Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “LeBron James”

LeBron James realizes that there is no place like home

lebron comes homeTwo days ago when we wrote about how much had changed with the Cleveland Cavaliers over the past four years, the biggest unanswered question was just how much had changed for LeBron James.

We learned the answer today as James announced that he is indeed coming back to the Cavs in free agency.

“I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”

Read more…

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Four years has changed a lot for the Cleveland Cavaliers

lebron changes everythingFour years is a long time in the world of sports as players come and go; managers and coaches are hired, fired and rehired; and games are won and lost.

But sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same, especially when it comes to Cleveland sports.

Four years ago at this time, the Browns were embarking on yet another regime change. The Indians were meandering through another disappointing season.

And the Cavs were facing the biggest decision (pardon our word choice) in franchise history as they were in a fight to retain the services of free agent LeBron James.

Fast forward to now. The Tribe is stumbling through the season, currently sitting 6.5 games out of first place in the A.L. Central Division. The Browns are rebooting once again, with a new coach, a (mostly) new front office and a (probably) new quarterback.

And the Cavs once again find themselves working overtime to acquire James in free agency.

But this time it just feels different, especially for the Cavs.

Read more…

The Randomness of the first Monday in June

Poor LeBron James.

Dude spends his entire career surrounded by inferior teammates like Dwyane Wade.

Sebastian Pruiti has a good breakdown of the final play of the Heat’s Game 4 loss to Boston on Sunday night.

Instead of running the play the right way and giving the Heat a chance to win the game and take a 3-1 series lead, Wade went through the motions and ended up taking a poor shot.

LeBron really could have used the help as he was on the bench after fouling out of a game for the first time in four years and the first time ever in a playoff game.

Too bad there’s not a way that James could pick which team he plays on so he could avoid these types of situations.

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The Cleveland Indians recalled Quadruple A all star Matt LaPorta over the weekend after Johnny Damon went on maternity leave.

Damon expects to return to the team on Wednesday, after spending a couple of days at home with his wife, Michelle, and their newborn twin daughters. Of course with Damon hitting .180 on the year, the Tribe may want him to take his time returning from diaper duty.

As for LaPorta, we’ve all been here before. He hits minor league pitching (.307, 14 home runs, 32 RBI this year in Columbus), comes to Tribe and no so much (.238 career average, .700 career OPS). So he’ll be out of here once Damon returns, right?

Read more…

The Return of the King?

With the Miami Heat in town for two days before their game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the players had more time than usual on their hands. So the media decided to pick at the scab on the Cleveland sports scene and ask LeBron James if he would ever come back and wear the Wine and Gold again.

And James didn’t disappoint, practically setting the reporters’ notebooks on fire and simultaneously blowing up the Internet with a quote just as inflammatory as the one he uttered to Jim Gray at the Boys and Girls Club in Connecticut.

The Cleveland Fan has the rest of the story.

Karma is a fickle mistress

We’ve tried our best to stay out of all the hoo-haa surrounding the Miami Heat during the NBA playoffs.

Frankly, with the Indians racing out to the best record in baseball then squandering it away, the Champions League, the U.S. soccer team in the Gold Cup, Kent State’s baseball team just missing a trip to the Super Regionals and the Cavaliers winning the draft lottery, we’ve been occupied with other topics.

But we admit to feeling a sense of relief and schadenfreude after the Dallas Mavericks closed out the Heat with three consecutive wins to take home the NBA title.

The Mavericks proved, at least for another year, that a team can beat a group of individuals, no matter how talented. The Heat, primarily LeBron James and Chris Bosh, learned the hard way there are no shortcuts to success.

And that’s a rare lesson in this age of instant gratification.

Once LeBron decided to leave Cleveland via free agency, we tried to move on – what was done was done. And for the most part we did OK during the season.

But it was hard to quit James when he wouldn’t go away – most notably when he tweeted following a 55-point Cavs loss to the Lakers that, “Crazy. Karma is a bitch. Gets you every time. It’s not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!”

