The Day “The Diff” Didn’t Die

Cleveland Cavaliers Scoreboard The Diff

In addition to countless other items, the Cleveland Cavaliers are unveiling the Humongotron this Thursday night. The gargantuan, curved, high-definition, flame-throwing scoreboard that Cavs fans have been waiting anxiously to see will finally have the curtains drawn back. But one item was of chief concern amidst all of the potential for singed eyebrows and scintillated retinas: What was going to happen to “The Diff?” How on Earth would we know the exact margin by which this new-look Cavalier team is winning without that glowing gold numeral in the center of those sharp, new screens?

Two of WFNY’s own discuss the emotional rollercoaster that was Monday afternoon wherein we all thought we were saying goodbye to a long-time friend who just so happened to double as a technological enhancement for the numerically challenged.


Will Gibson: On Monday, October 27, 2014, we didn’t know if The Diff would be part of this upcoming Cavs season. Jacob Rosen called me in a cold sweat. We needed to discuss The Diff, as its potential discontinuation would have meant the death of something he loved.


A brief recap of the events of this day: The Cavs tweeted a picture of their fancy new scoreboard. The Diff was not included in said picture, although it wouldn’t have made sense for it to, since the picture mostly just answered the question, “Hey, what if Michael Bay ran this place?”

Still, the lack of Diff quickly became an issue. Rumors flew hither and yon across Twitter as to The Diff’s fate. Jacob took this to heart more than most. I’ll let him explain why:

Jacob Rosen: The day was December 14, 2012. Marc Sugerman, the old man of my fantasy football league, replied to me after a call for help. My call: I needed a catchy title for my new stats-focused WFNY series. I was stuck without any ideas. I asked Twitter. I emailed my old email subscription base.

Marc’s email before our fantasy playoff matchup: “Trash-talking and your team’s (likely) loss on Sunday aside, you should name your new stats column ‘The Diff’ after the ridiculous part of the Cavs’ scoreboard. Is it still there? I haven’t been to a game at The Q since the ‘09 playoffs. Anyways, the name is catchy and ironic. That’s my vote.”

Marc’s idea won out and I wrote The Diff regularly for over at year at WFNY. It all makes sense. This coming week, Week 9, I play Marc again in fantasy football. My team just advanced to a league-best 7-1. His team is 2-6, second-worst in the league. Even luckier for me, he owns nearly every fantasy-relevant player in the NFC North, which happens to have a Week 9 bye. Life is good.

WG: Ladies and Gentlemen, Jacob Rosen was not joking when he told me that he was feeling sentimental about The Diff’s potential demise. I understand this, and I appreciate this. Imagine the namesake of something you did disappearing. You invested time and energy, blood and sweat, into it, and it’s gone. The end of The Diff would affect Jacob how carpet-bombing Abbey Road would affect the Beatles. This is not to be taken lightly.

JR: This threat, this terrible, terrible threat, was just a wicked trick from the heavens as I prepare to lay a beatdown on the Sugermans in fantasy football. One of Marc’s siblings used to work for the Cavs/The Q. I blame him especially.

WG: The Cavs assuaged our concerns by triumphantly tweeting that The Diff would return. Still, a great many among us were shaken. Not knowing if The Diff would be there this Thursday, even for a minute, is like not knowing if Halloween would be there this Friday. You don’t just throw away an institution like that.

Thank heavens, because I was ready to boycott the entire season if The Diff did not return to Quicken Loans Arena, for The Diff is the most perfect statistic that has ever been invented. If I had to pick three out of LeBron, Love, Kyrie, and The Diff, I would pick The Triple Diff.

JR: The Diff is an emblem of Cleveland sports. Yes, we have our weird other traditions that make no sense elsewhere like Brownie the Elf, the Cleveland baseball logo and some weird human-dog mascot. But The Diff, man. It just fits so well for every stereotype of the Northeast Ohio sports scene.

I have no idea what the real history of The Diff is. I think it just started showing up one year after Dan Gilbert bought the team. It’s fun to imagine that Gilbert got a scouting report on Cleveland demographics and he thought of the ingenious idea himself.

The Diff is the true differentiator of the Cleveland basketball experience.

WG: Alright, my tongue is hurting my cheek a little bit. When The Diff was born, I thought of it how I thought of everything in middle school: that it was the stupidest thing I’d ever seen. Like, ever. My main two issues with it were the name (…The Diff??) and the premise (…We can’t do math??). But that’s all. The font and location on the scoreboard and everything else were okay.

