No one has a problem with people being emotionally invested in sports. At least not when fans are buying jerseys or getting tattoos of the team logo or throwing down thousands a season to come watch a team that has no hope of making the playoffs. That kind of emotional investment is okay. But when it comes to being angry at a player for leaving town, suddenly, fans are expected to "get over it."
LeBron James came back to Cleveland last night and proceeded to bust the Cavs heads open. Now, in the minds of many sports commentators (and probably fans, too), it's time for Cleveland to pipe down and stop whining about losing LeBron. The anger should have been burned out now, because you screamed at him for three straight hours. But it's not always that simple. After all, Cleveland put their hearts into LeBron for seven straight years. By my calculations, Cleveland should be allowed to scream at him for the rest of his career and at least half of his retirement. Hell, "The Decision" just happened in July. We haven't even seen the worst of what Cleveland can do yet. Have you seen what they do to their own shit? THEIR LAKE LIGHTS ON FIRE.
Some people might think it's crazy to put that much into a person who will never even know your name, and it is. But that's how sports goes. We are so crazy about our teams that we'll tailgate in subzero temperatures. Being mad at LeBron is nothing compared to that. But that's an acceptable level of insanity. Truth is, the same level of insanity that it takes to throw yourself into a team that is only after your money is the same level of insanity that it takes to get upset with a person for leaving that team. You can't think one is okay and not the other. Yeah, it's crazy to cry because LeBron went to Miami, but it's also crazy to buy seat licenses.
I'm not knocking it, because that would make me a hypocrite. I spend money on tickets and merchandise, too. I refuse to miss watching or listening to the Falcons on Sundays, and fume like a madman if they lose to their rivals. I live or die on each basket that the Chicago Bulls make. I talk trash to people about how well "my team" is doing, like I have some kind of financial stake in my teams. Yeah, I'm just as crazy as the rest of us. But that's where people seem to think the line should be drawn. "Be happy when things are going well, but don't be upset when things go bad. After all, it's just a business."
But it isn't "just a business." Not to the fans. If it was, people wouldn't do the things that they do to follow these teams. People name their kids after sports-related trivia. People have lost friendships and estranged themselves from family over sports. People get arrested all the time because they were fighting over sports. I personally insulted everyone from the state of Louisiana last year. For God's sake, people treat fantasy football like it's a religion. It stopped being "just a business" for the fans a long time ago.
It's just that "the business" doesn't like to see the angry side of the fans. I don't understand why, because it's not like they can't sell it. Hell, anger in sports is the easiest thing to sell. Lakers/Celtics bordered on outright racism in the 1980s. People have hated Duke for no discernible reason for the last 30 years.
But when it gets to that point, suddenly, it's "too much." "The fans have taken this just a little bit too far." "Get over it, fans. It's just a game." Oh, NOW, it's just a game. When it was time to renew those season tickets, though, it's was "team spirit."
They encourage fans to "get involved" in the team. "Support your hometown heroes." They like for fans to get painted up and wear costumes, or wave towels, and all that stuff. It's good TV to see that guy with no shirt on in the dead of winter at a Patriots game. They like for fans to feel like they're part of the team. Even though that stuff is plenty stupid, too, it's all good, because everyone is happy.
Then, LeBron leaves town. And not just leave, but announces on ESPN in a primetime special that he's leaving, THEN shows up at a parade the next night in Miami. THEN acts like he can't understand why everyone's all mad. Basically, blowing off Cleveland in the douchiest way possible. Suddenly, Cleveland is just expected to understand.
Well, fuck all that. If Cleveland wants to be upset for the rest of LeBron's career (and they probably will), then they're entitled. They were told to hitch their fortunes to THAT GUY and promised BY HIM that he'd bring a title to Cleveland. And it wasn't like someone like Brad Daughtery or Gerald Wilkins said it. LeBron was someone who had the ability to actually back that up. He was "The Chosen One," because the tattoo on his back said so. He gave them hope that for once, Cleveland would be known for something other than failure in sports and the Drew Carey Show (undoubtedly filmed in California). They got emotionally invested and LeBron (and the Cavs, to be fair) made a ton of money off of that emotional investment. So when the emotions turn sour, you can't just expect people just to shake that shit off, just because it's an inconvenience to YOU. And you certainly can't deride them because they're upset.
Well, you could, but you would also be hypocrite. Especially if you're from a soccer playing nation.
Situations like this are often compared to a breakup and we don't always expect people to just shake off a break up. We put all this time and effort and yes, emotion into these relationships and when they don't work, it fucking hurts and leads to sleepless night and drinking and that dull ache in your chest and OH GOD WHY WON'T SHE COME BACK TO ME???!!!
Sports really isn't all that different, except for the fact that maybe two or three times a year, you get to see that person and tell them exactly how you feel. You can't do that in real life, because you'd get arrested. So really, what happened in Cleveland last night was kind of cathartic for them. Even though the team lost, the city got to tell LeBron exactly what they thought to his face (more or less).
What we all have to understand is that this is the way it's gonna be in Cleveland, probably forever. We can't just tell them to suck it up because we're tired of hearing about it. We can't have it both ways. We can't praise passion on one hand, then shoot it down when it gets on your nerves. They'll stop when they stop. YOU get over it.
With sports, like relationships, it's either all or nothing. And it's not like berating them for being mad is gonna make them stop. If you think that's gonna work, then you might be just as insane as they are.