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A not so fond farewell

POSTED July 13, 2010 10:16 p.m.

Just imagine the dark orange color that comes from a burning basketball jersey, one lit up by brokenhearted sports fans. LeBron James can't.

But this isn't necessarily about what the NBA megastar did last week.

It's about what his former fans can't seem to do — offer him the appropriate farewell.

LeBron broke the already fragile hearts of Cleveland Cavaliers fans after he announced on July 8 in front of a national TV audience that, “This fall, I'm taking my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” It ended his unprecedented run in his home state and seemingly restarting Ohio's long tradition of existing without a major sports championship.

This wasn't surprising news: There were numerous reports since the birth of this season's NBA's free agency (July 1) that LeBron intended to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami to form a superstar trio, with the former committing to stay with the only team he's known and the latter leaving the Toronto Raptors. What was surprising was the reaction of the Cleveland fans.

They took it to the streets.

Many who watched the announcement at Cleveland bars and restaurants left in disgust immediately after the televised event, but that wasn't the most shocking. News reports stated that many disgruntled fans burned LeBron jerseys, one of the top sellers in the country, letting their hatred fill the atmosphere. And I just couldn't believe it. He was asked about what he thought about the jersey burnings and he said, “I can't get involved in that.”

That's no way to treat your hometown heroes.

Here in Turlock, we have at least two hometown heroes in major sports: Tom Brandstater with the NFL's Indianapolis Colts and Tommy Mendonca with the MLB's Texas Rangers organization. All I've seen since they jumped to the pros is tremendous support.

Last year, when Brandstater and his then-Denver Broncos had a preseason game against the 49ers in San Francisco, about 100 of his family members, friends, former coaches and teammates and other supporters made that trek to see him play — though he inevitably didn't have that chance due to the fact that that night's game was a close one. And every time Mendonca and his Bakersfield Blaze play the Nuts at John Thurman Field in Modesto, there's usually a line of people after the game waiting for his autograph.

I don't think that kind of support will ever change.

So it's disheartening to see the type of things Cleveland fans are indirectly doing to LeBron. It reminds me of the parents who are unable to let go of their college-bound children. Soon enough, they'll have to accept that the kids need to mature on their own. And that's what LeBron is trying to do in Miami.

He wants to win a championship there, something Cleveland and its NBA organization couldn't make happen when they had LeBron. They fear that the city will lose money now that he's gone, which is something a lot of economic experts believe will happen. But it wouldn't hurt to still support LeBron when he's playing for another team.

Air his games in Cleveland bars and restaurants and root for him, a natural treatment for hometown heroes, compared to the unthinkable dark orange color that comes from a burning jersey.

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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