Like a lover scorned, Cleveland still can't help but watch LeBron James as he works his way through the playoffs with the Miami Heat. Outside of Chicago and Miami, Cleveland was the third-highest rated area to watch James and his team take on the Chicago Bulls in Sunday's Game 1.
Cleveland-area fans of NBA basketball are pretty soundly on record of being overwhelmingly against LeBron James, these days. And rightly so. Because while Art Modell may have gone on TV to hold a press conference about the Cleveland Browns moving to Baltimore, even he didn't invite Jim Gray to "interview" him as he mulled over whether or not he was taking the talents of his Browns to Maryland, or keeping them in Cleveland.
James broke the hearts of Cavaliers fans on national TV; and though there were endless rumors that he never helped quash about James going to New York, Miami or Chicago, a good chunk of Cavalier fandom thought that James would want to play close to home for more money in Cleveland, with the team that he led to the NBA's best regular-season record to twice.
But old habits die hard. And you can't exactly pin that big rating on schadenfreude. Cavalier fans weren't dialing up TNT to see the Bulls win in a walk over James' new team.
Few gave Chicago a chance in this series, as the Bulls struggled in their first two rounds while Miami dominated the 76ers and Celtics. Most that tuned in thought that an ever-improving Heat squad would begin its waltz over the higher-seeded Bulls. And though the Bulls won in a blowout, it's not as if Cleveland fans were tuning in after their buddies called them to tell 'em that Chicago was up by 20. The blowout didn't start in earnest until the midway point of the third quarter.
Still, as a Chicago native who spent the evening of Game 1 on State Street, sweating as he ignored his phone and any possible score updates, I welcome your ill-will on our behalf, Cleveland. James and company are a formidable foe, and even as I attempt to remain objective at press row for Wednesday's Game 2, we appreciate the support.
It doesn't matter that it springs almost entirely from enmity. We're used to that, here.
(UPDATE: TNT announced on Monday afternoon that Game 1 was the most-watched NBA game in cable TV history.)