Dec 2, 2010, 4:08 PM EDT
Some team is going to win a basketball game tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.
But is anybody going to walk out of the building tonight in Cleveland feeling like a winner? Feeling happy? When emotions are this intense, this raw, is that really even possible?
Can anything — even a win by the Cavaliers — really be cathartic enough for a Cleveland fan base that felt scorned by one of their own? A fan base that has been stewing in that hatred for five months is not going to feel they have moved on after two-and-a-half hours. (Well, longer than that as this is a TNT game.)
If the Heat get the victory, will LeBron still feel like a winner after being forced to bathe in the intense hatred of a fan base that once loved him like no other? You can’t go home again.
No. Nobody is going to feel closure after tonight. That takes time. Tonight’s game can be a step down that road, but the road is a pretty long one.
Tonight is going to be an incredibly emotional night for all the players in the drama that unfolded this summer. We sincerely hope that those emotions — mixed with too much beer by some knucklehead — don’t lead to a sad situation everyone will regret. Something that would stain fans I still like to picture in red snuggies setting a record and laughing about it.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas is right — this is just basketball and some need to keep that in perspective. But make no mistake, the basketball game itself is somewhat secondary tonight, a platform to express the real feelings, powerful ones left over after “the decision.” Sports has always been about emotions more than just the action on the field. Tonight is going to be about emotions. Raw emotions, the kind where the nerve endings are still exposed. There are people in Cleveland that need closure. The Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said he moved on at the same time he is apparently paying lawyers to dig it all up again.
On the other side, homecomings are hard. As much as some might want to paint LeBron as an unfeeling, calculating snake who had this all planned out two years ago, that’s not what happened. LeBron is human and leaving his comfort zone like he did — and had the right to do as a free agent — was not easy. Staying would have been easier, been the expected thing. To try to carve out a legacy somewhere else is hard.
And now he will come back to his old comfort zone and feel scorned. Kobe Bryant may be the kind of person who could turn that into fuel for his game, I’m not sure LeBron is that person. LeBron will be emotional and feel raw himself.
Those emotions on both sides will impact and alter the game. Cavaliers players will feed off it, Heat players will want to stick up for their teammate. The game will feel as much like a big playoff game as can happen in the regular season.
We have no idea how that game will turn out. We just know when the clock strikes 0:00 and everyone heads home, the emotions will still be there. That this will not be over.
And nobody is going to feel like a vindicated winner.