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Brief, Grudging Notes From a Resigned Cavs Fan

We are no longer a national avatar of sadness

(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)
(Getty Images/Ringer illustration)

My beloved and triumphant and totally doomed Cleveland Cavaliers lost the 2017 NBA championship to the wrong and bad and manifestly bullshit Golden State Warriors on July 4, 2016. Yeah. The day Kevin Durant signed with the Dubs. A terrible day for the Cavs; a far worse day for America, or at least those parts of America emotionally invested in the NBA. This Finals matchup — which ended Monday with a 129–120 Golden State win in Game 5 — was brutally inevitable. So was its outcome. It’s hard, as a Cavs fan, to be surprised, or remotely sad, or even angry. They lost, sure, fine. But they made it interesting for a little while there, albeit by also making it just slightly more painful.

The true danger of this series was that the Cavs might briefly, tantalizingly make it look like a series at all. True heartbreak requires the presence, or at least the possibility, of love. "Game 3 sucked," is what I’m saying here. "Put Deron Williams in the trash," I am also saying. That game led Cavs fans to dark, queasy, nostalgic places, a throwback to the awful No Help for LeBron years, when we all fantasized about a reality series called The Bricklayers in which hapless failed LeBron sidemen are forced to build outhouses out of their own botched 3-pointers and then live in them. On Hughes, on Delonte, on Williams and Hickson! On Snow, on O’Neal, on Gooden and Gibson! Welcome to the club, Kyle Korver! Please repair to Siberia, or at least Milwaukee! I shouted unpleasantries; I defamed Iman Shumpert with the same GIF for like the 50th time. I figured it was over. So did you. So did everybody.

Game 4 was a hoot, a wild mashup of NBA Jam and Street Fighter II that prevented a humiliating sweep. I shouted joyful obscenities; I cried laughing at this tweet. But Monday night, order and reason were brutally reestablished via a 600–3 second-quarter Warriors run that reminded everyone that this was less a series than a trophy presentation to which the Cavs just happened to have floor seats and a relaxed dress code. Was it a pleasant viewing experience, here in Ohio? Other than the times J.R. Smith had the ball, no. Was it the soul-crushing annihilation to which Ohio sports fans have long grown accustomed? Shockingly, also no.

This is because the Cavs are — sorry, were, I meant to type were there — defending champions. Cleveland won a championship very recently. The city is no longer a national avatar of sadness, a sentient lowlight reel of the Shot, the Fumble, The Decision, the José Mesa, etc. We are merely pedestrian losers. Happens to the second-best of us every year. The Indians’ loss to the Cubs — the proverbial blown 3–1 lead reversed, with a 68-year World Series drought there for the quenching — was far more painful. In this instance, at least, the Cavs had the good fortune, if not exactly the pleasure, of losing to one of the best NBA teams of all time. The Warriors could easily win the title every year for the next half decade. There is something both maddening and calming about that, a resignation so overpowering it’s almost soothing.

I suppose that Cavs fans should now pivot to mortal terror that LeBron will leave again and build a third superteam in L.A. or San Antonio or Las Vegas, via an expansion squad he inexplicably insists on. The good news is that the Cavs are already a great team. (Fine, Kyle Korver, you can stay.) The bad news is they almost certainly don’t have the flexibility to get better, and they’re still nowhere near good enough. There is no shame in losing to the Warriors in 2017, nor in 2018 through 2025. Nor is there any point in getting all crabby about it. This is what the NBA is like now. Consider getting into hockey, except now there’s a fucking superteam in hockey, too.

In conclusion, the Golden State Warriors blew a 3–1 lead.