Thursday, July 8, 2010

LeBron Leaves Cleveland......And Darkness Returns To The Banks of the Cuyahoga

Tonight Art Modell has become #2.

The owner who packed up the original Cleveland Browns in 1995 to become the Baltimore Ravens, and earning the hatred of a city and region, and Browns fans throughout the sports universe, is off the hook just a bit. Modell will not be the most hated man in the history of Cleveland sports.

Tonight that mantle has been transferred to Cleveland's onetime favorite son.

LeBron will exit Northeastern Ohio, and will leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.

And with his announcement this evening on national TV "King James'" crown has become more than a little tarnished. He may win multiple championships in Miami with the Heat, but the cost is one he may not thought will come with the loss of his hometown, maybe forever. A city and region that has become a national punchline will take yet another hit. Cleveland and northeastern Ohio was among the areas hit hardest by America's economic hard times, though Cleveland's troubles can be measured in generations. LeBron James was that light in the darkness. He was the manchild from Akron who became the greatest sports star Cleveland had known since the immortal Jim Brown in the 1960's. James was not only the face of the franchise, he was the face of the city. He was the favorite son.....and now the Chosen One has decided to turn his back on the family that desperately wanted him to stay.

The closest equivalent in recent years to the feeling of betrayal that might be felt in Cleveland might be illustrated in the exit of West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez from WVU to the Maize and Blue of Ann Arbor and the Michigan Wolverines. "Rich Rod" was a native and proud West Virginian, who claimed that his tenure in Morgantown was his dream job. But he took the bigger payday and left for Michigan in an acrimonious move, and overnight became the most vilified man in the Mountain State. The town that once had a sign announcing his birthplace found it vandalized, almost immediately.

Sadly, and irrationally, the same is probably in store for LeBron James and all things associated with him in Northeastern Ohio. Yes, professional sports is a business....and any fan who thinks that loyalty is a two way street is delusional. LeBron James is entitled to go and make the best deal possible for himself....that's the way the world works.

But in LeBron James' case, the exit for Miami- to win now- will leave a bitter taste that may never go away in Northeastern Ohio. And watching his press conference this evening I actually felt a little sorry for LeBron; he doesn't seem to realize how negative the reaction is going to be. I don't get the sense he comprehends that he can never truly go home again.

The story will never be complete for LeBron James and his legacy no matter how many championships he may win in Miami. The script was SUPPOSED to have James winning in his hometown, lifting the franchise and a downtrodden region on his shoulders and becoming an immortal. He was supposed to be the young Prince who pulls the sword from the stone who truly became The King.

And now, sadly, he has shown what he truly is.....a businessman looking at the bottomline and doing what was best for his own interests.

Ayn Rand would have been proud of him.

And I'm sure the city of Miami is.


Click here for a reaction to James' decision by the Akron Beacon-Journal's Bob Dyer.

Below, video of the angry reaction of Cleveland fans.

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