Drugi događaj ovoga mjeseca koji me – u sprezi s Laninom svinjarijom – prikovao uz temu košarice je veliki cirkus koji se u posljednje vrijeme zavrtio oko LeBrona Jamesa. Čuli ste sigurno za Lebrona Jamesa... ako itko među suvremenim košarkašima prolazi ''mama-test'' (da čak i stare majke koje ne razlikuju košarku od vaterpola od rukometa znaju za njega), onda je to LeBron. Objektivno najbolji košarkaš na planetu, prouzročio je u svom rodnom kraju nevjerojatne (iako ne i neočekivane) nerede – svojom famoznom Odlukom (The Decision: emisija na ESPN-u održana 08.07. samo u svrhu njegove objave za koga će od sljedeće sezone igrati) da kao slobodan igrač iz kluba u kojem je dosad igrao (Cleveland Cavaliers) pređe u novi klub (Miami Heat).
Postoje, naime, ljudi za koje košarka nije samo igra. Prije svih se ritnuo Dan Gilbert, vlasnik Cavsa, koji je isti dan napisao otvoreno pismo navijačima (kopirao sam link, ali je, na žalost, u međuvremenu skinuto odatle, od sramote valjda), nazivajući u njemu dotičnog LeBrona ''bivšim herojem'' i ''dezerterom'', optužujući ga za ''narcisizam'', ''kukavičku izdaju'', ''sramotnu predstavu sebičnosti i izdaje'', ''šokantan čin nelojalnosti'', ''bezdušan i bešćutan potez''. Opominje Gilbert – koji za život inače zarađuje kao zelenaš i vlasnik lanca casina, dakle strogo na tuđoj nevolji, upropaštavajući ljude, neki će reći i naprosto gangster – kako takvo ponašanje šalje ''upravo suprotnu lekciju od one kojoj želimo učiti svoju djecu i u 'što' bismo željeli da odrastu''. Danova firma Fathead revoltirana Odlukom spušta cijenu nekakvih LeBronovih postera s $99.99 na $17.41 – što to znači? – 1741 je u SAD historijski prepoznatljiv broj, kao godina rođenja najdemoniziranijeg tamošnjeg petokolonaša, iz Rata za Nezavisnost, Benedicta Arnolda. Zar bismo možda željeli da naša djeca izrastu u izdajnike i petokolonaše? Zatim ga još u nekom interviewu izravno optužuje kao ''quittera'', da je pustio Bostonu u playoffu (iako ta navodna LeBronova igračka falinga Gilberta nije prethodno zasmetala da ga na koljenima moli smije li mu uplatiti preko 120 milijuna da ostane Cavalier), kao i za neukusnu samopromociju (iako prethodno nitko nije tako kao Gilbert sâm do bjesomučnosti promovirao ''brand LeBron'').
Svi što gube se ljute. Odlaskom LeBrona Gilbert gubi brdo milijuna (''the latest estimates were that the Cavs were worth 400-500 million with Lebron; it will probably be worth 80-100 million at the max.''). A osim toga došlo je do ultimativnog debakla natjecateljskih ambicija kluba. Neizbježno je da će se izgubiti velik dio navijačke baze, ali treba barem ograničiti štetu. Za debakl netko mora biti kriv – da to ne bi bila uprava kluba, na čelu s vlasnikom, odgovoran mora biti LeBronov karakter s greškom. Da ga ne bi pregazio bijesni stampedo napucanih navijača, Gilbert je radije odlučio te divlje konje zajahati i sam dodatno podjarivati. (I što je najgore, upalilo mu je: kad mu je liga odrezala $100.000 kazne zbog vršenja nedopustivog pritiska na instituciju free agenta, navijači su se organizirali da plate umjesto njega (napuštenog siročića milijardera).
