by | Jul 15, 2010 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

Fear not, Cleveland. You’ve lost LeBron James. But you’ve gained something, too.

In hearing “farewell” from the world’s most talented basketball player, you join a long but familiar list. You are Humphrey Bogart watching Ingrid Bergman fly out of Casablanca. You are Eponine in “Les Misérables,” taking a bullet for Marius. You are Betty seeing Archie kiss Veronica.

You are the odd man out. The jilted lover. The one who says, “We have history. We’re good together. Can’t you see how much you mean to me?” You’re Jacob in the “Twilight” movies. Only with your shirt on.

You are Charlie Brown sighing at the little red-headed girl. You are Jennifer Aniston watching Brad and Angelina’s kids. You’re that geeky stalker in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Unrequited love, thy name is Cleveland. You did everything right, but it wasn’t enough. Your heart’s desire had a wandering eye.

And he wandered away. Join the lonely hearts club

But fear not. The events of last week have lost you a superstar, but they gained you a nation. They made you sympathetic.

Cleveland with LeBron was like Julia Roberts with Lyle Lovett; a nice romance, but the clock was always ticking.

Ah, but once those two split up, who got the public embrace? The beautiful, famous actress – or the plain-faced country singer?

That’s right. Mr. Plain Face. Julia was hated. Julia got the “How could you?” Lyle was beloved. Because Lyle is one of us. Regular folk.

And so are you.

Let LeBron have Miami, Cleveland. Let him run with Dwyane Wade. Wade married his high school sweetheart, went to Miami, filed for divorce. Shaquille O’Neal had a wife, went to Miami, filed for divorce.

See what Miami does to people? Too many starlets. Too many clubs. Too much disco music.

Keep your dignity, Cleveland. Keep your ruddy looks. You’re a lake and Miami is an ocean? Big deal. Oceans have sharks.

Who can relate to Miami? The people in Miami can’t relate to Miami. It’s a place of charlatans, wannabes and men with too many buttons open. Cleveland is real. Cleveland is face-value. What you see is what you get.

And you got dumped.

But as James Taylor says, you’ve got a friend. Everyone loves an underdog

The fact is, there are more dumpees in the world than dumpers. Think of all the places that identify with you now, Cleveland.

Boston saw Babe Ruth sold to the Yankees. Brooklyn saw the Dodgers take off for Los Angeles. Baltimore saw the Colts vanish in the middle of the night, trucking it to Indianapolis.

Here in Detroit, we watched Motown pick up and leave for the coast. Motown! Diana Ross is from here, but left. Lily Tomlin is from here, left. Madonna is from here, left and grew an English accent.

Most of us, at some point, have been shunned for a bigger, better deal. So LeBron may have done you a favor, Cleveland.

He made you America’s Team.

Really. Who is more a fan favorite now than you? Who would make a better championship story? LeBron has made Cleveland everybody’s underdog.

When your owner, Dan Gilbert, blew molten lava all over the Internet, posting an open letter accusing LeBron of being “narcissistic” and “cowardly”- well, hey, who didn’t jump up and cheer? Go CAVS! OK, maybe Gilbert did try to steal Tom Izzo the way Miami stole LeBron, but memories are short. Time is long.

And for a long time, Cleveland, you will be able to milk this thing. You’ll have our pat on the back. You’ll have our sad smiles. Scream “Your loss, LeBron!” Scream, “Take your powder with you!”

You’re the white hat, he’s the black hat. You’re Caesar, he is Brutus. Wear your jilt with pride, Cleveland. Paint that broken heart on your sleeve, and get in line with the rest of us.

Fear not, oh city by the lake. You are Sampson after Delilah. Grow your hair back. Wash that man right out of it.

And check when Kobe’s contract is up.

You never know …

Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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