I was born in Cleveland. I grew up in the western suburbs of Cleveland. I witnessed the mayor of Cleveland setting his hair on fire. I watched flames dancing on the largest river in Cleveland. And I watched as a city slowly decayed.
Nothing it seemed could pull Cleveland out of its doldrums. That was especially true of our sports teams.
Since 1964 the Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers have given the fans of Cleveland a steady diet of heartache and sadness. In those 52 years we have never been to a Super Bowl, never won a World Series, and never won an NBA title.
I, like most Clevelanders, have carried on a love-hate-love relationship with LeBron James. We loved him when he was drafted number one and became a member of the Cavalier family. And then, along with most of northeast Ohio, we held him in contempt when he went to Miami.
He didn’t just go to Miami. He had to go on television in primetime to announce his decision, which only brought mockery and scorn to Cleveland.
But two years ago, when he said he was coming home to Cleveland and the Cavaliers, I fell in love with him all over again. No hard feelings because visions of an NBA title now danced in our heads.
And then last year Cleveland fell short… again. Injuries dealt us a deathblow. Once again, we could only look with hope to the next season.
As this year’s finals began, Golden State had the greatest season record in NBA history. They seemed destined for the championship. After four games, no one would have argued that point. Most people felt the fifth game would be the last. The only question would be how much Golden State would win by. There was no doubt we were through. Stick a fork in us! Cover us with dirt once more! And of course the two self-proclaimed “greatest” sports analysts of our generation, Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, pronounced the season over.
Now I must admit I’m not a fan of either Bayless or Smith. In fact I believe the only fans they have are themselves. I’ve never seen two guys get paid more for doing less than these two clowns. However, it looked like a done deal for the Cavs.
But then the basketball gods began to smile on Cleveland. We won two in a row and went back to Golden State tied 3 – 3. Could it be? Maybe? Just maybe? Or was it just another “Cleveland” moment sure to bring us sorrow once more.
As the game progressed, hope began to build. And then Steph Curry missed his last shot.
Cleveland had won! We won! We did it! We were the champions!
Now of course we didn’t do it. Not really. The Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team accomplished it. But we all owned this moment!
I haven’t lived in Cleveland since I was 21. That’s a long time ago. I didn’t attend a single Cavaliers game this year or any year. I try to remain neutral when a Cleveland team plays against San Diego. This hasn’t been all that difficult since over the years none of the teams from either city has been all that great.
But I will always root for Cleveland!
Over these past couple of weeks, sadly little has changed in this sad world of ours. But I’m not going to allow this o dampen my happiness nor am I going to stop walking with a swagger. The Cavaliers won on Father’s Day, and their win was a better gift than any of the cards I received.
It’s not a coincidence that 1.3 million people came to the Cavalier parade, even though Cleveland’s population is only 400,000. People just wanted a chance to smile again… hug strangers again… do silly dances again… and not be criticized or laughed at. It’s what fans of a champion do. And there’s something special about that.
Because on Father’s Day I got to do it too! It was better than anything else I received that day. And every day I relive that gift, smiling and dancing, as I watch those last few minutes again and again.
So maybe this year we’ll be watching the Cleveland Indians winning the World Series and the Cleveland Browns getting into the playoffs.
Well… maybe just the Cleveland Indians winning the World Series.
For the moment, Cleveland is “Title Town!”
And YES, we DO believe in miracles.
(Thank goodness LeBron came home!)