The seed of this story came to me last night, at, oh, I don't know, maybe 2 in the morning, maybe 3, as I tried for perhaps the twentieth time to get the Cavaliers' loss out of my head enough to drift off, knowing that at 6:30 it would be time to get up again.
In my game recap last night I stated that the loss, to me, felt almost pre-ordained, and I wondered why it had felt that way, and then it came to me...I am sure that I might be the only person on this blog that felt this way, but hear me out:
There was a moment, just a moment, but so powerful, at least for me, as LeBron James took that microphone and thanked the commissioner, and shared the credit for his MVP season with his 14 teammates, and with his adoring fans standing there and roaring, when I thought: My God, what if he does it right now, what if he says the simple words in this magic moment that would cause the Richter Scale to jump from the noise he could conjure? What if he simply said "Cleveland, I ain't going anywhere, I am here to stay." I tried so hard to will that to happen, against all odds, that when he didn't, when he simply finished his speech and broke away to get ready for tip-off, I was let down. I was actually disappointed even though there was no logical reason to think that he would hamstring himself by making such an announcement before he tests the waters of free agency. But the moment was magical, and therefore logic was not invited in to my thoughts for a few minutes.
So the game began, and for a while all I could think about was that lost chance. The announcers on TNT didn't help, of course, since it seems that it must be part of their contract to mention LeBron possibly leaving at least once a game. Maybe it is to try to suck in as much of the New York market as possible, I don't know, but during a game, I don't wanna hear it, I don't want a loss in a playoff game to take on apocalyptic overtones based on what someone might do in two months. God, that bothered me, to hear that talk again during this game which was spinning rapidly out of control.
Why did it bother me so? Because I care, and I am writing this because I think that you care, too.
We care for all of our teams, based on our preferences in particular sports. Kids who played baseball on dusty fields decades ago and who are now elderly and limp just walking out to get the mail care about baseball, because it entered their bloodstream when Eisenhower was president. People who perhaps met their high school sweetheart, the person they may have eventually married, on some otherwise-forgotten Friday night, care about football because it was at a game under less-than-stellar lights, in a mist and bitter cold, where they met their Future. Golfers, whether people consider golf a sport or not, care about golf, and watch it, even though some people find it so boring. They watch it not because they are expecting anything historic to happen, but because watching reminds them of when their dad used to take them down to the Valley close to Big Met and taught them how to hit a wiffle ball, and then let them be a "big boy" and hit a real, shiny Titleist, even if dad knew the kid was likely to slice it into the trees, where it might rest for all eternity. Because, you see, dad also cared, he cared more for passing on his love of the game than he cared for a fifty cent golf ball.
Bowling, hockey, swimming, basketball, there is not a sport that has not caused someone to lie awake in the silent hours well before dawn, analyzing, thinking "what if"s, and it cuts across all fan bases. Right now, we see Boston as the "enemy" because circumstance has brought us together with them in this series, and thus they stand in our way on the Road of Possibilities. But Boston fans, true fans, care deeply too, and for every team's triumph, there is sure to be some little kid in the "enemy camp" who will cry himself to sleep because dad and mom took them to their first game ever, and the team lost, and mom and dad were so damned cranky coming home, and the kid, who is not initiated yet in fandom, will wonder if he did something to upset them. Sure, in a town like Boston, where the Patriots, the Celtics, and of late, the Red Sox, have had such success, the sad days are much fewer than they are in Cleveland, and so we shrug them off, because of course, we know - since we care - that Boston fans have no idea how we feel.
Or do they?
I remember how crushed I was by The Drive, and I hated the thought of Denver fans dancing in their living rooms amid the breaking hearts in Cleveland Stadium and in the bars and homes of Browns fans everywhere, and yet...just the week before, it had been Browns fans dancing over a miraculous comeback against the New York Jets, a game Cleveland trailed 20-10 with less than five minutes to go. When we won in double overtime, I wonder how many hearts broke in New York...but because we cared so much for our team, we could not empathize with theirs.
LeBron may stay, LeBron may go. I wish he would stay. I wish he would set himself apart from all the "heroes" who left Cleveland in recent years and became reviled, because we care. I really wish LeBron James had seized that moment and would have presented Cleveland with something that would have lasted much longer than one night in May.
But he didn't. And he might stay, and he might go. But wherever he ends up, we will still watch the games, whether our hearts are gladdened or saddened, whether we live in New Jersey or L.A., whether we live in Minneapolis or Miami, whether our teams win or lose...
Because we care.