Jasno je, sve u svemu, zašto je košarka za Gilberta više od igre – biznis je to, u profesionalnom sportu vrte se ozbiljni novci. Uvrijeđenost gorespomenutih navijača je, međutim, bitno patetičnije ustrojena – činjenica da je njima košarka više od igre obilježena je ključnim elementima ljubavne veze. Vrlo poznati američki sportski kolumnist Bill Simmons periodično objavljuje ''mailbag'' u kojem odgovara na mailove čitatelja. U petak 09.07. – odmah sljedeći dan nakon Odluke – ide specijal u kojem su čitatelji pozvani da proventiliraju svoje dojmove.
Eric Retter - Closest example to what LeBron did with Cleveland: Instead of proposing to your girlfriend, dumping your wife on the Jumbotron. At the Super Bowl.
Derek G. - The last time I felt like this was when my high school girlfriend dumped me; only this time I am Dan Gilbert/Cleveland and the girl is LeBron. LeBron wanted a free agent, we got him a free agent. LeBron drove 100 mph on I-71, or bombed in the playoffs, we forgave him immediately, and loved him nonetheless. I never did find out why my girlfriend left me, it just seemed like she thought the grass was greener elsewhere. I hope Miami is greener, LeBron, because Cleveland is more dead now that when you arrived.
Michael - When it came out that Brad Pitt was divorcing Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie, EVERY woman in the world wanted to hate Pitt. Yet, he handled his business and didn't talk about the reasons. Shortly after, women weren't holding a grudge and couldn't even remember not loving him (absolutely amazing!). Why? Because he didn't call an hour-long live TV spectacular to dump Jen for a hotter woman. After tonight no one will ever forget to hate LeBron.
Rob Schuster - Like dangling an engagement ring in front of your longtime girlfriend, then getting on your knee at the bar and proposing to a girl you met last week. Completely destroyed.
JD - Imagine you're an average dude in high school. Somehow, you begin dating the hottest girl in school. It goes good not great, but hey, she's beautiful and you aren't really going to complain. Senior year, she breaks up with you and begins dating the new quarterback that just transferred into the school. Except she did this on stage at the homecoming coronation, embarrassing you in front of the whole school. This is what LeBron did to the city of Cleveland.
Kyle - "The Decision" confirmed what I have feared for two months now: that LeBron knew he was going to be leaving after this season, so he had to start justifying it early. I recognized his strategy, because I've done the exact same thing prior to breaking up with a girlfriend. Breakups suck, so why not try to make it a little less painful? Stop doing the little things, start making up excuses for not spending time with her, stop communicating as much ... essentially, do things that she will resent so that by the time you break up with her, she's mad at you and almost welcomes the breakup because of all the crap that you just put her through. LeBron did the same thing -- stop trying in the playoffs, refuse to be a part of planning for the future, stop talking with the organization other than the pre-ordained free-agency meeting, and then top it off with a ridiculous TV "special" to drive home the point that he's even more narcissistic than Lex Luger. Unfortunately, LeBron had never tried that strategy before, so he was unaware that it's a terrible idea. The people you break up with just totally lose respect for you and despise you even more for contriving such a stupid situation. The breakup is going to suck regardless -- there's really nothing that can be done to stop it, so don't make it worse by playing mind games leading up to it.
Navijači Cavsa suočili su se s onom bolnom situacijom poznatom svakome tko je ikada bio ostavljen: kako dalje živjeti kad ti Ljubljeni slomi srce?
Seth - I think this is the first time in history one man managed to destroy an entire city by himself.
Michael Beach - I was born in 1975, and I have witnessed every Cleveland heartbreak since Red Right 88 (one of my first sports memories). I'm glad LeBron thinks he did so much for our city and franchise, but he basically ripped out the heart of everyone, and perhaps the city itself, on live TV in one of the most self-centered, self-promoting moments ever. Oh, and he did so under the guise of helping the Boys and Girls club to try to assuage the guilt of murdering our franchise. I've read your columns for many years now and I know you know torment and heartbreak. That said, you know nothing of how it feels to be a Cleveland sports fan. Sure there are other teams that are more futile, and some cities come close to our collective disappointment and pain. However, none of them have had the biggest homegrown sports star and pretty much only hope for a dying city, go on TV and give a blatant "F you".
