Showing posts with label Believeland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Believeland. Show all posts

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cleveland's sports mythology: A shaky Jenga tower

Father's Day.

Our championship may come on Father's Day.

I could think of no more appropriate day for Cleveland to end its 52-year drought of a championship in any major sport.

I think of all of the time spent with my dad — glued to the TV, at the games and discussing our teams. I think of my Grandpa Stevens and his love of sports — perhaps only surpassed by my Grandma Stevens' love of the Tribe. We have put lifetimes into this.

As I ponder the many possibilities that may unfold tomorrow, I conclude this: It's a win-win situation.

If the Cavs win their third straight game against the mighty Golden State Warriors, they will have an NBA championship! If they lose, then another huge piece of Cleveland sports pain will be added to our sports mythology Jenga. At this point, some championships will have been so ridiculously close that there is value in that.

But at this point, the mythology of Cleveland sports pain is a tall, shaky Jenga tower that is bound to fall. Time can topple the tower. Our fans' devotion to these teams should help topple the tower. Heck, LeBron James may do it tomorrow!

Of course, we must put all of this in perspective. This is professional sports we're talking about. Does it matter in the big scheme of life?

My answer: Heck, yeah, it matters!

This does not solve world hunger, reverse global warming, end terrorism or give an education to Donald Trump on foreign policy. But pro sports does bring people together, create conversations and, in the case of the NBA, put on display the world's best athletes.

Cleveland's last championship came in 1964, before the Super Bowl existed, when my mom attended the game at age 15 with my Uncle Steve. She still has the ticket stub:
Part of me wants to be there like my mom was. But I will not be flying to Golden State to be there when it might happen tomorrow. That idea crossed my mind. I will not be flying back to Cleveland. That crossed my mind, too.

I will be celebrating Father's Day with my daughters, fiancee and Game 7 of the NBA Finals. My father will be with me in spirit. My grandparents will be with me in spirit. My extended family will be with me via text, phone and FaceTime. Whatever happens, happens.

The Jenga tower of Cleveland sports pain is bound to topple.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cleveland and life ... Pain, hope, love, grief (repeat)

A peculiar thing happens whenever somebody asks Dina and me where we're from. Dina says she's from Los Angeles. I say one of two things: 1) I'm from Cleveland, or 2) I'm from Cleveland, but I've been in L.A. for 18 years.

Once you're from Cleveland, you're always from Cleveland.

We all know the Cavs' playoff run will soon end in heartache. Of course, that is extremely pessimistic. But as Cleveland sports fans, we're conditioned to that type of thinking.

Could this be the time we crack through and have our first championship in my lifetime? Oh, Jesus, I hope so. But is it realistic to think it will happen? Not based on my sports experiences, but so what? I will be loving every minute of these NBA Finals.

Earlier this month, ESPN ran a documentary called "Believeland," which chronicled the sports pain of my beloved city. It was spot-on about the heartbreak that has created the painful sports culture and mythology of Cleveland.

Being an actual optimist in life, I must say that "Believeland" also brought back positive memories of Cleveland sports. It's just too darn bad that none of the incredible teams we've assembled have sealed the deal and won a championship.

See, many people not from Cleveland cannot fathom the love — love, love, love — we have for these teams. These teams are like an extra friend always there for us at family gatherings, after work, in the car on the radio, everywhere. The city of Cleveland is evolving and thriving in many ways, but for some stretches of time, all we had were our sports teams, a depressed economy and miserable weather.

I don't think any team, perhaps in any sport, can get closer to a championship than the 1997 Cleveland Indians. They lost in 11 innings in Game 7 of the World Series after leading with one out in the bottom of the ninth.

When manager Mike Hargrove was asked how long it took him to recover from that crushing defeat, he said, "I'll let you know when it happens."

A quote came out during "Believeland" about this and similar losses: "What did you expect? We are who we are. Star-crossed. Cursed. Ill-fated. We always end the year in tears."

Personally and literally, the Tribe's loss in 1997 in extra innings of Game 7 of the World Series was the only Cleveland sporting event that ended in tears for me. I was living in Brooklyn. I was 24. The loss was cruel.
Of course, we can look at Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, Art Modell's immoral and ridiculous move of the Browns or LeBron's move to South Beach as other sources of pain.

Or we can look at the lengthy inadequacy of the Indians in the 1970s and '80s as pain, or the continued incompetence of the Browns for the past 20 years, but come on, how didn't one of our behemoth Tribe teams of the '90s not win it all?

Plus, to lose it to the freakin' Florida Marlins? In their fifth year of just being a team? Well, life sure ain't fair, and Cleveland sports is about as fair as Cleveland weather (It snowed on May 15 this year!).

But now, we turn our sights to the Cavs/Warriors rematch. This time, these current Cavs have one year of experience with this grand stage. It would be nice to finally exorcise the demons of 52 years and give the Cleveland the championship it deserves — yes, deserves!
However, here we go again. The Warriors set the record for most wins in the regular season, and they got a guy who's most likely proven to be the best shooter to ever walk the planet. Add to that the fact that the Warriors recovered from a 3-1 deficit to oust the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. And, egads, it's obvious that the Cavs are not playing the freaking Marlins.

First, the awesome Cavs teams of the '80s run into Michael Jordan. Now, this?

I am opting to believe again. I'm joining my Northeast Ohio brethren believing this could be it. This could be the one. The script could finally change.

Believeland. All In.