Originally written October 29, 2012 on Fox Sports Ohio:
If the Cavaliers dont contend for a playoff spot, Im worried they might disappear from Cleveland. No, not from the city itself -- but from the psyche of Northeast Ohio sports fans. In the sports pecking order, the Cavs are already fourth in the minds of Clevelanders, trailing the Browns, Buckeyes and Indians. At best, the Cavs are tied for third with the Indians. But the Tribe just hired two-time World Series winner Terry Francona as manager. A move like that is sure to create some buzz. Now, I should say that as an (allegedly) impartial observer, I have faith in the strategy of Cavs general manager Chris Grant and coach Byron Scott. The Cavs are extremely young (with an average age of 24.9), loaded with assets and willing to take some lumps now for the sake of the future. I get that. Honest. So do the die-hards who passionately follow every shot, dribble and three-second violation. But the majority of sports fans arent like us. The majority care considerably more about what theyll be having for a mid-afternoon snack. They want to know two things: 1). If the Cavs won. 2). The final score if the Cavs lost. And even the second part is up for debate. I know this because, believe it or not, I actually have friends. Many consider themselves pretty big Cavs fans. I consider them frontrunners. Either way, if the Cavs are winning, they watch. If the Cavs are competitive but losing, they watch less. But they still tune in, attend the occasional game, buy the occasional T-shirt. If the Cavs are losing big, losing a lot, and addressing only future possibilities -- well, most of my friends dont care. Theyre too caught up in the here-and-now of their everyday lives to be bothered with a crummy team making promises about the future (unless, of course, that crummy team is the Browns). An acquaintance who works at a Cleveland sports talk radio station describes the daily topics as 90 percent Browns, 10 percent everything else. That makes sense, since the Browns are in the middle of the season. But even when the season ends, people primarily want to talk about the NFL draft. Thats not until April -- or when the NBAs regular season ends. Sports talk radio is a pretty good gauge, since callers represent the voice of the Cleveland sports scene. And the Cavs are barely mentioned, despite the fact they open the season Tuesday. Again, true fans understand the process. They know the Cavs are starting a second-year point guard (Kyrie Irving), second-year power forward (Tristan Thompson), third-year small forward (Alonzo Gee) and rookie shooting guard (Dion Waiters). They know the bench is just as young, and that the Cavs have a darn good coach in Scott. They know that the Cavs arent all in to chase a title this season. Theyre being realistic. Those fans just greatly appreciate the fact Cleveland has a pro basketball team. Determined management is just a plus. Look, Im not saying the Cavs have to upset Miami in the first round of the playoffs (although that'd probably be reason enough to burn down the city). Im not saying they even have to make the playoffs. But in order to remain relevant -- or better yet, become more relevant -- they have to compete. They have to get the common fans talking. They have to start what appears to be an upward trend. They have to put an end to the blowout losses, particularly at home. Ideally, they should end up with no worse than a draft pick in the 10-14 range. I believe they can do that, if they want. And I hope they do want. Otherwise, man, Ill probably be worried. Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO
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