Willie - Can we please have an all-Cleveland mailbag? I'm 30 and was openly weeping for the past 20 minutes. This is a stomach punch mixed with a groin kick with an open-handed slap.
Tom - The oldest thing on my DVR is Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference finals. As it goes to commercial, there is a little boy with his hands on his head. That boy is every male under the age of 50, including me. We are used to the tough breaks. When LeBron hit that shot to win the game, my first thought was -- we have that guy now, our Elway, Jordan, Montana, Bird. Only there was more -- he was one of us. He knew the pain of Cleveland teams, whether he rooted for them or not. Thursday night, he dragged out our agony. On a special named "The Decision" he did that to us. To the people that lived through the The Shot, The Drive and The Fumble. None of our players would have done that to us. LeBron, get the hell out of our town.
Matt - My three favorite things from last night. 1) LeBron referring to himself in the third person no less than five times; 2) LeBron stating that he brought a lot to Cleveland (seriously ... what did he bring, hope and excitement only to rip it away in one of the most cruel fashions ever seen in professionals sports through a one-hour "Go F Yourself" special aimed directly at his hometown); and 3) LeBron having the audacity to think that anyone in Cleveland (minus his mom) would still like him. I get the feeling that he does not understand exactly what he just did.
Pat N - Cleveland has to top the list on tortured cities, right? Anyone I talked to today was already geared up for a knife in their hearts before 9 p.m. rolled around. It wasn't because of all the media and "sources," but because it's happened to us year after year.
Dave S. - I'm devastated. Not surprised it played out this way, but it still hurts.
Paul - Please do a catharctic "Ohio Fans Only" mailbag ... I'm sure you're getting dumped on with Cleveland Readers' e-mails after the fans have gotten dumped on by LeBron. These people need to grieve. Since the announcement, there has been NOTHING else on local TV. I am dead serious. The NEWS has not broadcast ANYTHING OTHER THAN REACTION TO LEBRON. No shootings, no robberies, no sex scandals, nothing. It is LITERALLY the ONLY news. An hour and a half of news, and going strong, of just LeBron. There was a 30-second break on one channel when they gave the cheery weather report that it was going to rain tomorrow and that was as a positive. When is a thunderstorm blurb a good thing? What other event could possibly usurp the rest of the world's news from happening? I don't know how to recover. Help us grieve.
Kevin - You have to make Cleveland the number one most tortured sports city of all time. After tonight it is indisputable. I am literally shaking as I type this. My city has been through so much, WHEN WILL IT END!?!?!
Patrick - I have been following the LeBrachelor from Spain where every afternoon they do to six bulls what LeBron just did to Cleveland.
Jacinta - When LeBron arrives in Miami, will it be Dexter Morgan's responsibility to "put him down" since he murdered all of Cleveland?
Naučili smo iz Fatal attraction: slomljeno srce se u ostavljenoj stranci pretapa u resentiman, a resentiman rezultira mržnjom i željom za osvetom – da se subjektu povrede nanese bol, da mu se ide uništavati život. No, sad će guyscum LeBum imati posla s nama, crazy bitch multipliciranom na način navijačke horde! We will not be ignored!
Zac Jackson za Fox Sports Ohio: Public enemy no.1! Nekada obožavani kartonski LeBronovi po barovima završavaju u smeću.
Veliki LeBronov mural (dojučerašnji zaštitni znak grada) Klivlenđani skidaju sa svih deset katova koje je pokrivao, a sa sebe dresove s brojem 23 i javno ih spaljuju, kao rekvizit Zla, kao nekada što su se po trgovima vještičje metle spaljivale ili nacisti što su s ''izopačenim'' knjigama radili.
Kuću mu moraju policajci čuvati, da ne bi bila dignuta u zrak valjda.
