Monday, June 20, 2016

A Glass Case of Emotion

By Jonathan Lowe

When I write most of these columns, there are usually some numbers I need to solidify some sort of superfluous case I'm making. For this one, I'm going to come at this from the standpoint of someone that enjoys watching the game. It's amazing what one game, one quarter, one final stretch can do for the emotion of a sports franchise and the players that compete for it. It's amazing what motivation inspired one to get to that moment. It'll be amazing to find out how those results influence more results from here on out.

On Sunday night, Cleveland accomplished NBA history, while denying NBA history at the same time. The Cavaliers were the first time to win the Finals after trailing three games to one. For them, the elation was apparent. For the vanquished Golden State Warriors, the dejection was just as apparent. And for the fan bases of both organizations, the emotions were just as apparent.

I stopped at a sports bar after leaving work on Sunday night to order some takeout. While waiting, I sat down and watched the rest of Game 7. These were vocal contingents for both combatants. Once the final buzzer sounded, a chorus of cheers scattered through the room. But it was one gentleman, in particular, that kept the yelling going after everything else had mellowed out. He couldn't help but give his displeasure to each Warrior player that came up on the screen. For some reason (just thin-skinned, I guess), I felt that I had to go over and let him know that, while there was good in the Cavs winning, there was no need to disrespect the dethroned champs that way. My moment of emotion, subdued as it was, was pretty much summed up in that moment.

I like this Golden State Warriors squad. I like the way they play team offense. I like the fact that Stephen Curry has made himself into the player he has (I've been a fan of his since his days at Davidson).

I'm sad for the image that Steph Curry is building. He has made large strides from just being a shooter. No, he can't lock anybody down on defense. Yes, he has the tendency to be loose with the handles. However, from the less than no chance some people gave him of surviving with his small, slight frame, he's done pretty well for himself. But being the MVP two times over usually means more consistent play in the Finals. Curry has disappeared for major stretches of the last two go-rounds. We'll see if he gets a third chance to correct that.

I'm sad for the opportunity to watch history happen. For the first since 1947, the team that established the NBA regular season wins record failed to win the title that same postseason. Now, the Warriors make the NBA join a dubious list. At this time, the teams that hold the greatest regular season records in all four North American major sports leagues (2008 New England Patriots, 1906 Chicago Cubs, 1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings) are 0-4 when it came to winning those respective titles.

I'm sad because the lack of respect shown to this squad seems vindicated. I know I shouldn't be surprised about what fans say. We're irrational by nature (okay, not all, but I do include myself in that grouping). But the amount of shade thrown their way by former, Hall-of-Fame players (Charles Barkley, Oscar Robertson, Scottie Pippen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Isaiah Thomas) was stunning to me. I mean, did Klay Thompson steal candy from their grandkids? Did Draymond Green kick their puppies into traffic? I understand generations protecting their own, but, man, I wonder how many dump trucks they've rented to pile dirt on the Warriors' season.

On the flip side, this IS a happy occasion. For a team that seemed to have enough going for it in the regular season, the Cavs knew that questions would swirl around their own house if the Larry O'Brien Trophy did not see the shores of Lake Erie for the first time. I'm a fan of LeBron James. I've always been a fan of the way he's played the game. I do remember defending his actions when he would pass off game-winning drive attempts to wide open teammates that just couldn't connect on the chances. He had every right to make "The Decision," although I thought he could have done it differently (and less cheesy). And his second decision to return is a heart-warming story.

I'm happy for Kevin Love. Did he disappear in this series? Absolutely. Was he much more of a liability than an asset? No doubt. Did he cost himself some dollars on the market? I believe so. But I've been a fan of his since his days with the Timberwolves. Was the way he left Minnesota pretty bitter. You could say that. Did he ride LeBron's coattails to win a ring? Sure. But wasn't that the same thing that was said about Chris Bosh when he left Toronto for Miami? Love took a back seat from his status as "The Man" here in Minneapolis. He did struggle with the reduced role. But he contributed when it counted, giving himself a status that will never be taken away.

I'm happy for Tyronn Lue. Do I think David Blatt deserved better? Yes. Is this how I wanted to see Lue ultimately earn his first head coaching gig in the league? No. However, it's good to root for someone that has a representation to your hometown. To be accurate, Lue was born in Mexico, MO, a small town just northeast of Columbia. However, for people from Raytown (a suburb of Kansas City), he will always be known as one of the stars in one of the most legendary high school hoops games in that city's history. He parlayed that into a career that saw him win titles as an NBA player. Now, he has one as a head coach.

I'm happy for the city of Cleveland. Growing up in Kansas City, I understood the apathy of seeing ineptitude year after year. I understood the heartbreak of seeing success dwindle away into a vacuum of disappointment. Even though the droughts aren't comparable, watching the Royals win a title last October to break a 30-year title drought was as exhilarating a moment as I've had being a sports fan. Many young Clevelanders now know how that feels. Many elder Clevelanders finally remember how that feels. The high they'll feel will be surreal, and long-lasting, and well-deserved.

So, there you have it. My hollow happiness splayed out on the page. And that's the emotion of sports. For us that follows whole-heartedly, that's what makes it totally engaging. So, to history, I say, "Cheers." And, to history, I say, "Come on. Really?"

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