On the John: The Waste Land

On the John

The Waste Land

Originally completed May 14, 2010, 2:51 AM

Don't look now...

I’ve never felt ill for another city’s fans. Not like this. This is a nightmare. This is tragic. Okay, fine: it’s sports-tragic, not real-tragic. That’s what we tell ourselves. That’s what we mutter to ourselves in moments like this. And we’re usually right.

But not today. Because when it goes down the way it did for Cleveland this week, the dread seems real as a car wreck. Your team is not supposed to fall in the second round when it has 2010 LeBron James. That is not in the script. Hell, your team is not even supposed to fall in the East playoffs when it has 2010 LeBron James. Your team is supposed to battle the West’s champ in June. And now June will be the cruelest month…

Imagine: the city of Cleveland must now wait until July 1st to learn its fate as sports fans. That’s why this is bigger and sadder and a million times more crushing than The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, or even that god forsaken single from ol’ Renteria. Imagine if MJ was a free agent after the Bulls dropped Game 7 of the 1990 East Finals in Detroit. Just imagine…

Analogies are the best we’ve got right now. Which means we’ve got nothing. Because nothing I have ever seen in my 28 years of watching sports compared to this. No loss has ever possessed the soul-crushing pain of Defeat that comes immediately after watching your favored team wilt away, combined with the long-term panic of wondering if your team as you know it has played its final game.

For Cubs fans, 2003 was the nightmare, ’07/’08 the cold shower. But at least we always had next year. We entered ’04 and ’09 with Hope, damn it! And if it takes another 20 years for the Cubs to win their third World Series, we’ll say “Wow! 122 years between titles! Glad I was here to see it.”

But tonight, along the Cuyahoga, there are no silver lining smiles. Only tears and tired eyes.

He could make it all better tomorrow by announcing his intentions to resign with Cleveland. Like how the team with the first pick sometimes inks their man days before the Commish steps to the podium. LeBron doesn’t need to wait. He is everyone’s number one choice. He knows what can be offered. He could just say tomorrow, “This was terrible. But I’ll be back to make it right.”

He is not going to say that. He is going to wait until July. And while he waits, he will think about his home fans booing him on his final night in Cleveland. The one night that he struggled. The one night when The Chosen One choked. The one night of all the nights he’s ever played for them. And Cleveland fans will be left thinking the same. How could we have booed this man after all he has meant to us? How could we send him off to Boston with boos knowing we may never see him again? How could we do it?

And if he leaves, how many Cleveland fans who were in attendance and booing Tuesday night will wonder what might have been had they cheered him? Like how a person might feel if a close friend made some enormous error in that person’s home – forgot to lock the door after house sitting, and the house was robbed, for instance – and then the home owner yelled at the friend, got real down on him, and then the friend sped away angry and saddened and was killed in a car accident on his drive home. A person might feel guilt after something like that…

There I go again, comparing sports to real life. This ain’t real, eh? I was talking to a basketball friend after the game, describing this loss as a “nightmare scenario” for the Cleveland fans, and then I remembered an article I was reading earlier today in Foreign Affairs about the possibility of Iran getting the bomb, and how the writers described a “nightmare scenario” of Iran’s nuclearization leading to Israel tensing up leading to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey “[scrambling] to join the nuclear club” leading to the collapse of the Nonproliferation Treaty leading to around-the-globe nuclear war.

That’s a nightmare scenario, right? Much worse than this. Nothing to worry about here beyond some basketball player deciding to play basketball some place else. In this nightmare scenario, at least the world is here tomorrow.

Right. The world nukes itself into oblivion and that’s that. On the other hand, LeBron leaves the Cavs and the Cavs still exist. Cavs fans must still root for their Cavs. Basketball players will still wear jerseys with CAVALIERS printed across the chest.

Hollow words, hollow jerseys, hollow sports souls crying unheard tears. Burn on, big river, burn on.

Copyright 2010, jm silverstein


5 Replies to “On the John: The Waste Land”

  1. The final line is from the Randy Newman song “Burn On” about the Cuyahoga River catching fire. You might remember it as the opening theme to Major League:

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