They had an opportunity to make history. A chance to do something special. Two teams on a collision course with fate, seemingly slouching toward a rendezvous with destiny.
Fittingly, they both blew it.
The Cleveland Cavaliers could have entered last night's home game against the Washington Wizards riding a 27-game losing streak, an ever-metastasizing low-water mark for NBA futility. But no. The Cavs just had to beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night, transforming themselves from morbid curio to just plain morbid. Meanwhile, the Wizards went into Cleveland having failed to win a road game since last April and were working on a 27-game away game losing streak of their own, putting them in stinking distance of the league record to start a season (29, held by the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks). Only Washington won, too, downing Cleveland 115-100.
Sigh. What a shame. What a waste. What might have been.
Ask any sportswriter and they'll tell you: the best teams to cover are either really, really good or really, really bad. Fact: nobody will remember last season's 2-14 Carolina Panthers. Even though they truly, madly, deeply sucked. But the winless 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers? They're still talked about -- the bizarro version of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, the pile of decomposing pet waste next to Mercury Morris' driveway.
Indeed, there's a long and honorable athletic tradition of being singularly, superlatively bad, of setting the iron pyrite standard for generations to come: worst NBA free throw shooter (Ben Wallace), biggest NFL draft bust (Ryan Leaf, apologizes to JaMarcus Russell), crummiest baseball team (1962 New York Mets).
Perhaps this sounds cruel. Mocking, even. It shouldn't. Just as athletes like Usain Bolt define the limits of human performance, they also define limited human performance, the kind most of us can more readily relate to. And that matters, too. What's the Mendoza Line without Mario Mendoza? Just a meaningless number.
As such, I can't help but be disappointed in both the Wizards and Cavs. They just didn't want it enough. After Washington's win, rookie point guard John Wall described his feelings as "like Christmas." Maybe for him.