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Choosing a Championship For Cleveland

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And now I can die in peace.

Bill Simmons authored a book back in 2006 following the first World Series title for the city of Boston since 1918. The idea being that now that he's witnessed his favorite baseball team capture baseball's ultimate prize for the first time in his lifetime, and I guess, more prominently broke that historic "curse" that seemed to be hoisted onto the Red Sox, he can die happy.

We're sitting here in the middle of June and the Cleveland Cavaliers are where a lot of fans hoped for them to be, back in the NBA Finals fighting for their first NBA Championship. Fighting for the city of Cleveland's first major championship (sorry Monster's fans, not major enough, but very uplifting) since 1964.

The problem is that while the Cavaliers are where the fans hoped for them to be, they are now also not where they hoped for them to be. Down 3-1 in the series, to a team, that from this outsider's perspective with no horse in the race, is not easily likable.

You have a super team that amassed as many wins as a historic Chicago Bulls team (let's stop comparing them), with a superstar that seems to get tons of national recognition and media attention to the point where it is nauseating, from the glitz of the west coast. Not to mention, one of their players continues to hit people in the junk. If there ever was a team to dislike, this era of the Golden State Warriors meets the bill. They are like any underdog that has risen to prominence and cultivated a period of supremacy. They've stuck around long enough to go from, "Hey it's fun to root for this team!" and "Whoa, cool Splash Bros!" and "I remember when Steph Curry was that little runt with Davidson and they knocked off a bunch of teams to make my bracket hell, neat!" to "Man, I really want to see them lose" and "Steph Curry is annoying, plz loze."

The Kansas City Royals have, in short order, done that in baseball. They were a cellar dweller not a decade ago.  An AL Central punching bag for a period of time, despite some historic greatness. They've turned it around and are now one of the team's elite, and brought with it a swagger that makes them very much "All Against the World" type of team in 2016, much like the Warriors.

So, it's kind of funny as we sit here, with the Cavaliers down 3-1 to the Warriors and the Indians are three games up on the defending World Series champions in Kansas City in the middle of June, with a chance to widen that gap to begin the week. The city of Cleveland's two other teams, the Cavaliers and the Indians, on one string of emotion, passively optimistic, both having success. Down 3-1, I think most fans feel like there's likely a glimmer of hope, but it's fading, yet still remain optimistic. Up in the division, a majority of Cleveland, while quick to rule them out after four straight losses in April, isn't as quick to jump on the bandwagon with a three game lead in the division in June. Since when did some people start choosing to believe in the "this is a long season" talking point that so many of us caution slow starts with?

I'm regressing here.

What's my point? Both team's are having success. You will be ultimately disappointed if the Cavaliers cannot pull of three straight wins to claim a title, as you should be because your favorite basketball team couldn't bring home a title. But you can't short-change the success of back-to-back season of making it this far. Yeah yeah, second place is the first place loser, I get all that, but it's pretty cool, so if you have to take a bath in the anguish after tonight or if the series ends in disappointment, try and shower yourself off eventually and realize your favorite basketball team is fun to watch because it is contending. Also remember though, that stranger things have happened than the prospect of the Cavaliers coming back to win this. How this series has played out thus far be damned, it really never is over until it is over.

Take the same manner with your baseball team, if you are a fan both. The Indians are winning! They're in contention in June and with so many warts on the other teams (Indians have their own), this division is ripe for the picking and the Indians look like they could be the best of the bunch.

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I've deviated from what I initially intended to start writing, at least in my mind. Full disclosure, you probably are not going to like the rest of this. Especially on the day of what is a really big night for the Cavaliers. It is extremely self-serving and I know and realize I am in the complete minority, even though I know there are people who feel the way I do.

But I'm all about the fan analytics and that's kind of what this is an exercise in. You may already want to clobber me over the head repeatedly for how I judge and carry on over the Indians and Cleveland fan dynamic. But I've never really explored any sort of idea with the Cavaliers, and subsequently, the idea of a Championship in Cleveland.

And, this is pure honesty. Like I said, I'm going to be incredibly self-serving.

