Opinion: Thank you, Andy

Ritchie Mulhall

Richard Mulhall

The Wild Thing is gone from Cleveland, and frankly, I’m a little peeved about it.

This past week, the Cavaliers unloaded Anderson Varejao in a three-way deal that sent him to Portland and allowed the Cavs to obtain sharpshooting power forward Channing Frye from the Orlando Magic. After being traded to Portland, Varejao is expected to clear waivers Sunday, allowing him to subsequently latch on with another team.

Not to sound like Family Guy’s Peter Griffin here, but do you know what really grinds my gears? Trading a bulwark like Andy, who has been a staple of the Cavs organization since 2004. His heart and hustle often went unmatched by anyone else, and he was the longest tenured Cav.

As one of the Cavs’ premier big men, he took charges like a champ and unlike anyone I’d ever seen. How many times did Andy put his body in harm’s way just to draw a quick foul or offensive charge? Too many to count. He had a penchant for accumulating invaluable hustle points, and his intangibles could always aid the Cavs in gutting out a hard-fought win.

His motor never stopped, and the Cavs’ fans never stopped cheering.

Sure, it was true Andy had been banged up and wasn’t getting any younger; but he was getting healthier, and the Cavs could have used him sparingly to preserve him for key moments in the playoffs. In the eyes of former head coach David Blatt and current head coach Tyronn Lue though, he didn’t seem to fit in to Cleveland’s current system, was undoubtedly underused and rode the bench far too much.

Instead, the team decided to let go of a fan favorite in favor of a guy who averages a meager 5.2 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game. Now we’re unstoppable, right?

I could go on and on about why Frye won’t make much of a difference in making the Cavs that much closer to an NBA title, but the principle of the matter is that Andy gave his heart and soul to this franchise – his home – and Cleveland traded him away for an unproductive journeyman on a losing team stuck in the Eastern Conference cellar.

People in Northeast Ohio loved Anderson Varejao. Whether it was fans wearing frizzy afro wigs or chanting “Wild Thing,” the Cleveland fan base always supported Andy, and he spread the love in return.

To show his gratitude and appreciation for the city that meant the world to him, Andy wrote a heartfelt letter to Cleveland:

Dear Cavs Fans Everywhere,

For the last 12 years, I have had the honor of representing the city of Cleveland and the Cavaliers organization, and for that I will forever be grateful. Coming over from Spain at the young age of 21 was not easy, but as soon as I put on a Cavs jersey and stepped on the court, I felt at home.

There were seasons we played well together, and there were seasons we struggled together. We had playoff runs, and we had championship runs. Over the last 12 seasons we have had many ups and downs, but no matter the product on the court one thing never changed… The unwavering support from all of you, the fans.

Whether you were watching on TV, listening on the radio, or in the Q screaming at the top of your lungs, we felt your energy and support. Cleveland fans are simply the best.

There is nothing like walking on the streets on a freezing cold day and hearing fans scream your name, then stopping to talk to those same fans. There is nothing like looking into the crowd at the Q and seeing over 20,000 people wearing wigs to match your hair. Those are feelings I will cherish for the rest of my life and never forget.

In a similar way to how Brazil holds a special place in my heart, Cleveland has also become a part of me. I consider everyone in the organization as family – from ownership, the entire front office, all of the coaches I have had over the years, and every single employee from top to bottom – thank you.

The city of Cleveland is truly a special place.

I have seen players and coaches come and go, but through it all I have always known Cleveland is where I want to retire. But life doesn’t always work the way you want it to, and at the end of the day, the saying “this is a business” is unfortunately true.

So with that, I say goodbye. But more importantly, I say thank you. Thank you for your support. Thank you for coming out every night whether we were winning or losing. And thank you for giving me the best 12 years of my life.

Home is where the heart is, and my heart will forever be in Cleveland.

Anderson Varejao

I’m saddened to see you go, but thank you, Andy.

Richard Mulhall is a sports columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].