June 1, 2007

On Specialness

LBJ3r.jpg
(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

ESPN.com's Bill Simmons had spent the last couple of weeks ripping on the Cavaliers' offense, their "idiotic" Head Coach Mike Brown, and the sorry state of the Eastern Conference in general, so his Thursday column wasn't anything terribly new, but at least he did give the Pistons equal time for his unique brand of ridicule.

But he was slightly prescient at the end of the piece, when he acknowledged that even though LeBron doesn't always seem to be focused and driven (like Jordan was....always) Simmons still had a good reason to check out Game 5:

No. 23 happens to be the only interesting thing about this painfully disjointed Pistons-Cavs series. The coaches stink, the players aren't that good, the styles don't mesh … maybe the intensity has been there, but you could say the same about a WNBA game, for cripes sake. Like many others, I'm looking forward to Game 5 solely because of LeBron. Like many others, I want him to shift into fifth gear, hush the crowd, rip Detroit's heart out and make the Vivid Video face after everything's said and done. Like many others, I will be disappointed if this doesn't happen.

Well, as we all know by now, it happened, and the follow-up column by Simmons is a classic. You'll want to read it all, but here's a sample:

This wasn't just about the improbable 29-of-30 points barrage down the stretch, those two monster dunks at the end of regulation, the way he perservered despite a crummy coach and a mediocre supporting cast, how he just kept coming and coming, even how he made that game-winning layup look so damned easy. Physically, LeBron overpowered the Pistons. This was like watching a light-heavyweight battling a middleweight for eight rounds and suddenly realizing, "Wait, I have 15 pounds on this guy," then whipping the poor guy into a corner and destroying him with body punches. The enduring moment was LeBron flying down the middle for a Dr. J retro dunk and Tayshaun Prince ducking for cover like someone reacting to a fly-by from a fighter jet. The Pistons wanted no part of him. They were completely dominated. They didn't knock him down, they didn't jump in front of him for a charge … hell, they were so shell-shocked by what was happening, they didn't even realize they should be throwing two guys at him.

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Like so many other diehard fans, I watch thousands and thousands of hours of sports every year hoping something special will happen, whether it's a 60-point game in basketball, a no-hitter during a Red Sox game, a seven-run comeback in the ninth, a back-and-forth NFL game, a boxing pay-per-view or whatever else. Occasionally, it pays off. For instance, two Saturdays ago, the Pavlik-Miranda undercard of the Spinks-Taylor fight was special. Last January's Colts-Pats game was special. Every Oakland home game of the Warriors-Mavs series was special. Maybe there are degrees of the word, but still, every time we're clicking on a television or heading to a ballgame, deep down, we're hoping something special happens.

Well, Thursday night was ultra-special. Watching King James take over Game 5 and finally earn his nickname, I felt like something substantial was happening. Like my life as a basketball fan was being irrevocably altered.

As a Cleveland fan, and having now watched LeBron James play a hundred times or so, including high school, my life as a basketball fan will have been irrevocably altered only when the Cavs win the NBA Championship.

And speaking of "special", and of seven-run ninth inning comebacks, I was fortunate to be in attendance at Jacobs Field last night for one of those magical moments that was reminiscent of 1995. A sellout crowd, and in this case a mere five-run ninth inning comeback for the Indians, including a 3-run homer by Victor Martinez, and consecutive two out hits by Josh Barfield and David Dellucci to score the tying and winning runs.

Tonight I'll be content to sit at home, remote in hand, to watch the two Detroit-Cleveland games taking place within 50 yards of each other downtown. The scene is set for some more specialness, or for more Clevelandesque disappointment.


Related:

Detroit News - What They're Saying

Brian Windhorst Blog
on Game 5

Posted by dan at June 1, 2007 12:26 AM