Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What skeptical Cavs fans can learn from Ohio State's football team

In late October, Ohio State played a night game against Penn State in front of 108,000 people in Happy Valley. The Buckeyes, despite a home loss to Virginia Tech a few weeks earlier, came into the game as double-digit favorites. They raced out to a 17-point lead at halftime.

But then, the wheels kind of came off. JT Barrett threw a pick six, Sean Nuernberger missed a field goal, and the Nittany Lions came roaring back to send the game into overtime.

Ohio State ultimately pulled the game out in a second overtime, but this game was proof that the Buckeyes were a flawed team. The fact that they blew a lead against Penn State, a team that had just lost to Michigan and Northwestern, meant that they were going to be in for a long season.

Or so we thought at the time. It turned out that Ohio State's season was long, but only in the literal sense -- they are going to end up playing more games than other teams.

Now, on the verge of playing for the National Championship, Urban Meyer points to that game in Happy Valley as a crucial turning point for his team.

In the moment, it seemed like that game was evidence of something. And it was, just not of what we thought. It wasn't evidence of a bad football team, it was evidence of a team that can find a way to win under very difficult circumstances.

A narrative can change that quickly.

There is always a desire to begin assessing a team from the first moment it steps on the field. But teams are never complete on day one. Even if the roster itself doesn't change much over the season, the players on it inevitably do. They grow, individually and collectively. Challenging nights in October can lead to celebratory ones in January. Sometimes fans' patience pays off.

Keep that in mind while watching the Cavaliers over these next few weeks. LeBron James, David Blatt, and David Griffin will not ultimately be judged by how the team plays this winter. They will only be judged in June.

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