James put out so much negative energy that it was only a matter of time before karma got back at him, and she waited until the finals to exact her revenge on James.

From Brian Windhorst at ESPN:

Just like last season in Cleveland where James’ performance in the clutch was the polar opposite of what his talent and history called for. Just like when the top-seeded Cavs got behind the Celtics, as soon as the Mavs turned the tables on the Heat midway through this series James’ swagger and game left him. When the Heat were beating the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls, series they took control of early, James was a brilliant frontrunner. At his best, really, finishing those teams off.

But as he went through another puzzling game Sunday — dishing repeatedly to Juwan Howard at the rim instead of taking the ball to the basket himself, passing up wide-open shots when the ball came his way, standing and watching on defense like it was a summer camp drill at times — it got more and more clear.

James couldn’t do it.

From Joe Posnanski at Sports Illustrated:

That’s why the sequence with four minutes left will stay with me for a long time. Miami needed a basket of course — being down eight with four minutes left is not life-threatening in the NBA, as we have seen time and again, but it is not ideal, either. Anyway, as much as the points, Miami needed a game-changing moment. LeBron James is breathtakingly good at making such moments.

Here’s what LeBron James did instead: He stood outside the arc, about 25 feet away from the basket. He did not move. And the two times the ball was passed to him, he passed it away instantly … as if playing hot-potato.

There was absolutely no other explanation that made any sense: LeBron James did not want the basketball.

I honestly could not believe what I was seeing. Maybe I should have expected it. Maybe I should have seen it coming. After all, I had seen LeBron James quit during the final minutes of his Cleveland career when the Cavaliers lost to Boston in the playoffs. I had heard him tell Cleveland fans that they expected too much of him. I had seen him take what looked like the easiest road to a championship when he signed on with Wade and Chris Bosh down in Miami. I had seen the disappearing acts he’d been pulling in the fourth quarters of this NBA Finals. Heck, throughout this game he seemed only moderately engaged. Still … I did not see this coming.

And Bill Simmons at Grantland:

Digging deeper: LeBron averaged 3.5 threes and 8.4 FT attempts during the regular season. In Rounds 2 and 3, he averaged 4.1 threes and 8.6 FT attempts. In the Finals, that flipped: 4.7 threes, 3.3 FT attempts. He stopped getting to the rim. You could say Dallas figured out how to defend him (to a degree, true), that the zone screwed him up (I guess), that Shawn Marion got into his head (possible), but really, he was afraid to attack the rim for whatever reason. Which, by the way, is his single greatest skill.

Everyone is looking for a reason why LeBron and the Heat came up short, and the answer is right there: karma.

After the game, James, as is his norm, was left looking for someone to blame. Last year, it was his Cavs teammates. He didn’t have that option this year because he chose his teammates, so he went after Cleveland (see what we mean about him not going away?)

“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

Even though the Heat lost, this is not a victory for Cleveland, no matter how hard the national media tries to sell that story. It wasn’t a win for Cleveland when the Lakers beat Boston last season, or when they beat Orlando in 2009.

We’re not going to the team shop this weekend to pick up a Cavs 2011 NBA Champions T-shirt; our Sports Illustrated commemorative championship package won’t be arriving in the mail in 6-to-8 weeks.

There is one way Cleveland did win last night, however.

We’ve now made it through an entire season post-LeBron, we’ve gone through the heartbreak of the Decision, lived through the circus of the Heat’s first trip to Cleveland, and cheered (and jeered) our way through an injury-filled season of disappointment that became sweeter when the Cavs grabbed two of the first four picks in the draft.

It is now time for those last few holdouts to turn the page. Let’s cheer for who the Cavs are, rather than for who they are not.

Because you never know when karma is going to grow tired of hanging out in South Beach.

Long live King Kenny


The king is dead. Long live the king.

In the same week that LeBron James tried to justify his decision to ride Dwyane Wade’s coattails in Miami, we found a new king to embrace at Red Right 88 headquarters.

