"Man, I hope we don't win! I can't afford to go on Paxil!"
In advance of tonight’s second-round opener between the Cavaliers and Celtics, a blogger and former Clevelander penned a piece today
suggesting that Cleveland fans would not be any happier – truly more content – if the Cavs somehow beat the odds, dispatched of Celtics, and went on to win the title. In fact, judging by his title, we’d be even “more depressed.” Because apparently we’re all depressed.
He used to live here, I guess, and recalls how desperately Clevelanders thirsted after a championship. He says Cleveland believes that a title will bring it great, lasting joy, sort of like the time Ben Roethlisberger fell of his motorcycle, but with more confetti. And he says that we’re wrong to feel that way.
“To think that my team winning is going to give me more than a short term buzz is just foolish,” he writes.
Forgetting that his premise – that Cleveland believes any more than any other sports town that a title will bring it genuine joy – is pretty flawed, I’d argue that he’s really, really wrong. ...
No, winning a title won’t wrestle foreclosed homes back from the bank, or make our mayor suddenly able to stroke some wisdom from that eagle’s nest on his face. But it could make a lasting impact both practical and visceral.
Ask any bar owner and he’ll tell you that every win by the Cavs – or the Indians or the Browns – means bigger, drunker crowds that get looser with their wallets with every win. Almost everyone I know will watch Game 1 in a bar tonight, filling bar owners’ cash registers and, over time, driving (or at least sustaining) the need for bars and restaurants downtown, and creating jobs for parking attendants and bar-keeps and off-duty cops. That puts money in lots of peoples’ pockets. And money, as the old saying goes, buys happiness. Not as much as a good woman or a loyal friend or a Steelers loss, but enough.
But even absent that – even if the Depression comes and the bars go empty and we’re all stuck watching LeBron in the living room of the one friend who can still afford cable – a title will, for a lot of people, bring more than a two-beers-buzz worth of bliss.
To make his argument, the blogger compares watching LeBron to watching Seth Rogan, the actor, and Jay-Z. “All three men are ENTERTAINERS,” he writes. “Jay-Z does it with his thought provoking lyrics, Rogen does it by playing the lovable loser/stoner, LBJ does it with his feats of athleticism.”
But the sports fan’s investment, for better or worse, is far more serious than the one made by fans of Knocked Up or the Black Album. There’s a lifetime’s worth of memories and emotions and empty calories poured into every game. And the commitment isn’t driven by being entertained that day. It’s driven by the totality of the experience, the years-long narrative of being a fan. And experience always ends with winning a championship. For many fans – certainly for any Cleveland fan under 40 -- that championship has only happened in your head, where you’ve day-dreamed about the cars you would burn, the court you would storm, the colorful mementos you’d hang on your basement wall, or wherever your wife designated. So when it finally happens in real life, for many fans, it feels really, really good. And it lasts – waning over the years, sure, but creeping up every time you see the highlight on TV or someone brings it up at a bar. Years later, I suppose, it’s just a brief memory and a reason to look forward to the next title, which may never come. Maybe it only lasts for a moment. But as moments go, it’s a damn good one. – Joe P. Tone