It was bound to happen. LeBron's too young not to screw up once in a while and we all know he would do something foolish before long. What would it be... Dog fighting? Dope? Seven kids by way of 10 different women? As it turns out LeBron's first faux pas was a wardrobe malfunction.
I don’t have a problem with LeBron James wearing a Yankees cap. LeBron’s 22 which means he was 12 years old the last time the Indians got to the World Series and what do they do? Choke. Then the Indians unloaded the stars from that team and embarked on several rebuilding attempts. I was so disgusted I took a baseball sabbatical. Yes, I’m back on the Tribe bandwagon but I’m 15 years older than LeBron which means my Indians were the hapless losers of the 1980s who inspired somebody to write the script for Major League. It was a great movie but the fact that I had tears in my eyes at the end speaks volumes. It’s not easy being a Cleveland fan but if you made it through the 70s and 80s you don’t have much of a choice.
I should be a Yankees fan. Everybody from Cleveland should. Blowhard Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is a Cleveland boy who made good so we have a way to connect with the winningest team in baseball history. More than a handful of promising Cleveland prospects have earned championship rings in New York. It’s easy. Why waste time with a team that hasn’t won a championship since 1948?
Still, LeBron didn’t need to sit in Jacobs’ Field during the American League Divisional Playoffs wearing that Yankees hat. It was just cruel. Cleveland is a city that has taken some hard knocks over the years and not just in sports. The Cuyahoga River caught on fire. The city is cold, wet and dirty. Jobs are hard to come by and low paying anyway. The rich side of Cleveland looks like the poor side of everywhere else. Dennis Kucinich.
Sports are important to Cleveland. They are more than a diversion. People get to distract themselves from the drudgery of everyday existence by following their hometown teams but they also draw their self esteem from sports. It hasn’t been good. The Browns have never been to a Super Bowl, last winning a championship in 1964 but the worst was when Art Modell stabbed the city in the back and deprived Cleveland of the Browns for three years. The city fought tooth and nail with Modell and the NFL to retain the rights to a lousy team and since 1999 the new incarnation of the Browns has been terrible.
The Indians were awful for decades. After blowing the 1954 World Series the Tribe devoted itself to embarrassing the city and making a mockery of baseball every year until 1994 when a strong showing by the Indians was crushed by a labor dispute. There was no World Series in 1994 and the Indians might have been in the mix to win it. After winning 100 games in 1995, the Indians handed Atlanta its first World Championship and then relinquished the 1997 title to the upstart expansion Florida Marlins. Rumor has it that the Cavaliers have been a professional basketball team all along but most people can’t recall anything of the sort until LeBron arrived. All of that misery but yet the fans still show up. Nobody needs to rub salt in the wounds.
LeBron is the Chosen 1. He tattooed that sentiment on his back so he has clearly accepted the challenge. Clevelanders are terrified that LeBron will soon leave Cleveland for the fame and fortune of a much larger city. Rumor has it that the NBA is conspiring to put James in a Knicks’ jersey in the near future. So that Yankees hat plays on those fears. If LeBron loves the Yankees he might love New York and that makes it possible that Cleveland’s hero will soon be breaking their hearts. It’s hard to take. We always get screwed.
Of course that’s silly. LeBron might love the idea of building his own dynasty right there in Cleveland the way Jordan did in Chicago. If LeBron jumps ship and heads for a big market franchise with a storied past he’ll be one of many great players but in Cleveland he will be the greatest. Any former Cleveland player who left on good terms will tell you that Cleveland fans never forget. 20 years after hanging it up mediocre players can still get free drinks. Hey, Brook Jacoby! Let me buy you a beer. The money will be there regardless but the glory is greater when it is earned the hard way. LeBron wearing a New York hat has nothing to do with his NBA career.
Nevertheless, it’s in poor taste. He’s a shining star in Cleveland and has committed himself to being a force for positive change in what is essentially his home town. That means he should show support for the Indians, especially during the post season. If he wants to root for the Yankees privately that’s fine but as a high profile figure in Cleveland he needs show solidarity with the Indians.
It goes deeper than psychology. If LeBron shows up in the postseason cheering for the hometown team, the Indians will reciprocate. It’s good for the players from both teams to demonstrate camaraderie on and off the field. LeBron was disrespectful of his baseball counterparts.
Late in the game the Yankees were getting spanked and LeBron sat brooding in his NY cap. The entire city of Cleveland was thrilled to see its Tribe dominating the reviled Yankees for the first time all year and the most recognizable Clevelander was sulking like a petulant child. For the first time in his life LeBron seemed immature. He’s entitled to make mistakes and in the grand scheme of things this one is pretty minor but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth calling him out. The real problem is that LeBron drew considerable attention to himself when it was the Indians’ time to shine. He made himself the center of attention and looked a bit like a jerk in doing so.
Fans will forgive him. As long as LeBron shows up at the Q in a Cavaliers uniform, LeBron will continue to be the King. It’s just unfortunate that the King did have the good sense to be magnanimous.