Editor's note: I'm thrilled to be able to add Ryan to the Fear the Sword front page staff. With the additions of Ryan and Justin, I expect our coverage of the Cavs to be that much better. Both of them know the community well and I'm confident that their additions will help the site be even more fun for Cavs fans, while remaining civil and somewhat informative. Ryan will be helping out with recaps, previews, and hopefully reviving the Twitter recaps that we once had around these parts. Here's his debut piece, which does a really nice job of capturing the fan perspective (that is, of course, the goal of SB Nation). Welcome, Ryan!
I want to take you on a trip down memory lane. This is a trip that will show you the great things that we once had and why that should make you excited for what we might have on hand.
April 16th, 2003.
Does that date mean anything to you? Of course not -- that date doesn't mean anything to anybody. Well, this was the last day of the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2002-03 season. If you're wondering, they won 17 games that year, fresh off of a 25 win season the year before. Your leading scorer in 2003? Ricky Davis. Yeah, that Ricky Davis. It was another crappy end to another crappy season. The year before that, our leading scorer was Lamond Murray. I don't remember what Lamond Murray looks like. Our second best player was Andre Miller and we traded him for Darius Miles. Yeah, THAT Darius Miles.
I went to a few games that year, and it was as miserable as you might imagine. One of the games that my buddy and I went to, we went to for free. FREE. A scalper actually just handed us the tickets because he wanted to go home (Editor's note: this happened to me (Conrad) and ahowie when we went to a Lake Erie Monsters game this past March. WOOOOOO). I don't remember the intros. I vaguely remember generic polyphonic music. I don't remember people being there, not because I can't, but because I remember literally no people being there. The Browns were back, the Indians were declining but relevant, and the Cavs were winning 25, and then 17 games. Energy? None. Hype? No, none of that either. Hell, the most popular basketball team in Northeast Ohio was The Fighting Irish of St. Vincent -- St. Mary High School.
Finally, in the pit of all of this apathy and disgust, there was hope. From that very high school. From Syracuse. From Europe. From Marquette. Finally, all of that sucking would matter. We had DeJuan Wagner, and sure he was terrible as a rookie but he would come around, right? We had Zydrunas Ilgauskas. We had draft steal, Carlos Boozer. We had Darius Miles! We had Ricky Davis -- a 20 point per game scorer! Then it got even better, we won the lottery. We could pick any great player we wanted. In the draft of my lifetime, we got the top pick. The best tank ever pulled off. The buzz was crazy, and the culmination of that was drafting LeBron James -- a kid my age, FROM MY HOMETOWN, #1 overall. Some people said he was the best prospect ever. We got a new coach, awesome new jerseys, and the past was dead. Well, we won 34 and 42 games the next two seasons, fired another coach, let Carlos Boozer walk when he was still under contract, and literally every other young player on the team ended up being terrible. But again, there was a silver lining.
January 3rd, 2005.
Dan Gilbert bought the Cavs and was committed to new age entertainment. Gordon Gund is a great man, and was a beloved owner, but he was stuck in the past. What did Gilbert change? EVERYTHING. A new coach. A new arena name. New video boards. New sound system. A hype man. New TV broadcasters, and a new PA announcer. For all of their faults, Fred McCleod, Austin Carr, Ahmad Crump, and PA man Olivier Sedra provide an energetic and completely unique experience. There is nothing forced, fake, or phony about them (cheesy? eh, a little). Gone was the generic arena music, and in it's place were hip hop and just about anything else with a great beat to get everyone pumped up. We won 50 games that year, and it kicked off the best years of my basketball life.
If you weren't able to get to the Q during the LeBron era, you really missed out. Not just the Q, the whole area. Before the game, any game, my favorite hangout, Zocalo on E. 4th was standing room only. That's how it was on the whole street. Walking from there to the Q took 15 minutes to get 100 yards. People were overflowing out of the Harry Buffalo. Parking was impossible. Anyone else in a Cavs jersey was instantly your partner in a journey to greatness instead of your confidant in despair.
Every night we knew that we were probably going to see something special. That this freaking Adonis named LeBron would do something we had never seen before. From the epic intro videos, to the arena blacking out and literally pulsing to tip off, you had chills. I still get chills watching those videos. There were no enemy colors, there were 20,000 brothers and sisters there to witness (yeah, I know) greatness. A playoff game at the Q would leave you hoarse and deaf. Between the overpowering music and the roar of 20,000 insane Clevelanders screaming at DeShawn Stevenson, chanting "Boston Sucks" (whoops) or "Beat Detroit" at decibel levels not fit for humans in unison, you could feel the floor shake.
Fast forward 6 years. It's 2013 and the Cavs are trying to reinvent themselves again
They re-designed the court at Quicken Loans Arena and hopefully more renovations are on the way. Dan Gilbert has already admitted the scoreboards and video boards are out of date. New state of the art video screens should be coming soon and will be a welcome improvement. The music, while energizing, has started to overpower the product on the court. Is this a function of the arena being half empty? Probably. Taking a cue from the Browns, but in a much more practical setting, an in arena DJ would be sweet. Getting a cell phone or wifi signal in the Q would be a welcome change. Enhanced fan interaction through social networking or the Cavs branded mobile app seems like a no brainer. Remember playing armchair QB at Damon's? You had to guess each play, etc. and won awesome prizes for having the most points? A similar game with the chance to win concession coupons, free tickets, or player worn gear would be cool, no? (Side note: if any of those sound good Mr. Gilbert....call me, maybe?)
Those arena improvements will enhance the fan experience but, as we all know, the most important thing is the product on the court. The arena could have all the bells and whistles that you want, but none of it matters if the team is crap. And it's been crap for the past few seasons, but it's getting better and it's getting better fast. Instead of 10 years of futility, we had just three. In Year 1, we landed Kyrie Irving. How lucky is that? Kyrie is a legit superstar, and anyone telling you otherwise is lying. You know how we can tell? What's the one thing over the last two years you could say every time Kyrie suited up? "I'm probably going to see something special."
We've got a host of young, likeable talent in Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters and more. And this is a city that is desperate for a taste of the playoff action it has been missing since, well, you know. The reaction is going to be ridiculous. The Q should be alive again. Those heart-thumping intro videos should mean something again. Visiting fans shouldn't outnumber Cavs fans in the lower bowl anymore.
And if this team makes the playoffs? Man, a playoff series against the Miami Heat would be "pay anything you have on hand and worry about rent later" viewing. For the first time in years, this team has the ability to capture to attention of the entire city. You have to be there. If you can't afford to be there (or live in Canada smh), you have to be in front of a screen. Kyrie and the Cavs will cause Fred McLeod to unleash a bevy of new catchphrases. They'll send Austin Carr into an indecipherable frenzy. And 20,562 roaring fans will test the structural integrity of the Q once again.
We're still 85 days away from tip-off against the Brooklyn Nets, but I can't wait to get started.
CORRECTION: This article originally indicated that Cleveland played game 6 at Quicken Loans Arena, and that LeBron scored 25 points in the 4th quarter. The game was in Detroit, and LeBron took game 5 over.
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