Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Quit

by Beau Cadiyo

Since the Quit I have received 1,528 e-mails, all approximately the same:

Dear Mr. Beau Cadiyo,

What would Lebron James’ exit from the Cavaliers mean to the Cleveland Sandwich Board?


Starry-Eyed Admirer

PS Your review of (restaurant) was totally right-on! I (loved/loathed) it as well, but have not the skills to put this (love/loathing) into words like you do!

The crush of requests has become too much to deal with, particularly since the last couple of posts about New York's sandwich scene and its attempts to lure LBJ to the island. It would be too time-consuming to email each individual back personally (much less oblige the one-out-of-seven emails requesting a worn, unwashed pair of briefs). I also don’t know why they think that the Cleveland Sandwich Board would be affected by LeBron James’ status with the Cavaliers – contrary to common belief, we do not actually hold controlling positions in the back office at the Q, and while Dan Gilbert is in my address book he hasn't made it to speed dial. I think, however, that these readers really mean to ask what his exit would mean to Boards, Sandwiches and the city of Cleveland in general. I will therefore post my responses here and hope each of these would-be correspondents has the opportunity to review it.

First, the easy one: Boards. A search on Google revealed this video of LeBron which purports to show him smashing a backboard. Personally, I can’t see anything indicating that this is LeBron or that he actually broke the backboard. This was also apparently back in his high-school days, and I did not find any videos of him shattering any boards in the NBA. If anyone knows of any instance of him smashing a board in the last seven years, please, do tell. Otherwise, it is fair to say that LeBron’s potential departure would not affect boards in any discernible way.

Second, what effect will Lebron leaving have on sandwiches? Here, I must rely on anecdotal evidence: LeBron was also spotted at the Winking Lizard on Coventry a few weeks ago – not horrible, but not exactly fine dining with personalized food. I think we can extrapolate from this tidbit that chefs are not going to be particularly eager to accommodate him with special sandwiches. Further, as far as I know, no Cleveland chef has made a sandwich for LeBron James in the same way that R.J. Boland’s made a Shaq Burger (hyperlink) just after his arrival. Verdict: LeBron’s possible departure will not have any discernible effect on sandwiches in our fair city.

Finally, much has already been said about the effect that his departure might have on the city of Cleveland. Most commentators believe that LeBron’s presents here is a positive and that, were he to leave, Cleveland would suffer a serious blow in morale, economically, socially – heck, the city would instantly die.

I think that LeBron leaving could actually be a positive.

Cleveland, and most of the rust-belt cities, were dependent in their heydays on manufacturing. All of our eggs were in one basket, and our economy depended on people making stuff. Then manufacturers left and 20/20 hindsight made us see that dependency upon a single industry was folly – we should have diversified when we could have. Even now, many people hope that manufacturing will return and employ Clevelanders. While there is a romantic allure to American manufacturing self-sufficiency, the reality is that returning to regional dependency on manufacturing will only further delay our emergence as a multifacteted, international economy. If we could go back in time, nobody rational would ever advise Cleveland or Detroit or Youngstown or Pittsburgh to be dependent on a single industry, regardless of what that industry was; instead, they would tell the town elders to diversify and focus on widespread wealth creation.

What does this have to do with the Cavaliers? They, too, put all of their hopes in one player and didn’t diversify. The Bleacher Report said it exceptionally well: "It is not often that a franchise and a city rely so heavily on one man...Sources have said that if James leaves the Cavs this summer as a free agent, the value of the Cavs franchise would depreciate by up to $150 million."

Having LeBron thus hurts the Cavs as a team; the others rely on him too much on both offense and defense, and the habit that they have of letting him dominate means that they are used to being submissive. When he doesn’t dominate, though, they are still submissive. What Cleveland has to do, with or without LeBron, is create a team in which each player is comfortable being individually dominant yet can play together, rather than playing to support the Alpha member. As long as he’s here, they’re going to depend on him; the cycle of dependency is well-nigh impossible to break. Boston, in contrast, has a team with individually above-average players and no single superstar.

Of course, the players LeBron is often compared to – Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant – were basically one-team players; it’s hard to imagine Kobe deciding to move, say, to Sacramento, even in the lean years. If LeBron wants to be as great as they are, he should stick it out with the Cavs and work with them as a team. If he does move, he’ll immediately realize that his new team won’t have the structure he’s used to and he’ll immediately pine to be back at the Q. Regardless, the dependence on LeBron by both the Cavaliers and Cleveland is, like our former dependence on industry, an anachronism. It’s taken a bit of work, but we now have much more than just factories to depend on. Similarly, the Cavs have some good individual players; what we need is an amazing team. Will it bring us a championship? That is unclear, but it seems to be working for Boston right now - they're up 3-2 against the Lakers (who are dependent on Kobe). As long as Cleveland relied upon manufacturing, we didn’t try to diversify or bring other ideas or industries into our city. As long as Cleveland has been dependent on LeBron, we haven’t tried to create a winning team independent of our single great player. If he stays, it would be the equivalent of having an industrial base still operating but diversifying at the same time. We would simply have to make sure that we did not squander the opportunity and build a solid team with - not around - his prodigious talents. If he leaves, then we have to make sure that our team is strong enough that when he returns, we destroy whatever team he’s on so thoroughly that he leaves the Q without shaking hands or giving interviews.

No comments: