The Perils of Clevelandhood (part two)

Dear Ben,

You cannot imagine my relief at your reference to me as Dear Friend. Thank you for your forgiveness. I promise I am not cheering against the Spurs. I would never do such a thing, but I am cheering for the Heat.
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As the series heads to Miami I am more hopeful than before that we will have a chance to see seven stellar games. I would not want it any other way. Are you getting the same feeling? I am surprised by Tony Parker’s Game Two output. What happened there? Is Miami really that good at defending the pick and roll, or at least forcing him into one most-defendable direction? I know Miami is better defensively than Oklahoma City, especially if Ibaka is banged up, but what about their style is making this work, and beyond Bosh’s ability to step away from the hoop, what is it about their personnel that appears to at least be slowing Parker down? I am used to seeing Miami crash passing lanes and explode off of steals and deflections, especially in the final few minutes of each quarter, but something seems different here.
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I am no closer to forgiving myself for my recent feelings toward James. Maybe I do have a desire to forgive. Maybe you are right, maybe I am just giving into the Stockholm Syndrome that inevitably strikes the Cleveland fan first; aren’t we the most tortured fan base? And isn’t The King the most recent example of the torturer?
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Ben I think maybe I am blaming the Cleveland Cavaliers and our Comic Sans owner, Dan Gilbert. I cannot defend the offering of $80 million and 10 years to Calipari, the rehiring of Mike Brown, or most of the late moves made in the Danny Ferry regime that ultimately allowed James to leave. How does a franchise that has half a decade to figure out how to help out the greatest player of a generation turn all of their failures and shortcomings into something close to victimhood? They have managed the team, coaching decisions, drafts, and public franchise perception very poorly, even without James in the mix. How much of the fault in Cleveland’s basketball stars is really the fault of the kid from Akron, and how much is it the fault of the franchise? Are the Cleveland Cavaliers getting off the hook by dangling James’ five year old decision in front of the fans? Is James the Cleveland scapegoat?
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Dear Matty,

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If the Cavs finally do face the Heat in a series of consequence, I trust your allegiance will be properly aligned. If for some unfathomable reason, you still feel the need to cheer for the Heat, then perhaps I shall revisit the status of our friendship. Until then…
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I fully expect to see a seven game series between these two powerhouse teams, not because they are evenly matched, but because the inferior team has the best player since Jordan. That is the politically correct answer. The other is that the entertainment value is too high for a short series. The NBA would lose too much money if it only went five or six games. No, I am not saying these games are blatantly fixed, just perhaps somewhat nudged. Sub-consciously even. Every NBA fan other than those of the two teams involved wants this series to be best of 17, let alone seven. Science has yet to truly measure the power of group think, but this could be an innocuous case-study.
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I don’t quite understand what surprised you about Tony Parker’s play in Game Two. While he wasn’t transcendent, he played a very good first half and a below average second half. It was a solid game. It is true that LeBron’s size makes it difficult for Parker to pull-up in the mid-range game. LeBron is able to recover enough after the PnR to block any attempted pull-up J from behind. What was more problematic in Game Two was that after Parker’s penetration and subsequent kickout, the ball was sticking on the strong side. Miami doesn’t trap as hard as they have in the past, but they still make a point to blitz all strong side passing lanes. One must be incredibly fast with the ball and quick to find new floor spacing after the rotation. The Heats length caused the Spurs to be a bit hesitant in the fourth quarter and Pop derided them properly for it. For all the “poor” play from the Spurs in Game 2, it still took a Herculean and very Cavalier-esque performance by LeBron to secure a lousy two point victory. LeBron won that game in a way that is unsustainable. Even he got away from what was actually working for their team as on the whole when he stopped attacking the basket and started draining Js. Jumpers are all well and good if they come out of offensive flow, but one person offense doesn’t last.  I saw nothing from that game that makes me question my Spurs pick to win.
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sleep break, followed by the a viewing of Game 3
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Sweet baby Ray’s, that was beautiful. Poetry exists to capture an essence that is indescribable with prose. The Spurs first half offense was beyond basketball poetry. It was geometric mastery. A relentless attack to the hoop followed by a spiritual balance made the Heat cease to exist. The insane shooting percentage was not a result of scolding hot shooters. It was simple what had to be. They anticipated the Heat’s rotations, but were not slaves to that anticipation. Like an improv exercise on “Yes,” each Spurs teammate accepted the situation and made the appropriate story. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard were amazing, indeed, but only because they were Spurs that day.
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After watching a game like this, I don’t care about LeBron. I don’t care about Cleveland misery and the accompanying inferiority complex masked in humor. I don’t care about the curious decisions the Cavs organization has made since “The Decision.” (Note 1), I care about humanity’s ability to maximize its talent when individuals function as individuals together in harmony. It was breathtakingly graceful.
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Note:  I am absolutely 100% a Dan Gilbert fan. Any Clevelander who watched Major League growing up, the Dolan era Indians, or the Stepien Cavs knows the tragedy of cheapskate owners. Mark Cuban was considered a ridiculous owner for many years and look how that has turned out. Gilbert understands how to delegate and cut his losses. Sometimes that appears to be incredibly rash, or without focus. Has he made mistakes? Of course! Do I still not give a damn what font he uses as long as he is willing to go into the luxury tax to win a championship? Indeed I don’t. Gilbert!!!!!