But then a funny thing happened: The Diff grew on me. It really did. My friends and I cracked jokes about it, laughed at it, bonded over it. The Diff brought a smile or two to my face that wouldn’t have come into existence otherwise. It became part of the Cleveland Cavaliers experience. The Diff made my life better.

JR: People like to poke fun at Cleveland. They always do. But love it or hate it, think it talks down to our fans or not, The Diff has now been embraced as part of our culture.

It’s just so simplistic and beautiful. When national media think of the Cavs game day operations, they’ll think of Austin Carr or Fred McLeod, or maybe Allie Clifton and Jim Chones and John Michael. But really, The Diff is the true differentiator of the Cleveland basketball experience. This was so close to tragedy.

WG: The Browns’ stadium has the Dawg Pound. The Indians have John Adams. The former Gund Arena never had that defining thing. It’s a fine building, and it has everything that one could reasonably want. It’s just a little tougher for an indoor venue to be distinct. Over the past few years, we’ve seen Dan Gilbert and company pour barrels of cash into making the Q exceptional. The Diff was a harbinger of investment to come, and remains a symbol of the rejuvenation of a franchise.

JR: The Cavs couldn’t take it away. They couldn’t just have LeBron and Kevin Love walk in and rip away something that’s been a part of our viewing experience for years.

WG: One other thing honestly does make me love The Diff, and that thing is this: the Cavs own the all-time NBA record for the largest margin of victory—the largest Diff, if you will. They defeated the Heat 148-80 on December 17, 1991.1 The Diff is a testament to this achievement, a celebration of a great day in Cavaliers history. The Diff belongs in Cleveland.

JR: I’m really satisfied that the Cavs saw how important The Diff was to their fans. I know I’ll be bragging about The Diff at the next non-Cleveland arena that I attend…and I’ll get a little teary-eyed to see it again when I’m back at The Q in December.

WG: It’s going to be like old war buddies reconnecting, but more emotional and important. Also, remember when Moondog sat out that preseason game because he was sick?

The Diff cures all. On Monday, The Diff almost died; long live The Diff.

  1. They scored 148 points and only took 11 threes. This game is Byron Scott’s wet dream. []

  • dimoko

    New definition of the Diff. The discrepancy of one member of a relationship to the other. IE. She is an 8 and he is a 3, how did he get her with a diff of -5!?

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The diff replaces the stiff!

  • Tim K.

    I would actually love it if they added The Diff to the television broadcast too.

    It’s not that I can’t do math, it’s just that I don’t want to do math.

  • MrCleaveland

    What’s next, the Diff at Progressive Field?


  • The_Real_Shamrock

    No thanks

  • Ezzie Goldish

    I primarily remember that Heat game because we had a new classmate who’d moved from Miami and was a huge Heat fan.

    Well, that was the end of hearing about them for a couple decades.

  • The_Real_Shamrock
  • Harv 21

    You two are awfully self-involved. Ever consider that The Diff might be for the players?

  • markn95

    Professional sports teams have been on an gigantic score/video board kick these last few years. I guess it all started with Jerryworld, but I wonder what’s behind it. The Browns spent a lot of the city’s money on two videoboards in the east and west end zones this past summer and the Indians have said that a chunk of the new sin tax money will go towards a new videoboard as well. Do teams enjoy a huge uptick in advertising revenue with these big boards? Or are they simply convinced that the big boards really add to the fan experience?

  • ryancf

    The Diff is a quicken loans thing.

    Former employees see a lot of them… if you’ve ever heard him say, “you gotta take the roast out of the oven,” or “obsessed with finding a better way,” those are also quicken loans cultural iterations.

  • saggy

    There’s already enough crap on the screen.

    I am waiting for someone to create a Ticker-Blocker(tm) which would allow you to watch live games while you are recording another one, so that you don’t accidentally see the score of the game you are recording.

    It would also serve to open the screen back up for those who don’t wish to be inundated with the opaque minutiae and drivel that the networks want to constantly ram down your throat. I don’t need a big box on the screen to show me the strike zone – i can see where the batter’s knees and shoulders are (not that the ump is gonna call it like that anyways)…..

  • saggy

    The Diff at Crew Stadium!

  • mgbode

    most TV’s you can re-size. I adjust the size on my screen to block out the ticker. The downside is that you cannot see the current game score either.