Liverpool finally did the expected, signing Kenny Dalglish to a three-year contract to manage the team. King Kenny took over a dispirited club in January that was languishing in 12th place in the Premier League table and turned things around, with the Reds on the verge of clinching a spot in Europe for next season.

The night before, after Miami eliminated Boston in the second-round of the NBA playoffs, James “apologized” for kicking Cleveland in the collective yam bag last summer.

“I knew deep down in my heart, as much as I loved my teammates back in Cleveland and as much as I loved home, I knew I couldn’t do it by myself against that team,” James said. “The way it panned out with all the friends and family and the fans back home, I apologize for the way it happened. I knew this opportunity was once in a lifetime.”

What James doesn’t get – really what he never seemed to understand – is that he never had to do it alone. The owner, the team and the fans always had his back – probably more than any fan base in the history of sports. Think about it, who else ever was loved the way we once loved James?

Does he really think he’ll ever get a reaction like this from the fans disguised as empty seats in Miami?

Luckily, Dalglish has stepped up to take the sports throne that James so willingly abdicated last summer.

“It was obvious to us very early on that the atmosphere surrounding the club had been transformed by his presence,” Liverpool owner John W. Henry said. “No one else could have produced such a response.”

“Both John [W Henry] and Tom [Werner, chairman] have taken their time to assess what was best for the football club and bring in the people they wanted to take the club forward,” Dalglish told The Guardian. “They are both winners, but understand what the supporters want from a Liverpool side and the way that we should go about things. This is a unique football club and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to help build something special here again.”

“We’re not going to shout our mouths off and say, ‘we’re going to win this’ and ‘we’re going to finish here.’ We are just going to work and do the best we possibly can, because a lot of people care an awful lot about this club,” Dalglish told The Daily Mail. “We’ve got to prove we feel the same way.”

So instead of running from a challenge, Dalglish decided to stay on and build “something special.” Too bad he wasn’t around to talk to LeBron last summer before free agency hit.

On the day that Dalglish signed his contract, the first song that came up on our iPod shuffle at the gym was You’ll Never Walk Alone.

It’s too bad LeBron never heard that one – things may have worked out differently if he had.

Better to be lucky than good

Sometimes in sports it’s better to be lucky than good. Too often, the Browns have been neither, both on the field and on draft day.

We were reminded of that when we read an article by Bob Labriola at steelers.com about how Pittsburgh – thanks to the Browns, of course – landed Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson in the 1987 draft.

The Steelers owned the 10th overall pick in the draft because of their 6-10 record in 1986. The Browns had finished 12-4 and ended the season, of course, with the overtime loss to Denver in the the AFC Championship game.

On draft day, the Browns traded Chip Banks to the San Diego Chargers for the fifth pick of the first round. Since Banks was an outside linebacker, the Browns could have selected Penn State’s Shane Conlan, the highest-rated linebacker in the draft. But coach Marty Schottenheimer out-thought himself, and Cleveland used the fifth overall pick on Duke linebacker Mike Junkin.

Of course they did.

As the rest of the picks fell into place – the Cardinals whiffed by selecting quarterback Kelly Stouffer at No. 6 – Woodson fell to the Steelers.

So remember this story the next time you read that the Steelers win because the Rooneys do things “the right way.” Sometimes it just comes down to dumb luck. (h/t James Walker at ESPN)

***

We were understandably excited when we read that Liverpool plans to invest in some “top players” over the summer as the Reds continue on improving the club.

“There will be movement, that’s for sure,” Damien Comolli, the club’s director of football, told The Guardian. “We are very attractive for a lot of players because of what we did in January and a game like that [the 3-1 defeat of Manchester United] is fantastic publicity for us around the world. Since the day after I was getting phone calls from agents telling me that their player would love to come and that we are going to compete next year if we get it right. We are attractive to a lot of top players and we want to bring top players to this club.”

Despite the prospect of another season apart from the European elite, Comolli believes the club’s profile and the ambition of Fenway Sports Group will produce substantial investment this summer.