Few preface notes:
  • I'm not a Cavaliers fan. I don't claim an allegiance to any team. If I HAD to pick one, it would be Orlando as that used to be my favorite team.
  • I say used to, because I'm not a fan of the National Basketball Association in anyway, anymore. I like the sport, but I tend to enjoy watching the college game more, but even then, I'm pretty much indifferent on watching basketball. I can't stand watching an NBA game. I also dislike what it has evolved into. The day that Boston formed the "Big Three" is the day that I gave up on the NBA. There's already too many teams in the playoffs, and that just added emphasis to that idea by creating 3-5 super teams. Everyone else? What's the point? Why do we have more than half the teams in the postseason when it's really all about 3-5 of them anyway? I think things have sort calmed down on the front, but it seems like there's a rotation of super teams each year. If you don't have a "Big Three" you can't contend on a regular basis. Yes, Cleveland has a big three, don't argue. You are what you eat.
  • Throw in a crooked referee on top of officiating that was way too objective to begin with, and I lost my interest in following the sport.
  • Why was I fan of a team from Florida anyway? Kind of strange. I grew up a Tracy McGrady fan, and thus a Magic fan. I started liking them when they were pretty terrible, so this isn't a bandwagon or Anti-Cavs thing. This was after Grant Hill's body self-destructed too, not right after they signed both of them. I mean, McGrady was the entire team, so they were one in the same. That stuck, even after he was traded, through the Dwight Howard years and the run to the NBA Finals. Yes, a run that included beating the Cavaliers. I was at the game at The Q when LeBron James hit a ridiculous buzzer beater to sink the Magic. I was sad, but they won the series, so, neener neener. Right?
  • As you already probably know, I'm not a Cleveland Browns fan either, so my number of favorite Cleveland teams is the same number of cars I have in my garage. One, I have one car in my garage. 
Now that we got all that out of the way and you have context, I'm just going to come out and say it.

I've been hoping the Cavaliers don't win the NBA Title.

Not actively rooting against the team in anyway. Not cheering for Golden State. Not saying "Hey Go Warriors!" or "Boo Cavs!" to people I know or being obnoxious or any of that. But, silently, in my own mind, hoping they don't win the championship this year. But like, if they win, okay they win, great, no real skin off my nose. I know by saying this, I'm now kind of being obnoxious about it and making it more public. But again, I'm not cheering for any particular team or rooting against one either. Plus, Dolanz Cheep fan is obnoxious, so, fire with fire.

I guess I just have a preference. A preference to meet my self-serving desires of seeing what is right and seeing some fans have to kiss the ring. There's so many levels to this and I think on the surface "I hope the Cavaliers don't win" is something a Grade A ass says, especially on a site that has mostly Cavaliers fans reading its stuff. So, let me try and peel back the layers here as best I can to make it seem like I'm not the big ass you think I am.

Part of this goes back to the idea of the NBA. A title is a title, but in my mind, a title for the garbage can that is the NBA doesn't seem like a fitting way for Cleveland to bring it's championship drought to an end. Okay, so as a fan of just one Cleveland team, I guess I have no room to sit here and say that I want the Indians to be the ones to bring home a title first, when that is the only team I like. But, that's just a feeling. A feeling for what a title in the NBA actually means. How did the Cavaliers build their current team? They drafted LeBron James initially after a long period of being absolutely terrible. Then he left, they were pretty terrible again. So terrible, they got the first pick and Kyrie Irving. LeBron says, hey, let me come back because this is home.

And with him in the fold, suddenly, Cleveland is an attractive place and they trade for Kevin Love, who is like "Sure, I'd like to play with one of the best players of all time and another rising superstar!" This is not a slight on the Cavaliers, good for them, but it took all of what, one offseason to build their team into a contender? Granted, there was some groundwork with being terrible for awhile too, but look at what the Philadelphia 76ers are doing. They're going to be terrible, like, historically terrible, for a few years to get some players. There's like, nothing being built here. It's just, let's be terrible, draft a few guys with the first pick (You do have to hit on the draft picks, of course), and sign a guy to a max contract. Viola, contender! The Cavaliers had two layups with their first overall picks. The 76ers could only hope to have that situation. But there doesn't seem to be any work here for NBA teams. It's, let's lose a bunch and hit on picks, or just try and sign three superstars. I'm not even sure the Spurs do it right.

So, there's a little disdain there from me on the process it takes to build a championship caliber team. It stems from my preference of the payoff of building a baseball team and seeing it organically grow into a contender. There's a lot of crap in baseball too, don't get me wrong. But it's a lot easier to screw up than it is to get it right. You can dump millions of dollars into payroll, but it may get you nowhere. How many championships have the Angels won since signing Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, AND drafting Mike Trout?

