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For the Love of LeBron

Posted May 12 2010 9:10am

by Barbara Berkeley

OK. So this is a weight management blog. I know that. But right now, the thing that is uppermost on the minds of very many Clevelanders is the utter collapse of the Cleveland Cavaliers in round two of the NBA playoffs. I am a Clevelander, and today I am devastated.

I assume you know something of Cleveland sports history, but just in case you don’t, the story is brief: we famously fall short. Some would say we are cursed. LeBron James promised to lift that curse and break the spell and he’s been doing it in super-human fashion.

For the past year, the Cavaliers have been unstoppable, invincible. We own the best record in the NBA. We have dominated both on our own court and on the road. The Most Valuable Player in basketball for the past two seasons plays for us, and he’s a hometown boy. We are a terrific city full of great, sports-minded people who are always being trashed by other fans and by the sports media. Little do they know how good we have it in Cleveland. I was born a New Yorker and I know. But this year, our usually denigrated town became the object of envy. We had LeBron and our love was returned because LeBron is from Akron. LeBron understood the endless frustration of Cleveland sports fans and LeBron loved Cleveland. We had every reason to hope that this spring, LeBron would give us a ring and make it permanent. A whole city in love. A deafening, towel-twirling, mass of humanity in love. But that was before the haze descended.

Was it only May 3rd, just over ONE WEEK AGO (!), that LeBron held his MVP trophy aloft at a ceremony in Akron with his beloved teammates gathered behind him celebrating and taking pictures from the podium? Sure, his elbow was bothering him then, but he was transcending it. He had the light in his eyes, the face of an angry bull when he needed it. He remained our knight, our protector. Then, something happened. Something unexpected, atypical and enormous.

Because LeBron is such a super-human athlete, such a large figure, the story line seemed to come right out of a super-hero movie. On the very day that the MVP trophy was given to LeBron on the floor of the Q, the Boston Celtics beat up on the Cavs at home. On that very day, too, LeBron looked listless. We all noticed it. He seemed to be hanging back and he didn’t have “that face”. The light was dimming. Was there kryptonite in that trophy?

Not to worry. The Cavs went up to Boston and demolished the Celtics in Game 3. They embarrassed them at home, winning by 29 points. Series over it seemed. Just needed to take the next game in Boston and come back home to polish them off. Our hero had found his super powers. But even then, there were some nagging doubts. LeBron didn’t look right.

Don and I were headed up to Boston to visit our daughter and her boyfriend. On a whim, we bought tickets for Game Four to be played on Sunday. From the moment we got to Boston Garden, it was obvious that our team was lacking a serious demeanor. No one seemed tough, focused, or intense. LeBron did not look pumped up or even particularly happy. Usually, LeBron thrives on competition. He is the fourth quarter guy who demands the ball because he loves to make the big shot. Don and I have been going to Cavs games regularly for years. We know the team. We saw the difference. Little by little, the light was fading. Why?

We were sitting right behind a couple of the team doctors who theoretically might have known more about LeBron's mysterious ailment, but we hesitated to ask the burning question: What the hell is really going on? They sat there throughout the game,composed and not seeming to be particularly concerned while Don and I (and the handful of other Cavs fans at the Garden) became more desperately worried by the moment. Couldn’t anyone see the poison that was spreading?

Back home now on Tuesday night with the series even at 2-2, LeBron appears comatose. His eyes are glazed. His attack is completely gone. He hangs around on the sidelines and tosses bricks up at the basket. He’s like Raymond Shaw in the Manchurian Candidate, the guy who has been brainwashed by the enemy and becomes a glassy-eyed pawn whenever he sees the red queen in a deck of cards. Has anyone been inviting LeBron to play a little solitaire? Like a house of cards, the whole team falls apart spectacularly and the Celtics not only beat us by 30 plus, but kick us too.

At the end of it all, LeBron talks to the media. He’s not mad. He’s not introspective. He says he has to play better. He’s markedly unemotional. And most of all, he doesn’t seem to care about us Clevelanders at all. He’s not standing up for us and it seems as if our engagement may be off. His affect is too familiar. I’ve seen this before. Once upon a time a guy I really cared about decided to end our relationship. No matter what I said, I couldn’t get him to react. The reason? He just wasn’t emotionally into me any more.

This morning, the blogs are full of anger and pain. It’s the unrequited love. We can tolerate brave failure, selfless injury, last ditch efforts that fall short, but we can’t tolerate indifference and LeBron seems to have found another love in just a single week. A whole city wants to know what’s going on. Is this the story line of a super-hero who gets kicked and beaten until he’s almost dead and then rises in the last reel to polish off his attackers? Or is it the story of a super-hero who got a little banged up and then decided to save himself for the flashier girlfriend he’s been secretly dating in another city? None of us knows…and it’s really hurting.

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