The Cleveland Cavaliers and Cynicism

I’m that guy. In fact, I’ve been that guy for the past five weeks.

You know that guy. That guy who immediately writes off the Cavaliers after Kelly Olynyk tries to rip Kevin Love’s arm from the rest of his body. That guy who points out how the Cavaliers will struggle to defend a Derrick Rose-Pau Gasol pick and roll. That guy who won’t stop saying how badly Kyrie Irving is limping around. That guy who keeps talking about how well the Hawks pass and move on offense when compared to the stodgy Cavaliers.
Now, I’m that guy who is quick to say just how good the Golden State Warriors are on both offense and defense. I’m that guy who notes how healthy the Warriors are and how much more depth they have than the battered and bruised Cavaliers.
I’m that guy who either can’t or refuses to get super excited about his team having swept the top seed in the conference and being just four games away from a championship.
The Cavaliers playoff run ever since that fateful loose ball against the Celtics has felt like fool’s gold to me. It’s not exactly a fun way to enjoy a team’s postseason run. I can see everyone around me is ecstatic about the Cavaliers play over the past few weeks. I can tell that people fully expect them to go toe-to-toe with and eventually prevail against the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.
I just don’t see it that way. I haven’t since the Celtics series. Where people see the Cavaliers vanquishing the Bulls in six games, I see a team that was down 2-1 in the series and was a buzzer beater away from potentially being down 3-1. Where people see the Cavaliers having dominated a 60 win team in the Atlanta Hawks, I see the Cavaliers sweeping a team with injury issues that was fortunate to get past the Wizards the round prior. And now, where people see the Cavaliers matching up well against the Warriors, I see a team run ragged by injuries, over reliant on their superstar, going up against a well-oiled machine that ran riot through the Western Conference.
I wish this wasn’t the case. I wish that I could ignore the fact that the Warrios were an absolute juggernaut during the regular season, that they have the reigning MVP on their roster, and that they have four solid defensive options to throw at Lebron along with one of the better rim protectors in the game. I wish I could ignore that the Cavaliers are without Kevin Love, that Kyrie Irving is going to be a question mark all series due to his injury, and that the team is regularly using James Jones in important playoff minutes. I wish I could ignore all that, appreciate what the Cavaliers have done thus far, and believe that they can bring home the title.
But I just can’t. Maybe it’s due to enduring memories from 2007, 2009, and 2010 that prove that having the best player on the planet on your team isn’t always enough. Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism; I’m preparing myself for inevitable defeat now so I don’t have to go through the emotional wringer of heightened expectations and disappointing results. It could be that at 23 years old I’ve fully acquired the cynicism required to be a Cleveland Sports fan.
Or maybe it’s possible that I’ve become so analytical when it comes to watching sports that it’s taken a toll on my ability to be a true fan. Ever since I was a little kid I prided myself on my sports knowledge. In kindergarten that meant things like knowing the numbers of all the players on the Cavaliers. Now it means things like knowing that the Warriors were first in defensive efficiency and second in offensive efficiency in the regular season while playing in the superior conference. I’ve become analytical to the point where I can’t see anything beyond it. Things like the Cavaliers’ great chemistry or LeBron James’ will to win one for the city of Cleveland don’t mean anything to me when compared with cold, hard facts.
The answer is probably a combination of everything above. When I look at the facts heading into the series, the only thing I can conclude is the Warriors are significant favorites. But there’s also safety in not expecting the Cavaliers to win the title. It’s like refusing to admit your feelings to the girl you have a crush on. I can’t be hurt if I don’t put myself out there, and hey, there’s always the chance, however small, that she makes the first move.
Maybe I’d be better off if I wasn’t so cynical. That way I could just enjoy watching my favorite teams play. I could take more satisfaction from their accomplishments. I can believe in their chances of winning without worrying about what the facts indicate will happen next.
But for now, I’d advise against inviting me to your NBA Finals watch party on June 6. That is, unless you’re in need of a wet blanket to put out your fanatical fire.
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