Our love of sports is driven not by rationality but by emotion. More specifically, it’s a rational decision to achieve positive emotional experiences and connections. We follow and adore teams because we’re tied to them, usually by birthplace or family. Their successes and failures become ours. Over time, our identity is even partially defined by these allegiances.
The Decision left Cavs fans stunned. I was as upset about any non-serious life event as I ever have been, even if I kinda saw it coming.
And then, LeBron returns in the most self-glorifying fashion imaginable. The commercials, the press release, the endless talk of wanting to be a hometown hero; this is realpolitik disguised as selflessness. He’s already admitted that he wouldn’t have left the Heat had they won a title. LeBron saw a favorable contrast between a young, cap-flush Cavs team with two budding stars and a Miami team that would struggle to win again.
This is why I can’t relate to Cavs fans who forgive LeBron, to Browns fans who fail to support Brian Hoyer, and for the common Clevelander who does both.
LeBron apologists have a number of reasons for supporting him, but I sense that most frame their support in terms of what he can bring to the city: a title, “momentum”, and economic benefits. The LeBron-led Cavs will almost certainly win one or more titles; the latter-two are balderdash and economic illiteracy, respectively.
But even so, they are all rational explanations for a hobby undertaken by most for emotional reasons. You can pick the front-runner every year, sure, but then sports is nothing more than an exercise in your predictive powers. (And Cowboys fans from New Jersey generally aren’t really good at math, anyways.)
LeBron is an aloof egotist who screwed the franchise over, but we’re supposed to love him because he’ll win? That doesn’t sit well.
Meanwhile, the Browns’ starting quarterback is a guy from St. Ignatius who has battled through injury and front-office myopia to give the team a 4-3 record. The same league that drafts rocket-armed imbeciles like Brandon Weeden in the first round didn’t draft Hoyer and was quick to almost bench him even after he displayed remarkable competency in last year’s action. All along he’s said the right things, worked his tail off, engaged with the city, and responded to undue criticism and controversy with patience and humility.
The Browns aren’t going to win a title. (When I predicted the Browns to go 7-9, one commenter said this was a pipe dream.) But the fact that the playoffs are even remotely in sight is largely on Hoyer. And by all accounts he’s done it in the right way. A way that makes rooting for him and the Browns feel good.
He’s the blue-collar guy that Clevelanders should be worshipping…not LeBron.