Compared to the craziness of 2014, Cleveland Sports in 2015 came off as uneventful. The Indians failed to make the postseason—again. The Browns are perpetually a disaster on and off of the field. Nevertheless, as the year comes to a close, just as we have done the last seven years, WFNY will take a look at what we view to be the ten biggest sports stories to grace our local sports scene over the last 12 months. Each day through the rest of the year, we will be counting down from ten to one. Do enjoy.
After a rocky start, the Cleveland Cavaliers season ended well, as far as sports in Cleveland are concerned. There were no parades, but the Cavs were finalists in the nine-month contest for a championship, and were a few displaced body parts away from having a legitimate shot at winning that contest.
But after the roller coaster that was the 2014-15 Cavaliers season, it was only fitting that the ride to the top of the hill would crest and plunge Cavs fans downward, screaming for our lives. Because of the sinusoidal nature of being a Clevelander — and because we’re emotionally scarred basket cases — Cavs fans emerged from their team’s trip to the NBA Finals not brimming with confidence and certainty, but plagued with anxiety and panic.
DOES LEBRON JAMES REALLY LOVE US?
WILL KEVIN LOVE COME BACK?
WILL KYRIE IRVING BE OK?
WILL CLEVELAND EVER WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP OR SHOULD I JUST END IT ALL NOW?
WILL JOHNNY START?
And, in what ended up becoming the most divisive offseason issue of the year:
WILL TRISTAN THOMPSON RESIGN WITH THE CAVALIERS?
“T here’s already plenty of ugliness in following sports, but the real horror shows of human dignity are the following: 1. college recruiting; and 2. contract disputes.
I can’t pinpoint why these two subjects provoke the most crazed reactions among the sports citizenry. My theory is that both involve situations that are so foreign for the sub-elite athlete, that fans are enraged when athletes don’t show the same infinite gratitude that we think we would express were we in the same situation — that top-tier college programs fighting each other to recruit us or organizations paying us stupefying amounts of money to play sports are concepts so alien to us that we can’t comprehend it; so we just say really stupid stuff.
I love my college team and I would love to play sports in college, so why doesn’t this gifted 18-year-old kid want to play for my college team? Screw that guy!
I love my professional team and I would love to get paid money to play sports, so why won’t this 24-year-old man happily take a paycheck to play for my professional team? Screw that guy!
So when LeBron James re-upped up with the Cavaliers (as expected) and Kevin Love resigned with a very limited amount of fuss (not as expected),1 the whole sports community crossed its arms, turned to Thompson, arched an eyebrow, and started tapping its foot as if to say, “Wellllll?”
Yet it lingered. And lingered. J.R. Smith signed after contract discussions that were met with overwhelming indifference, and the Thompson negotiations lingered. It was reported at the end of September that there was a deal in place. There wasn’t. And so the Tristan Thompson saga lingered still.
As posturing between Thompson and the Cavaliers persisted, tempers outgrew reason for some…
“Thompson’s a BUM! He needs to sign his contract and get back into camp!”
“Dan Gilbert’s rich! Open your checkbook you cheapskate!”
“I hope Thompson’s having fun playing for 76ers next years. Ship his ass to Philly!”
“wtf gilbert’s a gozillionaire and is gonna blow a championship for a few million dollars”
…while opinions became more thoughtful and nuanced for others (at least superficially). Suddenly the questions about how many pieces of paper to give a guy to throw a ball seemed profound.
“How much is Tristan Thompson worth?”
“How much is Tristan Thompson worth to the Cavs?”
“Does it even matter what Thompson’s “worth,” or only what he can get?”
“Even if Thompson is only worth $X now, what will he fetch on the open market when the salary cap balloons?”
“Instead of asking what Thompson alone is worth, shouldn’t we be asking how much the increased possibility of a Cavs championship is worth?”
Over time, your stance on the Thompson contract standoff became an index for who you were and what you meant. At the expense of generalizing (actually, for the explicit purpose of it), you could divide the population on age, class, income, background, political standing, career, education, geographic location, or supposed amount of enlightenment based on how they felt about Tristan Thompson’s contract. Some lines were clearer than others. Most opinions on the matter either came off as paternalistic or entitled.
I mean, let’s step back here for a second. Why is any of this something that should make people so upset? Have you ever felt underpaid by an employer? Did you take it personally? How much more money did you feel you deserved? Hundreds more? Thousands? Have you ever gave an ultimatum to an employer to get a raise? Would it be “disloyal” to do so? It’s best not to trouble oneself with the business dealings of others, because people behave irrationally when $$$ are involved — in all walks of life.
Weeks (or was it an eternity?) later, Tristan Thompson signed a five-year, $82 million deal for with the Cleveland Cavaliers that was inevitable from the start. Are the Cavs overpaying him? Probably a little, yes. Is the zero dollars that I contributed toward2 Dan Gilbert’s $82 million in salary plus exploding amounts of millions in tax money (see below) worth a chance to win a championship? Yes. But at least the Tristan Thompson soap opera was over.
Or was it? No. The Tristan Thompson saga continues to this day. Thompson is averaging 6.7 points per game and 9.7 rebounds per game in 26.7 minutes per game this season. During and after every game, you can find people in living rooms, bars, and internets voicing their sentiments about the Thompson contract. Now it’s mostly complaints. If you want to see some pissed off people, go stand in line at the DMV or search “Tristan Thompson contract” on Twitter. When Thompson has 10 offensive rebounds in a playoff game or against the Warriors or Spurs, it will be mostly compliments. After all, Thompson’s special brand of barbarian ball is right at home in the hellscape that is the playoffs.
So it goes. As long as the Cavs’ season goes to June, I won’t care one way or another. Plus, the picture below has to be worth a couple hundred of million dollars. That’s one good looking frontcourt, and — like championships — you can’t put a price on style.
A photo posted by Tristan Thompson (@realtristan13) on