And then we saw this in The Wall Street Journal:

Basketball star LeBron James is joining forces with renowned hedge-fund manager John Henry and veteran Hollywood producer Tom Werner in a deal that brings together one of the biggest stars in sports and two of the world’s most renowned teams.

The deal between Mr. James and Fenway Sports Group will give Mr. James a minority interest in the soccer club Liverpool, which FSG owns. FSG, which also owns the Boston Red Sox, is partnering with Mr. James’s sports-marketing firm, LRMR Branding & Marketing to become the exclusive world-wide representative for Mr. James.

The deal marks the first time that a professional athlete at the top of his game has taken an ownership interest in a team with the size and reach of Liverpool, which is one of the most popular and powerful sports teams in the world.

Mr. James said he was “humbled” by the deal and looked forward to donning a red Liverpool jersey and visiting Anfield, the team’s legendary stadium.

According to Deloitte’s 2010 Football Money League report, Liverpool is the world’s eighth-biggest soccer team by revenue, with $320 million in revenue during the 2009-10 season. Liverpool and Manchester United have won 18 top division championships, the most among English teams, and both are wildly popular in Asia, where Liverpool will tour this summer.

“Eighteen championships,” Mr. James said. “I see myself trying to do the same things they have.”

Well that’s just great. We finally get over James leaving the Cavs and now he’s back in our sporting lives.

And forget about 18 championships – would it have killed James to give just one to Cleveland?

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Just say no to Hate the Heat parties.


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Dejan Stanković scored a sick goal for Inter Milan in its Champions League game against Schalke.

***

We obviously think Cleveland’s a great place, but sometimes we’re disappointed.

So … there’s some big game on Thursday?

Did you know the Cavs have some kind of big game on Thursday?

We kid. Obviously LeBron James returning home for the first time since stabbing Cleveland in the back on national TV is a big deal. The game offers fans the opportunity to:

  • Vent their anger
  • Finally have some closure
  • Embarrass themselves and Cleveland on national TV
  • All of the above

In some ways, we’ve been through this before as fans, especially with the exodus of players from the Indians following the late ’90s.

But in reality this is more akin to when the Browns left in 1995. LeBron was more than just a player on one of the local sports teams, we all bought into the notion that he was one of us. And when it turned out he was just like every other athlete it cut deeper than when Albert Belle or Jim Thome, for example, walked away from the Indians in free agency.

LeBron’s leaving tore a hole in the soul of Cleveland sports and everyone is recovering from that in their own way. Thursday night’s game should help with that recovery as LeBron only comes back to Cleveland for the first time once.

After tomorrow, home games against the Heat become just another game.

And, hopefully, Cleveland fans still looking for closure can find it.

***

No surprise that there are multiple stories coming out as we draw closer to the actual game:

Well, you get the picture.

No matter what happens Thursday night, it should be another night to remember in Cleveland sports.

The Changing of Sports Entertainment

LeBron James’ recent party at Tao in Las Vegas has taken on epic proportions, not just because of the nude women in the bathtub, but because ESPN originally posted an article about the party and then took it down off its website.

The full article was captured in a screen grab and posted on Deadspin, The site also posted ESPN’s explanation for pulling the article:

“The story should have never been published,” an ESPN source told Deadspin. “The draft was inadvertently put on the server before going through the usual editorial process. We are in the midst of looking into the matter.”

Now comes word, via Waiting For Next Year, that Sportscenter was going to discuss the LeBron in Vegas story but, during a commercial break, something happened and suddenly the anchors were no longer interested.

It’s not surprising that a higher-up at ESPN would spike an article or a TV report that portrayed an athlete they are developing a relationship with in a negative light. It wouldn’t be the first time.

ESPN wants to promote itself as the worldwide leader in sports, the place sports fans go to for all their sports news and entertainment. But day by day, ESPN is moving farther away from being able to present itself as a news organization.

