Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, Twitter was a buzz as the Miami Heat seemed poised to lose game six of the NBA Finals. It wasn’t due to Cleveland’s love for San Antonio, who swept them in the 2007 NBA Finals. I would go as far to say that it isn’t even the love of basketball, though I must admit I would listen to that debate. It was the presence of the most polarizing figure in Cleveland sports history Lebron James.
It has been 1,078 days since James delivered those now infamous words “this fall I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.” In that time the Cavs have been awarded two number one picks, James has won and lost an NBA Finals, and added two MVP trophies to his already crowded mantle. So the question is why can’t/hasn’t Cleveland moved on? Is it the burning of being the scorned lover? Or is it the “green eyed monster” of jealousy? Both are possible if not likely, but I believe its Schadenfreude.
Schadenfreude is a German word that means getting enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others. Cleveland has a particular affinity for this emotion from each sport. As a fan you’re raised to hate the likes of Jordan, Elway, and Modell. Why? For a city and a fan base that has suffered so many humiliating experiences we thrive on others sorrow to make us feel better. The men listed above were the ones who helped manufacture many of the “misery” montage moments. This has created a city full of fans that find it hard, if not impossible to move.
Now, I know I don’t speak for all fans and some people are able to move on, but as collective we cringed when the Ravens won the Super Bowl. How does this relate to Tuesday night you ask? As one Twitter follower pointed out “Would we care if it had been Spurs vs. Pacers?” The answer is probably not. The hardcore NBA fans might have, but the insane Twitter gathering wouldn’t have occurred. As we huddled around our computers being snarky and taking delight at Miami’s perceived misfortune, our continuing need for revenge against our arch nemesis was fuelled.
In the summer of 2010, LeBron was quoted often for famously stating the Heat would win “not 1, not 2 not 3, not 4, not 5…” The arrogance to count titles further stuck the knife into the back of Cleveland; it boiled our blood as we longed for the titles we felt we were owed. As James faltered against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2010 NBA Finals, shirts and slogan appeared such as the Dallas Mavaliers, and the Cleveland Mavs. The nation joined Cleveland in schadenfreude enjoying the lack of a clutch “gene” with every missed Lebron shot. As the years have waned, the nation has moved on and has come to enjoy the greatness of his game. This left Cleveland to wallow in its perceived “self pity” and made us out to be jealous.
The irony is that while Cleveland enjoys LeBron’s misery, the nation enjoys Cleveland’s. The unavoidable, most obvious truth you come to realize as a Clevelander is that everyone hates you. They hate our loyalty, they hate our passion, they love to hate us. We hate LeBron because of his disloyalty, his talent, and “The Decision.”
When rumors leaked out that James was considering a return to Cleveland if he opts out of his contract in 2014, the fan base was split yet again. Many fans have made grand proclamations of “It won’t be the same if we win a title” or “I don’t want LeQuit back.” Most of this is a defense mechanism, a way to prevent us from getting our hopes up. LeBron allows us take the anger we feel inside and the disrespect we feel from the country and focus it on him for our enjoyment.
When Ray Allen knocked down a three from the corner to tie the game with five seconds left in the 4th, the air was let out of our tires. Twitter became tense, nervous, awaiting the inevitable dread that we knew would be lurking. Our fears were realized as the overtime clock sat at 1.7 seconds with the Spurs down three and Danny Green’s desperation shot was blocked by Chris Bosh. The Bosh block breathed life into the Heat, LeBron, and the rage that burns inside every Cleveland fan. Whether you sense the schadenfreude, or maintain you have no feelings one way or the other, we must all come to the realization that misery loves company. As we sit in front our televisions tonight watching game seven, my advice is to enjoy the game and not give in to the schadenfraude.