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Cleveland and Minnesota: Brothers In Harm

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LeBron James made the most hyped and celebrated decision an NBA player has ever made last evening. And with it, he once again stomped on the hopes and dreams of a city that, quite frankly, doesn't deserve any more of that from its sports teams.

As Minnesota fans, we know that there aren't very many teams whose fan base has gotten kicked in the teeth as frequently as we have. But if there are teams that are as cursed or snake-bitten or what have you as Minnesota sports fans, the fans of the city of Cleveland would have to be on the short list somewhere.

Minnesota has Drew "F'ing" Pearson. . .Cleveland has John "F'ing" Elway.

Minnesota has Joe Nathan against the Yankees. . .Cleveland has Jose Mesa against the Marlins.

Minnesota has Gary Anderson wide left, Josh McCown to Nathan Poole, 41-0, and so forth. . .Cleveland has The Drive, The Fumble and Michael Jordan over Craig Ehlo, among others. Not to mention that both fan bases have seen beloved teams pack up and move to different locales in recent history, Minnesota with the North Stars going to Dallas and Cleveland with the original Browns going to Baltimore.

But last night, LeBron James drove what might have been the ultimate stake into the heart of Cleveland sports fans. And he did so in the most public, most humiliating forum possible. Yes, rather than simply signing his contract like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did earlier in the week, James decided to have a one-hour special on ESPN. In a related story, Brett Favre called LeBron to say, "Man, don't you think you're being a bit of a diva here?

The suspense was incredible. . .all anybody has talked about since free agency started is LeBron James and where he was going to sign and so forth. Last night, it all came to a head, and the NBA's two-time reigning Most Valuable Player has decided to take his incredible talents to Miami to join Bosh and Wade.

To be honest, when I heard that LeBron James was doing this, I thought that it was a sure-fire sign that he was staying in Cleveland with the Cavaliers. After all, James was born and raised in Ohio, and has said in the past that he was a Browns fan growing up. If anyone knew the pain of Cleveland sports fans, you would think it would be LeBron James. With 60-plus wins in each of the last two seasons and a trip to the NBA Finals in 2006-07, James had taken the Cavaliers to the brink of creating some positive memories for the fans of Cleveland over the past few years.

And now. . .it's gone. All in the hopes of creating a "superteam" on South Beach.

The fans of the city of Cleveland didn't deserve this sort of thing. They didn't deserve this circus. Given the recent history of Cleveland sports, if LeBron was going to leave, their fans deserved to have it done in a relatively quiet manner. Instead, they were treated to having their hearts ripped out in a national forum, with cameras everywhere to capture the angst of the fans of the city of Cleveland as they watched one of the biggest stars in the history of their city ride off into the sunset.

The sad part?  For all the talk of the Miami Heat being a "superteam," it's entirely possible that they're still not even the best team in the Eastern Conference right now, even with the trio of Wade, Bosh, and now James under the same roof. Think about this for a moment ... after the Heat were successful in dealing forward Michael Beasley to Toronto, their roster right now consists of a total of four players:  James, Wade, Bosh, and point guard Mario "Super Nintendo" Chalmers. (If you don't get the Chalmers reference, here you go.)  That's it. . .those are all the players they currently have under contract. They have no bench ... hell, they don't even have five starters at the moment. . .and they have no center. And to fill all those holes, they are likely going to be looking at eight guys making the NBA minimum salary. Oh, and lord help them if any of the big three get injured or anything.

Right now, to be honest, I don't think the Miami Heat are as good as the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Boston Celtics. They might not even be as good as their in-state rivals in Orlando. But James thought that this was his big chance to win championships, even if it meant forsaking the city and state that has supported him ever since his high school days.

So, Cleveland fans, we feel your pain here ... really, we do. I, personally, was on your side in this whole thing, but it wasn't to be. However, just as we Minnesota sports fans tell ourselves every year, this too shall pass. You deserved better, and deserve better, just as we do. One of these days, "better" is actually going to happen. Nobody knows when, but it will happen.

After all ... that sort of hope is what makes us fans of these teams in the first place.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.