Now, if you tune in and there isn’t a game on, you find yourself being yelled at by know-it-all personalities, have to deal with studio hosts bleating non-sensical phrases over and over again (boo yah!), or an over-abundance of promotional spots (Budweiser Hot Seat, etc.)

The network still does some things right – most notably the on-going 30 for 30 film series, which is phenomenal – but more often than not they are trying to be both a sports network and an entertainment network.

And by trying to be both at once, the network ends up not doing either one very well.

Why Do We Watch?

In today’s The Way We Live Now column of The New York Times Magazine, author Walter Kirn asks why people are more interested in the backstory and behind-the-scenes machinations rather than in the actual movie or sport they are watching.

Kirn calls this fascination “procedural voyeurism,” which he describes as:

“a redirection of mass attention from the spectacle of the game itself to the circus of the game behind the game, as when LeBron James … commandeered the TV sets of upteen thousands of sports bars, not to mention the better part of the Web’s bandwidth, to tell us … that he was moving from Cleveland to Miami … “

Yep, he made this about LeBron; and you were wondering how this would tie into Cleveland sports.

It’s an interesting question; one certainly worth pondering. There was enough palace intrigue breathlessly reported in the weeks leading up to LeBron leaving Cleveland: all the “sources” who knew what he was going to do, the work of Wes Wesley behind the scenes to deliver LeBron and John Calipari as a package deal, Maverick Carter going to a basketball game with David Geffen. At times it felt like it would never stop.

But that’s not why I watched: I watched because LeBron’s decision had an impact on me as a Cavs fan. But if it was Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant or any other NBA player making an announcement, would I have tuned in? Not really. I would have just checked the Internet or the ESPN crawl after I knew the announcement had been made, but I would have no reason to watch it live.

It could be that we’re not really interested in the backstage shenanigans, but rather we absorb them because that’s what the endless media news cycle pushes down our throats. Think of how many hours ESPN devoted during the hours leading up to LeBron’s announcement. People watched because it was just … there. Watching TV is a passive activity, I think ESPN was counting on the fact that if they said it was a big deal, then people would believe it was a big deal.

On one level it worked, as LeBron’s decision gave the network its second-highest ranking of the year, but it left ESPN ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer questioning the network:

“Some found ESPN guilty of violating a key ethical journalistic tenet — paying for news. Others disdained the network’s perceived pandering to a superstar, a trait causing them to ponder the network’s biases. Still others decried a simple announcement being manufactured into the suspense of a “second coming.” The monstrous hype that led up to the special was a calculated and constructed spotlight that media far beyond ESPN helped feed. To many, the aggregate was an affront to humility, loyalty, moderation … and instead became a celebration of greed, ego and excess.”

And the media who criticized it actually helped feed the spectacle, as Kirn wrote:

“Not long after James appeared on television … media critics and sports writers weighed in to debate the business ethics of the broadcast itself. One observer wondered whether the show would usher in a crass new age of unpaid advertisements for brand-name athletes whose egos have grown larger than the leagues they play in. He needn’t have wondered this, though. He knew the answer. Of course it was a sign of worse to come and partly because he helped define that worse thing by publicly criticizing it.”

Kirn concludes by saying that, by being invested in the behind-the-scenes work, viewers feel a sense of control, as if by watching we can influence the outcome:

“procedural voyeurism grants us an illusion of control over realities that we secretly fear we have no power over… (and) symbolic participation in games-within-games that are way above our heads and occur within heavily guarded inner circles that we can peek into but never truly penetrate.”

As Cavs fans, we knew we had no control over what LeBron did, whether we watched his decision or not. And the fear was not one of a loss of power, but the fear of life without the two-time MVP on our side.

The last few months have left me seriously burnt out. I watch sports because they are entertaining. I follow the business side because I find it interesting and, with so many player decisions made solely on the basis of money (see, Indians, Cleveland) you must have a working knowledge of that side as a fan.

But the rest of it leaves me cold. And the next time I hear an anchor or reporter start off with “sources say” I’m more than likely to tune them out.

Because that’s not why I watch.

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