Saturday, October 13, 2007

C-Town, grow up about Lebron!

By Rick Morris

As a lifelong resident of the Cleveland area, you might think I'd be most sick and tired of the perennially horrible and depressing economy -- or perhaps the harsh summers and winters -- or perhaps the single worst market in the country for terrestrial radio (albeit made much more bearable by my sweet, sweet iPod in the car) -- or perhaps the knuckle-dragging, no-vision mediocre politicians sucking at the public teat -- or perhaps the legacy of no major professional sports championship (I said major championship, indoor soccer!) since 1964.

Actually, the element I'm most sick and tired of is none of the above, although it's somewhat related to the legacy of losing sports teams.

You see, the Cleveland area is singular in the barely repressed overcompensating self-loathing that manifests itself in the world's biggest inferiority complex. If somebody at ESPN so much as mentions something unflattering about Cleveland off air and sotto voce to boot, 10 morons would immediately clog the phone lines of a local talk show to whine about it. It's almost impossible for anyone outside of Cleveland to properly appreciate this, but ANYTHING said by ANYONE in the national media can be taken at any time as a reprehensible slam on America's North Coast by its paranoid residents. A mere "Here comes the Yankees" from Chip Carey during the ALDS telecasts was enough for the majority of the Tribe fanbase to complain that its female private parts hurt.

So Lebron James, as a fellow lifelong Northeast Ohioan, should have known the grief he was buying by wearing a Yankees hat to ALDS Game One at Jacobs Field.

Personally, as a lifelong fan of all C-Town sports teams and certified Yankee hater, I didn't appreciate his gesture. But I'm just about unique in this town right now for the fact that I have no great urge to burn him in effigy.

Cleveland fans are actually pretty amusing in their ignorance and lack of any type of perspective on Old Number 23. To date, Lebron has lived up to the NBA pedigree by serving as (unmarried) baby daddy to two young tykes. With urban America plagued by countless ills that could be traced back to births out of wedlock and single parenthood, Lebron has chosen not to set a positive example for so many of his fans. But the "sports is my life" yokels who worshiped him considered him perfect before and now call him the devil incarnate for donning a Yankee lid.

Let me be clear. I have worn, and will continue to wear, Lebron gear including a #23 Cavs jersey. I have never been an immense fan of the man personally, dating back to his Hummer-driving days in high school (just try defending the indefensible on that deal!). I don't harbor dislike for him -- his "King James" persona is a bit much for me, but I think he's fairly well-adjusted when you grade on the curve and factor in that the world has been kissing his tuckus since his mid-teens. But I've always been cold and mercenary in my support of him. He's the single greatest athlete Cleveland has had in my lifetime, inasmuch as Jim Brown was before my time. He represents the greatest hope for a championship for my hometown teams, so I want him to succeed to bring my team a title. But I'm certainly not invested in him personally at all.

So when he does something jerky like taunt Tribe fans with a Yankees cap, I've got it in perspective, unlike the "Lebron hates us just like our evil overlords in the national media" nutcases who populate my hometown. Fortunately for them, The FDH Lounge exists and can demonstrate to those types that sports are important and fun, but there's actually a world that exists beyond it.

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