The Dan Gilbert Tirade Debate… What’s Eating Gilbert’s Grape?

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

The world has been wondering “What was Dan Gilbert thinking?” when he typed up the now famous Open Letter to Cavaliers Fans.

Well, I will tell you this much: He wasn’t thinking about the damage he was doing to the future of his fan base. He wasn’t thinking about how insulting the intelligence of the people of Cleveland could come back to bite him. And he certainly wasn’t thinking about the damage he was doing to his credibility. The $100,000 fine imposed by NBA commissioner David Stern should be the least of Gilbert’s worries right now. He should be concerned about how much more despondent and depressed Cavs fans are going to be when they finally wake up and realize they’ve been lied to by the one man they should have been mad at all along.

I am sure that the Cavaliers faithful will ardently disagree, but it’s true. The people of Cleveland have no one to blame for LeBron James leaving Cleveland EXCEPT for Dan Gilbert. To prove my point briefly examine the reasons LeBron left. It obviously wasn’t for the money. The Cavaliers were offering him the most cash and longest contract, and all those inflated projections of him earning the biggest payday from endorsements in New York obviously did not have enough sway to win LeBron either. It clearly wasn’t a lack of love and fan support in Cleveland. Cavs tickets holders and viewers were ravenous in their fanaticism for James. Bleacher Fan himself openly admitted that every usable inch of the city was dedicated to LeBron love in Cleveland’s campaign to stay. I seriously doubt he would get that much loyalty anywhere else. So, it pretty much boils down to exactly what LeBron has been telling everyone for quite some time – he wants to win championships.

Gilbert knew what LeBron wanted, but failed to deliver. He could have gone after a Dwayne Wade or Chris Bosh himself if he wanted to do everything in his power to get James to stay. Even making a deal to sign a star, like Amar’e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer, the way the Knicks and Bulls did in their pursuit of James would have been better, but Gilbert didn’t. Are we really to blame James for leaving, when he publicly stated he would like to win championships, and even went as far as to indicate interest in playing with guys like Wade? No! Gilbert failed to put the Cavs in position to retain LeBron and he should shoulder the blame for his leaving. But he doesn’t even do that, instead he points all the blame on LeBron in a temper tantrum of dramatic middle school girl proportions.

The self-indulgent rant does far more long term damage than good. It promises things Gilbert and the Cavs can’t possibly backup. Guaranteeing the people of Cleveland a championship before LeBron wins one may feel like a good thing to say, but it is irresponsible at best. It’s like losing your job and then telling your depressed wife and kids, “It’s going to be alright, I’m going to win the lottery!” Sure, making such a promise may dry up the tears if the family is desperate enough to believe it, but sooner or later when the cash doesn’t show up the fear and hurt comes back tenfold, and the family learns that daddy is a liar. That is exactly what Gilbert has done to the people of Cleveland, except winning the lottery may be a more realistic goal than the Cavs even sniffing the playoffs without LeBron James for the next five years.

Gilbert’s thoughtless words should not be praised as the work of a caring owner or even a business strategist that gave his people hope after a huge loss. Rather his statement should be interpreted for what is – a cowardly attempt to focus the blame on someone else. Gilbert’s letter should insult the intelligence of the people of Cleveland. He is clearly trying to give the city a common enemy, someone besides himself to serve as the scapegoat, and LeBron fits the bill. It is an age old strategy. Redirect people’s anger and fears into hate for a mutual enemy. It’s a cheap trick that appeals to the basest side of human nature. Hitler used the same hatemongering theatrics to turn the Germans’ frustrations after World War I into power and support for himself. Before I start drawing Jesse Jackson comparisons for statements on the LeBron situation that border on lunacy, no, I am not calling Dan Gilbert Hitler. I am merely pointing out that he is using old tricks that the people of Cleveland shouldn’t fall for.

Gilbert’s actions and words have absolutely destroyed his credibility. The man’s comments about LeBron never winning a championship until he does “right” by Cleveland more closely resemble a gypsy curse than they do a public statement by an NBA owner. How can he be taken seriously as an owner or businessman when he releases letters with the validity of Miss Cleo fortunetelling?

Even though Gilbert has temporarily closed his mouth, the drama lives on in his propaganda. His recent claims, that he is rejecting the good people of Cleveland’s offers to pay his $100,000 fine, prove as yet another self serving media ploy. He even panders for the alleged donations to go to the Cavaliers’ Youth charity because there is nothing to defuse an ugly situation like philanthropy. He is spinning a punitive action which was intended to teach him to give pause before turning public statements into a campaign for Cavalier love for their owner. We don’t even know if these donors truly exist, and if they do they have obviously sipped way too much of the Gilbert’ Kool-Aid. (FYI – it comes in two new flavors, Lunatic Lies and Unfulfilled Promises. The latter is harder to swallow.)

The letter may temporarily buy Gilbert some time, but when the smoke clears, Cavs fans will realize his promises were empty. When they finally call on Gilbert to deliver, it will be much worse than if he simply acknowledged LeBron’s contributions to the city and helped the people move on.

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