The Perils of Clevelandhood (Part One)

by Matt Werbach and Ben Werth

Dear Friend,
I have a confession I fear may destroy our friendship. I have sweated through the sheets. I have sipped coffee at four a.m. and stared into pale blue morning light. I cannot sleep. I cannot eat. I cannot believe the person I have become. Ben, I want LeBron James and the Miami Heat to win the 2014 NBA Finals.
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The screen is a blur through my tears and yet I feel no relief at my admission. I assure you I have tried everything. I rewatched The Quit in Boston. I put the The Decision video on my Safari homepage and hit Play each evening after kissing Ann goodnight. I have made mistakes before. I have atoned or at least learned to understand. Ben I don’t think I can do this any longer.
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I assure you I am the same old friend you shared nachos with in $5 nosebleeds at Gund Arena. Yes, it is I who found hope and joy in the Big Z, Andre Miller era with you. It is I who loathe the annual The Shot anniversary replays and cringe at the ghastly site of that fucking black and red bull. Why do I want LeBron James to win a third title?
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And Benjamin, it is the Spurs I wish to see lose! The team that has pushed basketball to a level never before seen by these 32 year-old eyes—how could I?
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I turn to you out of desperation. I realize my confession may anger you to the point at which you see it fit to dissolve our friendship; I understand. I beg your forgiveness. Please do not spite me. Help me, Ben. I have a problem.
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Dear Friend,

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What?…. Sigh… Yes, you have a problem. Cleveland sports fandom has clearly turned your Theon Greyjoy into a shriveling pile of “Reek” sensibility. There are only so many times we can be burned before turning to the enemy for solace. Make the pain go away. We grow tired of cheering for the loser. There is no tie to San Antonio and the only link to Miami is anguish and torment. Maybe you want to free yourself from hate to truly reach spiritual balance. It would follow the only way to do that is to embrace the enemy.
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But, how for the love of basketball, can you cheer against the Spurs? That is what demands the forgiveness you beg. A fearless Cold War spy leads a team of International harmony as basketball is currently being invented before our eyes. If the Cleveland economy could anticipate booms and crashes like the Spurs offense anticipates weakside rotation, it would be the richest city in America. Possession after possession, the ball touches different players hands more frequently than it touches the ground. Pass, pass, one dribble, pass, pass, wide the hell open 3 pointer! They are water. Fluid and dangerous. One shouldn’t cheer against Mother Earth. Shame.
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Shame.

I wish to unsubscribe from all things

Matt Werbach

I do not answer the phone because I do not like to talk on the phone. I do not think I should have to explain myself when it comes to my desire not to speak into a small metal box about last week’s weather while unread books unwatched movies and unwritten work pile up beside my unwalked dog. I must have a phone, my wife tells me, in case of emergency. She is probably correct on this and many other things. No society has ever survived without constant radio contact and global positioning satellites.

I do not read your group emails your mass texts or anything that started with you clicking Reply All. I do not care to be included in group activities to which I did not willingly join. I have an email in the same way I have a cell phone or a home address. I must have these things to exist because in order to exist I must fill out forms and I cannot preselect the required fields. Do not take my lack of response personally. I do not comment on things which I did not read.

I am very bad at small talk, which I am told is a very important activity. Talking small may be the thread I am not seeing that stitches all of you together.

I do not read or listen to your unsolicited take or opinion on things. Yes just things in general. I have unfortunately already read all the news that will ever happen because for years I read the news and the only things that happen are things that happen over and over again in the same way with the same results. I no longer wish to receive news or opinion.

I unsubscribe from what you ate and Tuesday’s heat and the Spur’s quiet dominance and Johnny being Johnny and every form of commercial advertising or marketing that has ever existed and your wedding plans and what happened to you at work one time and what your parents are up to and how you have been feeling about your relationship with god.

Do not fear. There is an audience numbering in the billions for these things. I am certain you did not notice I was already gone.