Day:
Slap me thrice and hand me to me mama! It’s Jack!Gibbs, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Hope everyone’s having a good week. I probably won’t post anything tomorrow because I’m working, but I’ll talk to you on Friday! Until then, go Tribe and boo Red Sox!
I’m tired and ready to go to bed but before I do, a few recent happenings.
- A lot of media speculation lately about a Hillary-Barack or Obama-Clinton ticket and how well it would do. I’m not sure how well it would do (although my guess is that the Democrats will run away with this election anyway, so it doesn’t particularly matter), but I do find it incredibly funny how much disagreement there is; take the opinion of Bill Clinton vs. that of Rush Limbaugh.
- The city of Cleveland is an absolute mess right now thanks to the visit from Father Winter this weekend. On Saturday…well, you saw the picture of the road (which has won acclaim from some for its artistic nature!). On Sunday, the highways were okay but the roads around Case were terrible. And now, it’s Tuesday and the roads around Case aren’t much better. That’s to say nothing of downtown. Getting there today wasn’t…terrible. But getting back was a nightmare. Not only is all of East 9th under construction, but now there’s snow on the sides of the road, so there are less lanes and thus cars (and pedestrians) are being stupider than ever. A general traffic tip: if the light is green, check to make sure you can get through the intersection entirely! If you do this, there aren’t as many times when you want to shoot yourself and wonder how a device as advanced and state-of-the-art as a traffic light could have allowed such a situation to occur.
- I might post a bit tomorrow about Microsoft’s recent efforts in research and development, as some of the stuff they’re doing is pretty awesome. People really don’t give Microsoft a lot of credit (ahem), but they come up with some pretty crazy stuff. I think you can compare Microsoft to the Cleveland Indians. In the 90s, Microsoft was a big company who was buying and overpowering and getting wins. But in the early 2000s, the company (and the Indians) decided a rebuild was needed, and here we are in 2007 with the Indians returning as the Central Division champions. I think Microsoft’s rebuilding will take a bit longer – because software development often takes longer than rebuilding a baseball team. But if you ask me, Windows 7 will put Microsoft back on the innovation forefront – along with other technologies.
- Today is March 12th, which means the Indians open their season about three weeks from now against the White Sox at Progressive Field. I hope to post some longer thoughts about what I’ve seen so far, but for now I’ll say a couple quick things:
- Travis Hafner was worrying me a little bit but he seems like he’s coming along, hitting a couple doubles the other day. He had a terrible spring last year and that said a lot about his year, so hopefully a better spring means more Travis Hafner like we know and love him.
- Same for Grady Sizemore – he hit his first two home runs today.
- Pitching-wise, sounds like Sabathia is lights-out, Carmona is still nasty and Westbrook knows what he’s doing. The other guys – well, they’re coming along. Laffey would be my pick for the 5th spot in the rotation, but his performance a couple days ago kind of hurt his stock.
- I watched most of the 6 PM edition of SportsCenter tonight and noticed something entirely disconcerting: in the midst of the football offseason, there were 4 segments out of 6 with one or more football bits. In the baseball offseason, you’re lucky to get one. Dear Todd McShay: I don’t care that much about the draft! I’ll watch on April 28, until then, get a life! Seriously, Todd McShay must have been born on Leap Day or something, because you have got to be completely used to waiting for happiness in order to spend that much time covering a one-day event.
And on a final note, I found a new coffee shop in the first floor of our building today, A.J. Rocco’s. I really liked it – cheap but excellent coffee and a nice selection of breakfast stuff, and quite a nice atmosphere. I look forward to going back tomorrow. I’ll try to write more tomorrow, until then, stay warm!