With the news that ESPN is planning on producing an installment of their documentary series 30 for 30 on Cleveland sports and the fans persistence through what will likely be Cleveland's 50th year without a championship in a major sport in 2014, I found myself reflecting on the state of the Cavaliers fan base. Cleveland is, of course, a football town. The Browns franchise soaks up a huge amount of oxygen; I wasn't even shocked when I visited Cleveland for a Cavaliers game last month, and sports talk radio talked for twenty minutes about E.J. Manuel and whether the Browns would take him in the third or fourth round (this was at the infancy of his unbelievable rise up draft boards). I myself split season tickets to Browns games, and talk myself into a level of mediocrity that I will be comfortable with. If we win 8 games, that's a huge step in the right direction ...
But Cleveland is also a basketball town. Yes, you read that right. Cleveland is a basketball town. The Cavaliers may not get talked about too on sports talk radio, but you know what, those guys don't know much about basketball anyways. For the third straight season the Cleveland Cavaliers earned a top-6 draft pick. For the third straight season, the Cleveland Cavaliers gave significant minutes to guys who both never should have made an NBA roster, and guys who stopped being viable NBA players a half-decade ago. The franchise bottomed out after LeBron James left, and has yet to begin to climb its way back. But there is no talk of franchise relocation. There is no informed talk of young players upset about being drafted by Cleveland, or of wanting to be traded out. And the fans are still there. The Cavaliers finished 22nd in the league in attendance this year. This isn't good, but it could be much worse. This site's traffic compares favorably with several of our brother blogs who have teams in the playoffs. Cavs: The Blog, Waiting For Next Year and Stepien Rules have dedicated writers who understand the NBA and have a loyal following and produce great content almost daily. There are a number of intelligent people on Twitter that have dialogues and debates and jokes about the Cleveland Cavaliers every day.
How it was
The patience and loyal following the Cavaliers have is in many ways all the more impressive considering how far they have fallen. An NBA finals appearance, taking the eventual champion Boston Celtics to 7 games (P.J. Brown ...), winning 60 games in back to back seasons ... it was pretty awesome. And you know what, I am done trying to forget that era. That era was awesome. It was fun. Did the Cavaliers win a championship? No, but they won a ton of games. NBA media members routinely referred to Quicken Loans Arena as one of the loudest and imposing places for opposing teams to come play. I didn't go to a Cavaliers game until I was 21 in February of 2009. I have excuses for this (grew up a Bucks and Pistons fan, two hour drive, tickets are kind of expensive, etc.) but I will never forget the first one I went to. One of my uncles who lives in my neighborhood, but I unfortunately don't see as much as I should, had access to tickets about 15 rows up behind up the Cavaliers bench. He got us a hotel room for the night, and we watched the Cavaliers win their 23rd straight home game over Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors. LeBron James had 16 points in the first quarter, the pre-game video gave me chills, and I had an experience with my uncle that I will remember forever.
You could go to Waiting For Next year, and Andrew Schnitkey would have 1500 word previews for December match-ups with the Minnesota Timberwolves. You could turn on the television on a Tuesday night and Mo Williams would be convincing you with three after three that a championship was coming. Looking back, that February game I went to may well have been the apex of those Cleveland teams. We will get there again.
How it will be
This isn't going to turn into another article on how the Cavaliers are going to be good at basketball again. We have written and will continue to write those. But the great fans that range from their late teens to low 30's who understand what Cleveland basketball can be haven't gone anywhere. The Q may not have the atmosphere for these 20 win teams that it did for those 60 win teams, but there have been a few occasions that make it clear that its just a temporary absence, and not something permanent. Remember when Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers were beating Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the Thunder at home this season? It wasn't just Fred McLeod and Austin Carr that couldn't contain themselves; Quicken Loans was going nuts.
Cleveland has great basketball fans, and they will be rewarded for their patience soon. Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson will make sure of it. In the comments if you want to talk about who your favorite moment being a fan of the Cavaliers, or why you keep the faith that would be fun.