The Red Sox tried band-aiding their team a few years ago with Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez among others. They were udder garbage in 2015 and in 2016, while decent as a team, is seeing Sandoval floating around in the empty bathtub like the lost gross band aid that he has become.

So, my point, it's easy to screw up money. It's also easy to screw up properly building a team, drafting guys like Mike Trout and all that. Boston is in contention this year because of guys they've groomed and brought up through their system. Xander Boegarts, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., are all home-grown. Their contending based off that. Point is there, you need to build from within in some facet if you want to contend.

Our Indians of Cleveland? Built from within. Built with hard work and elbow grease.

For a team that epitomizes what Cleveland supposedly likes to beat their chest about, how is that not the team that you would want to bring a championship back to the city and end its misery? Hard working, nose to the grind stone, blue collar, everything is earned, nothing is given, the city that puts in the effort day-in and day-out. Right? All that? That's the Indians, to a core. You don't buy the players, you find them, put the work into them, let them evolve and take their time to develop. You put in the effort to put the winning pieces into place with the hope that it will take shape and reward you. For a city that sure does love to tout it's hard working side of the coin, it seems like the collective majority would like the coin to be spent. Ironic.

Or, you just say, all of that is just a bunch of bullshit. Give me a championship, I don't care who it is from or how it is done. You could have that mentality because you are a fan of both, or all three, or just the Cavaliers, or just the Browns, or whatever. Honestly, I don't blame you. That's your preference. Mine is something else, even if I may not be entitled to it because I have just one allegiance.

I hope though, that this at least makes a little sense in terms of looking at it as an NBA problem, and not anything against the Cavaliers themselves. I don't dislike the Cavs and again, I'm not rooting against them tonight or the rest of the way. A lot of this, in addition to a disdain for the NBA, stems from that dynamic I alluded to earlier in regards to the Indians. We've explored the topic many of times, so I won't get into specifics.

But, how much would the process of putting this team together be validated if the Indians brought home a World Series. Brought home the city's first in awhile to boot? I believe in that process, call me a fool if you want, but I'm a supporter of it because I believe it is one to put stock into. I believe it is the best way to build a team for sustained success, for sustained opportunity to contend. Say what you want, but the Indians have been in the mix for awhile now. More regularly than the Browns. And even though they haven't been to the World Series, they've had just as many competitive season as the Cavaliers have had in the past decade and a half. They play in a sport where it is harder to make the postseason, so don't go comparing playoff appearances or anything like that. The Indians are in the mix, and that's more than you can ask for from a lot of teams over the span of some time. Look at how bad the Pirates were for a long period of time.

And, as I've said on some other times. There's something about the chase. There's something about putting in all this work and energy into something. There's something about believing in this process and seeing it pay off. Yeah, a Cavaliers championship will be exciting for any fan of the team. I don't wish to take that away from anyone. And if it happens, great, awesome, congrats, I'm happy for a lot of people that I know that live and dive with the team and the city that would get to celebrate that joy.

But, I have to think the payoff of seeing the Indians take it all would be incredible. To see the team vindicated for all the moves it makes, the philosophy that they believe in, seeing it all culminate in a title win. A title win before anyone else. A definitive, shut up and kiss the ring moment.

There's this idea going around that "Cleveland deserves a championship" because...well, I'm not sure why. Does not having one entitle you to deserving one? Do the Cubs deserve one more than anyone because they've waited the longest? Does that mean that we should just give them one. No man, they gotta work for it.

Cleveland as a city, needs one. Do they deserve one? We're talking about sports here. No one deserves anything. You have to work for and earn a championship. You don't deserve anything based off anything other than the games you win. If the Cavaliers win a title, they earned it and deserved it, especially now with these circumstances. I wouldn't dream of discrediting them for it, and yes, Cleveland would deserve their title and should enjoy it. I don't like the NBA for what it is, but the Cavs are winning within the confines of their sport and doing what they have to do. I couldn't discredit winning it all, but I can hope for alternatives.

But right now, the city doesn't deserve anything they don't win. Don't be entitled to winning something because you haven't ever won it and the "pain and suffering" you have been through entitles you to it. This isn't a lawsuit where you are owed damages. Again, this is sports.

I think the pain and suffering pays off better in my own preference. I think seeing the validation come through for the Indians is fun and winning it all that way would be wonderful. That's my hope, that's my preference. I'm entirely welcoming of being called names for it, but I'm mighty okay with that. We all have our petty preferences, and this one is mine. Maybe that's how I can die in peace. In self-served peace.
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