Poručuje mu se da u sjeveroistočni Ohio u kojem je odrastao i cijeli život živio više nije dobrodošao. Da bi se mogao šokirati kao nikada u životu ''zlobom'' koju će protiv sebe osjetiti na prvom sljedećem gostovanju u Clevelandu. Da bi ga željeli vidjeti ozlijeđenog, polomljenog, izmaltretiranog do točke na kojoj će izgubiti svo samopouzdanje. Da mu žele da izgubi s Miamijem već u prvoj rundi playoffa i zatim slomi nogu preko ljeta. Da je pretekao čak i zloglasnog Arta Modella (koji je svojedobno Brownse preselio u Baltimore) na crnoj listi omraženosti i neka mu bude jasno kako više nikada neće smjeti nogom kročiti u državu ukoliko mu je život mio (te kako bi mu bilo najpametnije da iseli i svu svoju familiju skupa sa sobom).
Dave C. - I cannot believe he would rip the hearts out of Northeast Ohio with this one-hour special. I do not think he understands the full implications of what he has just done. He is not going to be welcomed back. He, better than anyone, should understand the passion of fans in Northeast Ohio. That first game against the Heat in Cleveland will be nothing like he has ever experienced. The venom sent his way from the people who once adored him will shock him. Maybe then he will understand what he has done to this franchise and this city.
David - If you were watching LeBron's post announcement interview and saw his reaction to our fans burning his jersey, you saw the pain in his face for a second before regaining composure. People from Ohio have a strong connection to where we are from. He was no different. We love the Browns, Cavs and Indians, even when they're terrible. We love our athletes and treat them like gods. We can't explain how bad it hurts never to win. No other city feels this in EVERY sport, in such a variety of ways. The fumble, the drive, the shot, two World Series losses, losing the Finals, Ohio State losing two national titles, the Indians losing the ALCS to Boston, Cliff Lee and CC leaving us, and now LeBron leaves us. I don't know how to explain it. It's the worst feeling in the world and I have ZERO pro sports teams even with a winning chance in 2011. Just know that people in Cleveland rarely forgive or forget. Half a century of losing hardens people to the point of dumping beer on old women who are dumb enough to wear Steelers gear to Browns games, even to the point of hating our once beloved son LeBron. We can't cheer him, it would hurt to much. We burn his jersey not to hurt him, but for us. Destruction is great company to misery.
Name Withheld - This is the day he went from being a lovable superstar trying to reach his potential to enemy number one. I want the Knicks to bring back Charles Oakley and Xavier McDaniel on 10-day contracts to injure him. I want Kobe Bryant (yes, Kobe!) to destroy him so badly every time they play that he loses confidence, Rick Ankiel style. I want him to lose in the first round and then break his leg in the offseason, only to see Wade and Bosh win without him (and have him screw up the chemistry when he comes back). I want him to join the French World Cup soccer team. I want him to go into the stands and attack a child in a wheelchair. I want it to come out that he was point-shaving. I want Cleveland fans to throw urine water balloons at him. I want Castro to annex Miami. I want Florida income taxes to spike to 73%. I want the Bulls to beat the Heat by 50 points every time they play. And I want LeBron's father to come out of the woodwork and say "You've brought shame on me and our family."
Greg S. - You just saw the sports death of a city. I can't see LeBron ever being hated as much as Modell, but his future will be similar. He'll have to move his entire family out of the state and never return. Cleveland fans never, EVER forget. It's been 15 years, and Modell still can't set foot in the state for fear of his life. But the anguish with LeBron is a little different -- he was supposed to be one of us. He was supposed to be the Chosen One. When the chips were down, he didn't show up, and at the first chance he had, he bolted and left us hung out to dry, like so many before him. That's the action I would expect from a politician -- not a monarch. Even a self-proclaimed one. Everyone in Cleveland is now cursing LeBron's name, praying to whomever they all pray to that he gets his just desserts.
Redov - You probably know that Art Modell doesn't exactly have good standing in Cleveland. Or Akron. Or Canton. Or... well, pretty much anywhere in Northeast Ohio. I never, EVER thought that anyone would replace him at the top of Northeast Ohio's blacklist.