By Chris Sheridan
CLEVELAND - Her name was Melody, her taxi was actually a nice black SUV, and she provided a fine ride from the Hyatt to the airport today, the morning after what could go down as one of the worst nights in this snake-bitten city's professional sports history.
She told me about her son, who recently left the Navy and became a semi-pro football player before blowing out his knee three months ago. The mother in her said she was secretly happy that her boy wouldn't be colliding with 300-pound monsters anymore.
Melody also described herself as an amateur psychologist, and she said she believes LeBron James is going to sign with the New York Knicks next season because of the facial tics she noticed every time LeBron talked about free agency before he went on a self-imposed moratorium on the subject.
Like many Cavs fans, she was fatalistic about the Cavs chances of surviving this series and retaining the local kid from Akron. Heck, even their owner sounded like a dead man walking after the 32-point loss.
Cleveland fans are that way, Cavs beat writer extraordinaire Brian Windhorst once told me, because they don't merely expect the worst is going to happen, they know it is going to happen. The Browns didn't just threaten to leave, they left. Sure the Indians made it to Game 7 of the World Series, but they LOST, dammit, to the Marlins.
As I noted in the column I wrote last night, the lasting mental vision I'll have of what may have been LeBron's last home game as a member of the Cavs were the pink-soled shoes he was wearing when he walked to his car.
And since so much has been made of James' fondness for wearing a New York Yankees cap, it cannot go unmentioned that if we're going to look for a clue to his future from his departure footwear, there's only one place in the NBA where they've ever worn pink.
Having been there myself and seen and heard it, it was surreal, almost beyond comprehension. I can't help but remembering how I wandered down to courtside with 2 minutes left and gazed up at 18,000 empty seats. LeBron was looking up at them, too, chewing his fingernails.
I wish I knew whether John Calipari, Leon Rose and Charles Oakley, who all sat within four seats of each other on the baseline, and William Wesley, whose seat was in Jack Nicholson territory, stayed until the bitter end. Instead, I got close enough to the Cavs locker room to watch James pull his jersey off as soon as he was the first Cavs player through the exit tunnel.
"We'll always have hope with the Browns," Melody said as she drove through the cold rain, factory smoke bellowing from a smokestack in the distance, further clouding the already low, grey sky.
She neglected to tell me, and I wish I had asked her, whether she's planning to watch Game 6. But I think I'm safe in saying that in her mind, that game is already lost. And James is, too.