Commentary

Open letter to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert

Originally Published: July 9, 2010
By Patrick Hruby | Page 2

Dear Dan Gilbert, Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Today, Likely Passed Out in a Puddle of Bile and Tears,


As you now know, it's over. He's gone. Following the greatest will-he-or-won't-he? media conflagration since the Summers of Favre -- or maybe the latest edition of "The Bachelor" -- your former hero, LeBron James, is heading to Miami, eschewing Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and, well, its Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the bottles and models and Gordon Gekko-resembling Svengalis of South Beach.


But chin up. Don't wail or gnash your teeth. Stop burning jerseys, misusing quotation marks for sarcastic effect and writing angry break-up letters in highly-professional 20-point Comic Sans font.


This is all for the best. Or, to put the good news in terms you'll more easily understand:


"I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT DAN GILBERT AND CLEVELAND SPORTS FANS WILL BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT THE SELF-TITLED FORMER "KING" THAN THEY WOULD BE HAD HE REMAINED A MEMBER OF THE CAVALIERS."


You can take that to the bank -- along with the $30-plus million of your hard-earned bucks James decided wasn't as appealing as a table for four at Prime 112.


Look, you're upset. Emotional. Feeling rejected. I understand. The homegrown "Chosen One" dropped an it's not you, it's me on your collective heads, and he did it during a humiliating prime-time special. Still, shelve the lighter fluid. Step away from the keyboard. Listen up.


You've dodged a bullet. You just don't realize it. Not yet. But you will. Believe me. In losing LeBron, you've kept your souls. Retained your unique identity. Cemented your status as the Beautiful Losers of American sports.


If you didn't live in Cleveland, I'd envy you.


What does it mean to be a Beautiful Loser? It means you're the Chicago Cubs, in municipal form. It means you're akin to Michael Jackson in the video for "Thriller." Not like other guys. Not like the rest of us. Oh, sure: the rest of us win. Occasionally. More than once every 40-plus years. Usually by accident.


But mostly, we lose.


We lose games. Lose seasons. Lose entire franchises to cities with more giltz, glamour and generous public stadium financing arrangements. That's the nature of sports, unless you pull for the New York Yankees. And when we fail, it's humdrum. Unremarkable. It's soggy and desultory and a drag, like giant piles of dirty, wet snow or any Celine Dion album.


But for you? The Beautiful Losers?


Failure is noble. Literary. Sisyphean. Special. It's spectacular and mythic, like the Cuyahoga River catching fire or the director's cut of "Showgirls." It inspires beautiful, near-perfect sentences like this:


"[Cleveland is] the unpromised land, the town where dreams go to die, the city whose battered fans know that however ugly things get, they'll get worse. They always have ... "


And pitch-perfect self-loathing gags like this:


Q: What are the two things you will never see in Cleveland?


A: A victory parade and the sky.


Losing is your answer to the Force. It surrounds you, flows through you, grants order and meaning to your world. It's a cosmic toy, a psychological crutch, what Gilbert calls a dreaded spell. Lament your status. Secretly revel in it. Pass it on to your children in the manner of a last name. Every city has its version of The Drive, The Shot, The Fumble; only Cleveland has carte blanche to weep and moan and remember John Elway the way older people recall living through natural disasters. Everyone else's athletic disappointments are confined to history's dustbin; yours become the basis for an extended, totally unprintable joke sequence in "Hot Tub Time Machine."


To put things another way: Milwaukee is cold and hasn't won squat in forever, either. Only nobody there rhapsodizes about the bittersweet joys of rooting for a perpetually downtrodden team.

Plus, they still have to live in Milwaukee.


Let's play make-believe. Imagine that James remained with the Cavaliers. Suppose the team dumped Antawn Jamison, acquired Chris Paul and managed to win an NBA title. You'd feel great. Vindicated. Relieved. But once the euphoria wore off, you'd also feel ... empty. Because you wouldn't be you. Not anymore.


No more hurt. No more hunger. No more resignation. No more childish tantrums because a 25-year-old guy who has lived and worked in Northeast Ohio his entire life decides that Dwyane Wade is a more talented running mate than Mo Williams, and that cabanas and topless supermodels beat combustible waterways and a deeper appreciation for "Major League."


Uh-uh. What if you win? What if you finally open the Christmas gift you've been coveting forever. Then what? Would sports mean as much? Would sports still serve as a referendum on the way the universe works? Or would they seem silly? A bit banal?


Charlie Brown kicks the football. He wakes up the next day, realizes he's still a crummy pitcher and that there's more to life than extra points. He wonders what all the fuss was about. Or consider Red Sox Nation fans. Nobody was ever more beautiful and special in defeat! Just ask them! Fantastical curses. Book-length laments. National attention. Red Sox partisans suffered like no other partisans in human history, and if you weren't aware of the fact, you really weren't paying attention.


And now? Two titles and perennial contention and countless pink team caps later?


They're Yankees Lite. Yawn.


Worse still, pretend James stayed home and didn't simply win. Pretend he became the cornerstone of a pro basketball dynasty. Won big; again and again and again. You know what happens, Cleveland fans? You go from Beautiful Losers to Nouveau Riche Rooters, arrogant and entitled and annoying ... and then, when the party's over and the commemorative DVDs are pressed and sold, you become pathetic and spoiled and delusional, forever looking backward, chasing past glories like a 40-year-old former high school quarterback still strutting around in his State Champions varsity jacket.


Dan Gilbert, Cleveland fans, everyone forcing the cops to guard that stupid "Witness" mural: Don't be that guy. Be yourselves. The Beautiful Losers. Some people think that they should go to hell but have to die to get there. Sorry, but that's simply NOT how it works. And you know this. Have it all figured out, actually. You're the only people in America who can get dumped by a gorgeous girl and blame everything on a painful-yet-comforting cosmic order that also decrees that Earnest Byner fumbles at the goal line, while the rest of us know it just means she found a rich guy with better hair.


Sleep well, Cleveland. Even if you're covered in kerosene and vomit. Like I've been saying: LeBron is gone, and you don't know how lucky you are.


Patrick Hruby is a freelance writer and ESPN.com contributor. Contact him at PatrickHruby.net.


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