Bill Simmons on Cavs fans after Game 1

Another cool take.

Q: Didn’t you mention previously that Cleveland’s crowd is in full “LeBron might leave in two years mode so let’s go crazy” mode or something like that? Based on Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals (which is the first I’ve seen of Cleveland in the playoffs), Dwight Howard has more heart than their fans. I cannot believe how dead they were.
–Charles, Clifton, N.J.

SG: You can’t totally blame them, for one reason — that was the first time all season when the Cleveland fans truly sensed the stakes and realized that (A) they weren’t cakewalking to the title and (B) they’re still Cleveland, the city that hasn’t won a title since 1964 and has experienced a variety of Stomach Punch moments — so that window of doubt opened up and everyone fell right through it. They got tight and so did the players. But what happened was a necessary part of the process: Sometimes you need those “OK, this ain’t gonna be easy” moments to get over the hump. The best thing that ever happened to the ’90-91 Bulls was losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The best thing that ever happened to the 1999-2000 Lakers was nearly blowing Game 7 of the Portland series. The best thing that ever happened to the ’07-08 Celtics was Game 7 of the Cleveland series, when the Cavs wouldn’t go away. You don’t know what kind of team you have (and what kind of fans you have) until someone socks you in the mouth at home. How you respond to that moment defines the team you become.

Now, if some 2003 Cubs karma surfaced there — namely, the “Oh God, it’s happening again, we’re screwed!” factor — then that’s a whole other story. But the Cavs fans have been terrific all season; I think they just got nervous and froze. You know what’s not helping them? Their loser game coordinator, who played “In The Air Tonight” coming out of the timeout with 14.5 seconds left on the biggest possession of Game 1, then topped himself by unconscionably playing “Jump” by House of Pain right before the game-deciding jump ball with one second to play when the Cavs looked screwed. Nice discretion! The Cavs’ game coordinator might be the guy who fulfills my dream of seeing a team getting fans fired up by playing “The Shining” clip of Jack Nicholson swinging an ax into Scatman Crothers’ chest. I wouldn’t put it past him.

Simmons nails it. Cavs fans have been a little spoiled at home, so stunned silence shouldn’t be a surprise. Also, Cleveland fans are gun shy after all the disappointments, so that explains it as well. In any event, the place certainly lit up after LeBron’s shot last night!

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