CLEVELAND: It’s like visiting Superman’s Bizarro Universe where everything is flipped.
Up is down. Down is up.
The Browns are winners and LeBron James’ free agency? The Cavaliers sit waiting to swoop while the Miami Heat’s fan base sits with high anxiety listening as the team signs Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts.
What was unthinkable even a year ago, James returning to the Cavs, appears to be a realistic possibility. Perhaps not a great one, but realistic nonetheless.
Stories of confirmation from physical trainers and cupcake bakers made the rounds through Twitter, but that’s not the odd part. That came from Northeast Ohio’s airwaves.
The vitriol that didn’t dissipate for former Browns and Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell in death, excused itself for the most part on sports radio stations in the area when it came to a possible return of James to the team that drafted him straight out of St. Vincent-St. Mary as an 18-year-old.
In fact, it was a sea of optimism on Baskin & Phelps, the midday show hosted at WKRK (92.3 The Fan) by Andy Baskin, who is also sports director for Channel 5 (WEWS), and Jeff Phelps, who is the in-studio host for Fox Sports Ohio’s Cavs coverage.
Chris, a caller from Cleveland, chimed in with some talk from the barbershop, the place to get your hair cut and head filled with the news of the moment, the latter coming free of charge.
“The decision has been made and something has to happen drastically in Miami,” he said confidently without offering a source.
A listener named Julian said James would be coming home for the one thing that no other team can offer — a shot at redemption.
It isn’t clear that redemption is needed after winning two championship rings.
James has hit the pinnacle twice, and he has plenty left in the tank to continue. That would make a return that much sweeter because there’s plenty left to lead a developing team with young players such as Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters and others.
As Baskin and Phelps worked the phones, exactly two people moaned about James returning to the Cavs. One didn’t want to be on air.
The other, Joe in Parma, who referred to himself as a “huge Cavs fan,” echoed familiar arguments during his few minutes on the air.
Joe said that James coming back was a question of character and money. He bluntly stated that James is a quitter and that any potential relocation is all about money.
“I’m not a huge fan of him coming back here,” he said. Gee, ya think?
He is one of those few individuals who could get his wish. Nothing James will do is etched in stone. And the architect of the Heat’s championship teams, Pat Riley, signed the likes of Granger and McRoberts on Monday afternoon.
Baskin and Phelps stayed on an even keel throughout their four-hour shift Monday, expressing the same realistic point of view. They, however, recognized history’s tremors with the current situation, especially in statements from CBSSports.com’s Zach Harper, who said Heat fans had every reason to be pessimistic, optimistic and realistic.
The same could be said about Cavs fans.
Experience taught me one thing about James when I covered the Cavs for two seasons. He’s extremely difficult to read. He doesn’t give up his secrets easily.
What is clear is that he holds all the leverage in the coming hours — and, yes, it’s come down to hours.
For those Cleveland fans banking on James’ return, look past it. There is a nice core of talent that will play next season at Quicken Loans Arena for promising coach David Blatt, who enjoyed tremendous success in Europe. Focus on that.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.