CHRIS GRANTLAND: FAN APPRECIATION DAY

Yesterday afternoon, at the end of the annual Boston Marathon, two bombs exploded behind the crowd by the finish line.  Three people were killed.  The toll of people who were injured was originally 30, but has been climbing since then to approximately 90 and perhaps more.   Many of the injured victims of the attacks suffered severe grotesque and disabiling injuries.  Lives were changed that will never be the same.

The thoughts of everyone at Stepien Rules goes out to these victims, thier families and friends.   

If you were one of the 19,000 people who attended the Cleveland Cavaliers Fan Appreciation Day last night, after these explosions were reported, or one of the employees and media who showed up to work there, you truly deserve to be appreciated.  Not just by the NBA and the Cavaliers franchise, but by each other.

For many, sports are an escape, something to set aside real problems and issues in the world and enjoy entertainment.   For a local sports team, there's a sense of community, of local civil pride.  We look out for each other, we care about each other, we fight, but we also pick each other off the floor to protect each other from trampling.

Did it cross your mind when you heard about the bombings that you were about to attend a packed sporting event in a giant arena with 19,000 other people?   Did you consider that one of the most reconizable athletes in the world was going to be in the room with you?  That if someone was angry enough, or motivated enough, that something serious could happen?

I don't know.  Maybe it did, maybe it didn't.   Maybe you didn't even know that anything had happened at all until the Cavs took a moment of silence before the game.

Before the game, 21 hours ago and after the explosinons, Austin Carr tweeted out the following:  

 

The situation in Boston brings us all back to reality of the type of world we live in.

I don't see it that way.   I'm proud to live in the world we live in.  I'm proud of the community of people I'm a part of, here where I live in Cleveland and in the world.   I believe in progress, not just technologically, but also morally.  I think we can be something better, bigger than what we are.

And I was one of the 19,000 peple that attended the game yesterday.  I sat in Section 216 where there was a respectful and more than appropriate observance of the pregame moment of silence but not one second of crippling fear.   Together, we watched a basketball game.

The contest itself played out as a craptastic lowest of lows.   Another humiliation by the hated Miami Heat.  Another weakest effort by the Cleveland Cavaliers.   Another failure on court by Kyrie Irving, who can count more injuries than awards earned during his short career and who may or may not have suffered a heel injury during the game.  Who decided not to participate in the Fan Appreciation Day ceremony which immediately followed the game.  Terrible defensaive effort, in part by Irving, allowed former Cleveland State University star Norris Cole to score 16 points, capture 11 rebounds and deliver 9 assists, then concluding the game with a steal of the ball from Irving himself before Irving could get a final shot attempt.

This sealed a 96-95 Heat victory by a Heat team that rested all of it's stars, including Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.  This was Norris Cole who led the Heat to victory, a late first round pick out of our own beloved Horizon League that toasted Kyrie Irving, the number one overall pick prodigy from Duke University.

Then, following the game, and Kyrie Irving's slight to the fans on Fan Appreciation Day, more of the same questions about the future of head coach Byron Scott, which was followed by several media reports that Scott will be fired at the conclusion of the season.   Irving, who had previously failed to comment on the coach's future, finally expressed that he wanted Scott to return as head coach next season.

Where does this leave us?  There are no more home games this season.  Only a Game 82 tomorrow in Charlotte.   There's not enough time left at all to even consider what it would take to turn this season and its disasterous end.  No new plays, no new defensive schemes, no roster changes, no tweaks to the lineup.   Just Coach Scott, and this same group of players.

Will the Cavaliers dare to embarrass us, the 19,000 loyals that showed up for Fan Appreciation Day turned Fan Humiliation Day against Miami, the beyond devoted fans that will still tune in televisions to watch a game against the Charlotte Bobcats tomorrow after enduring the fatigue of this season and these last 10 games?  Will Byron Scott, in what may well be his last game employed as head coach of the Cavaliers, dare to bench starters after 4 minutes and blame his team for a collectective weak effort that he was unable to coach?

The general consensus is that these late season games are inconsequential.  The Cavaliers are 24 wins and 57 losses with 1 game remaining, out of playoff contention for months, playing against the 21-61 Charlotte Bobcats, similarly eliminated from playoff contention for months and months.  To whom is this last game inconsequential, and, should it, who when looking back will recall why that win number turned to 25 and how what some called meaningless others called a question of pride and a different understanding of "consequential"?

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