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Dan Gilbert is my blood brother tonight (UPDATED)
Posted 7/8/2010 9:43 PM EDT on crainsdetroit.com
I don't know where Dan Gilbert is tonight, and I've never met him, but I feel closer to him right now than I ever have. Or ever will. He and I both took a boot to the gut about 20 minutes ago.
Sadly, we both knew it was coming, like we're tied to the railroad tracks and can see the locomotive approaching. Knowing didn't lessen the blow much. Me, I prepared for the announcement of all-galactic superstar LeBron James leaving Cleveland (my hometown) for Miami tonight by taking a medicinal nip of Wild Turkey while on my couch. That softened the bitter shock -- another in a long line of them over the past 36 years -- slightly. And it made watching the shabby, sleazy and squalid spectacle staged by LeBron and his handlers tonight, in collusion with the waterheads at ESPN, fractionally more tolerable without hurling a bottle at the television.
What Gilbert is doing tonight is anyone's guess. Possibly a swan dive from atop Quicken Loans Arena. Or maybe he's squirreled away in some dank office somewhere, plotting in the best Richelieu-Machiavelli style his next move to salvage the value of his franchise. Or maybe he's hurling bottles (probably something nicer than rotgut Kentucky bourbon) and who can blame him? Police in Northeast Ohio have been preparing for violence since this morning. The urge to smash something is visceral, but it's passing.
(UPDATE: Gilbert issued this letter on the Cavs' website tonight. It's a stunning, angry missive and minces no words and promises that Cleveland will win an NBA title before LeBron's Heat does).
Gilbert was the lead and majority investor on the $375 million purchase of the Cavs in 2005. Forbes said not too long ago that the team is worth $476 million.
Tonight, it's worth a whole lot less. How much less remains to be seen. Some say as much as $250 million less. Most think it won't be that bad, but it's not going to be good. It's like Gilbert's personal Black Thursday on the stock market. I don't know how much of that $375 million was Gilbert's, but it's possible that his personal investment evaporated tonight. If this was Vegas in the '50s, LeBron would be waking up tomorrow in cement shoes underneath Hoover Dam. But it's 2010 and we're civilized men, and this is just a game, right? Bread and circuses. Very, very expensive bread and circuses.
Will the plunging value of the Cavaliers affect Gilbert's business in Michigan? Too soon to say. He's spending far bigger dollars on his Ohio casino ventures, which will make him money long after LeBron is enjoying retirement pinochle card games with Benedict Arnold and Judas Iscariot at the Home For Aged Quislings.
Any thought of Gilbert selling the Cavs and using the proceeds, along with his riches from Quicken Loans/Rock Financial, to buy the Detroit Pistons probably disappeared the moment LeBron said he was taking his talents to South Beach (to play caddy to Dwyane Wade and party with the Jersey Shore crowd, IMHO).
What could make matters worse for people like me (as if that matters to him, LeBron or anyone else)? Gilbert could announce that he's moving the Cavaliers to Baltimore ... but even that wouldn't top Art Modell's 1995 betrayal and relocation of the Cleveland Browns, who always will be first in Cleveland's heart.
And at least Gilbert is no Ted Stepien.
I'm not sure Detroit has experienced anything like this. Or any other city, at least not on such a global scale. James went on national television to stab his home in the back in what amounted to a weird, self-absorbed infomercial that should embarrass everyone involved, but likely won't. That's a first in pro sports. Hope it's a last.
The media backlash has been staggering. A good example comes from Michael Rosenberg, the Freep columnist who also writes for Sports Illustrated (link). It's brutal.
So LeBron is off to Florida, joining the annual migration of Ohio snowbirds and mercenary basketball players and their insufferable egomaniacal narcissism -- the one thing that James truly is the king of. Me, I will never watch another NBA game without being paid to do so. Ever. I am done with this silly and useless league. If the NBA shut down for good tomorrow, no one would miss it in a year.
I plan to stage a ceremonial burning of my LeBron sweatshirt. Expect Dan Gilbert to do much the same, but in the form of 80-percent off merch sales of No. 23 paraphernalia.
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