"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." begins the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities and no quote, not title could more appropriately describe the feelings of the fans in Miami and Cleveland respectively. Local hero and the worlds biggest sports star took to the tube tonight to announce that he was leaving the city where he had grown up and the Cavaliers organization that drafted him for quite literally warmer waters and the chance of championships in South Beach, leaving fans in his hometown devastated.
Cleveland has long been mocked for its professional sports failures, from the departure of the Browns (who promptly won a Super Bowl as the Baltimore Ravens), to the entire Major League movie series being based on the terrible Indians squads from the early 90's, and it appears that the half-decade euphoria sports fans in the city had with LBJ leading the way has come to an abrupt end. No more dreams of NBA titles and LeBron led dynasty's. The city was just starting to embrace those throwback Cavs jerseys that the new squad made popular, while brushing off memories of Craig Ehlo.
But, alas, it was not to be. LeBron's reign as King has ended and the Cavs will likely now quickly fade to the bottom of the Eastern Conference where they will rightfully dwell for another seeming eternity. Its hard to blame the fans of Cleveland, who have turned out in droves to support LBJ through the years, tossing chalk in the sky, proudly proclaiming to each be a "Witness" to his basketball majesty. And its even tough to critique the Cavs management who did everything they could to build a winning team around him, bringing in Shaq and Antawn Jamison, while preserving enough cap room and money to afford to pay him more than any other team. At the end of the day it came down to location, location, location and winning a championship - which really seem like the things every fan has to respect and understand.
And this is where the city of Miami stole the show. The tropical allure and overwhelming fan support for their local hero Dwyane Wade convinced the star to stay put, which helped to convince Chris Bosh to join him in the hot Florida son, and eventually get The King to migrate south. Heat fans now have an embarassment of riches that surpasses almost anything the NBA has ever seen, with 3 legitimate superstars on the same roster, all in the prime of their careers. Of course all this spending on the "Bigger 3" means that they have no money to stock the rest of the bench, leaving the team one major injury away from bust, but for now Miami fans will rejoice in the prospects of another hot winter in South Florida where the Heat is turned all the way up.
At the very same time fans in Cleveland will sludge through another cold winter watching the miserable Browns as they likely fail to win 4 games, endlessly depressed at the loss of LeBron, vehemently despising his public dismissal of their town and the manner at which he shunned his back.
These are the up's and down's of being a sports fan - the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Its extremely rare that we see it so publicly played out off the court, as it has this season, but its just another sign of the fans becoming more involved in the business end of the sporting world. As the corporate stranglehold - from ESPN to Coca Cola's Vitamin Water - have taken over LBJ's decision process, we can't help but insert some of our own corporate hype... So, if tonight you are a Cleveland fan or just someone looking for a new team to root for that you can put your trust in, we recommend checking out Project Franchise - our fan run squad that will hopefully never let you down, because you're the one in charge... Although we can't even imagine how terrible Usher and the rest of the guys running the Cavs are feeling right now - maybe its worse on the management than the fans after all!