BOSTON (CBS) – I watched the first half of the Miami Heat-Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game last night to see how LeBron James would be received, and what I saw there made me feel very fortunate to be a Bostonian.
LeBron is an Ohio native who had spent seven years turning the perennial doormat Cavs into perennial title contenders. In the process, he brought a desperately needed sense of pride and optimism to a city that hasn’t had much to cheer about in sports or anything else for decades.
But earlier this year, LeBron became a free agent, and he decided to bolt for Miami with a spasm of self-serving publicity stunts that left Cavaliers fans understandably livid.
If you’re a Red Sox fan, remember how upset you might have felt a few years ago when Johnny Damon left the Sox to become a Yankee?
Multiply that by about a thousand and you’re approaching an understanding of how they felt in Cleveland.
Now, consider how you’d feel if Damon had left without helping win a World Series here. Add in the feeling of living in a city that hasn’t won a title in any major sport for more than half a century. And top it off with what it might feel like to live in a depressed economy with deteriorating neighborhoods, failing schools, and chronic population loss.
That’s what it’s like to live in Cleveland – no job growth, no light at the end of the tunnel, and now, not even a sports team to feel good about.
No wonder the signs in the stands in Cleveland last night were vicious, the chants from the fans were obscene, and the booing was constant.
As Johnny Damon noted when he returned to Boston, Sox fans were really booing his uniform, not him.
But last night in Cleveland, they were booing not just the icon who betrayed them, but the bad hand they’ve been dealt in almost every way you can think of.
Boston sports fans have been gorging on winning for the past decade, and it looks like there’s more to come soon.
In Cleveland, they don’t even get table scraps, and if you couldn’t sympathize with them last night, you may need a heart transplant.
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