June 20, 2016

Cleveland Cavs avert nightmare flashback to Baltimore

With ten seconds left in last night's final NBA championship game, King LeBron James was fouled. He sprawled on the floor, writhing in pain for what seemed like an eternity - along with eternity for the entire city of Cleveland and its half century reputation as a "loser city", without any championships in any sport.

Why do we subject ourselves to such pain? Why do we wrap our collective municipal psyche so much into our sports teams? Cleveland's reputation for losing has brutally spilled over into all walks of life.

With his Cavs clinging to a thin three point lead, it looked like LeBron had an "out of body experience". And this could have led phantasmagorically all the way... to Baltimore.

LeBron James' "out of body experience" laying on the floor in last night's game
It was looking doubtful that he would get back on his feet to sink his free throws which would seal the Cavaliers' victory. If another player had been chosen to take the free throws, LeBron would have been forced out of the game. To be thrust so suddenly into such a pressure packed situation, LeBron's supporting cast may have missed them, giving the ball back to Golden State, where golden Stephen Curry would have been expected to fulfill the script (see John Elway below) by sinking a three pointer to tie the game. With such dejection and without LeBron in overtime, all odds would have pointed to a Golden State Warriors victory and a continuation of Cleveland sports futility.

The four worst days in Cleveland sports history

LeBron came back to Cleveland specifically to rescue his city from this futility and to bring his hometown a championship. This had to be going through LeBron's subconscious as he laid sprawled on the floor, along with the entire fifty year futility of the city in sports, and indirectly in everything else associated with the city of Cleveland.

When hometown born-and-raised hero LeBron had abandoned Cleveland for Miami, it was the second worst day in the city' sports history.

The worst day was when the perennial football loser Cleveland Browns snuck off to Baltimore to become the Ravens.

In turn, Baltimore felt terrible because they had previously lost their beloved Colts to Indianapolis under very similar circumstances. Baltimore's conscience felt assuaged by assurances from the National Football League that Cleveland would get an expansion team to replace the Browns, and that they could call them the Browns with the same colors and logos, unlike the Colts who continue to haunt Baltimoreans as they play in Indianapolis with their old blue and white Baltimore uniforms with the horseshoe logo. Baltimore has never treated Cleveland with the derision that the other division rival in Pittsburgh has piled up.

The third worst day in Cleveland sports history was "The Fumble" by Browns' Running Back Earnest Byner in the waning moments of the 1988 AFC Championship Game when victory had been all but assured.

The fourth worst day in Cleveland sports history was "The Drive" of 98 yards by Denver Broncos Quarterback John Elway for the winning touchdown to defeat the Browns in the 1987 AFC Championship game.

Both Byner and Elway fit into the Baltimore conspiracy. John Elway dissed the Baltimore Colts when he was America's most highly touted college football recruit, forcing the Colts to let the Denver Broncos have him in an illustrious career that included Super Bowl victories as both a Hall of Fame Quarterback and just this year as the team's General Manager.

Meanwhile, Earnest Byner went with the rest of the Browns to Baltimore, where after quietly playing out the conclusion of his fine career, he was selected as the first player for the "Ravens Ring of Honor" despite all his notable achievements having been made in Cleveland.

Is that a slap in Cleveland's face? Certainly, Baltimoreans don't like the way Indianapolis has dealt with the Colts legacy, particularly toward "Mr. Baltimore Colt" Johnny Unitas.

But the uncontested "Mr. Cleveland Brown" is Jim Brown, whose towering legacy is totally intact in Cleveland.

Ozzie Newsome also fits well as both a penultimate great past player for the Cleveland Browns, and great current General Manager for the Baltimore Ravens. But just as a reminder, he has guided the Ravens to two Super Bowl championships with a team that would have been the Browns.

Pro basketball franchises pack up and move all too often. Baltimore lost the Bullets to Washington. Geez, even Oklahoma City was recently able to steal a franchise.

If LeBron wasn't thinking about this kind of stuff as he laid sprawled on the floor with 10 seconds left in the championship game, even in his inner subconscious, it had to be in the dark recesses of many of the long-suffering Cleveland sports fans who witnessed it.

What remains totally uncontested by everyone is that LeBron James is now the anointed "chosen one" of Cleveland's sports legacy, which sits squarely on his very wide shoulders.

LeBron James slowly returns to the game

So last night, LeBron James slowly got up off the floor.  He dusted out his mental cobwebs to shoot his free throws. He staggered in an apparent daze toward the free throw line.

The first of his two free throws missed badly. Thousands of Cleveland sports fans then had another instantaneous but eternal flash to the last fifty years of sports futility.

LeBron stared again at the basket. He shot again. The ball rattled around the rim, then slowly down and in !!!!!!! The Cavs had an insurmountable four point lead !!!!

And thus their savior LeBron James averted the nightmare scenario of failure and the dreaded downward spiral toward another re-enactment of their sports legacy, including the threat of another exile to a place like Baltimore.

The overwhelming weight was lifted. Cleveland was the champion of the National Basketball Association.

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