I am not into voodoo, witchcraft, scientology or Catholicism, but I am into the mystical support The Ram gives me.
A few weeks ago, the Wolf Pack saddled up at the Winking Lizard in Independence, Ohio. Cato, a key member of the Pack, has a specific goal in mind: Drink 100 different beers at the Lizard and earn a T-shirt.
As the Wolf Pack helped Catonio work through his lengthy list of brews, Jeff — AKA Hefner, AKA the Heffman — ordered a beer that made me do a double take. He ordered something called the Celebrator Doppelbock from Ayinger Brewery in Germany. The beer came with two rams on its label and a trinket of a ram draped around the neck. I had never seen any beer that came with a trinket.
The next day it was time for a showdown. Cato and I faced off against Dave and the Heffman in golf at Astorhurst Country Club. At the beginning of the round, the Heffman hung The Ram on his golf cart with twine, and it dangled majestically.
Dave and the Heffman basically annihilated us on the front nine. While facing a deficit on the back nine, Catonio and I devised a plan to steal The Ram and see if our luck would change. We successfully stole The Ram, and mojo came to our side. We slowly got back into the match and had it all square going into the final hole.
Of course, Dave is a little too good for all of us. He and Jeff birdied the last hole to take the crown, but, scientifically, The Ram proved its worth.
I then tried to wear The Ram as a necklace, but due to the twine, I found it too itchy. Because of my intelligence and handyman skills, I transferred The Ram from the twine to a shoelace, thus making it wearable as a necklace.
We have since gone back to the Winking Lizard and have slightly hurt Cato's 100 beer plan by ordering more Ram beers. I have suggested that each member of the Wolf Pack wears The Ram to ward off demons. Jeff recently wore one dangling from his wristwatch.
Jeff also suggested that The Ram is likely the reason why LeBron James has returned to Cleveland. He is correct. Have I gone mad, putting my faith in a plastic trinket that comes with a beer? Of course not. At a certain point, you just have to throw logic out the window and take a leap of faith, like all good religions say. Guide me, Ram. Make me a channel of your peace.
As a self-appointed spokesman for the city of Cleveland, I must tell LeBron James this:
In my life, there's been heartache and pain. I don't know if I can face it again.
LeBron, one more thing:
I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me. I wanna feel what love is. I know you can show me.
Just like my brethren in Northeast Ohio, I had a giddy day of goodness as King James announced his return to our underrated and much-maligned city. I strangely got chills writing that sentence. Talk about drama! Talk about excitement!
There's excitement in the air come and watch them play — Cavs! Taking on the best in the NBA. Cavs! Cavs! Cavs!
(That was a jingle from back in the '80s when Mark Price dished many a pretty pass to Brad Daugherty, Larry Nance, Ron Harper or even John "Hot Rod" Williams.)
For four grueling years of hopelessness, I have loathed LeBron James more than any living human being. Come to think of it, he was the only human I've loathed. For my own emotional health, I have tried to forgive him for his stupid-a$$ "Decision," but I could not. I was stuck in the anger mode of healing for four years and just couldn't get out that mode.
As a news alert from the New York Times came on my iPhone, my whole emotionality turned upside down in an instant. This was the opposite of a trauma. This was shocking, amazing, smiley face time, bona fide glee. I somehow even broke the news to my brother and mother. Throughout the day, I put my fingers in the air and rubbed them like Johnny Manziel. My daughters and I repeatedly did the finger rub in Souplantation.
A flurry of emotion hit when the news struck, and I simply surmise this is what Andre 3000 means when he sings:
I think I'm in love again. Baby, you are the prototype. Do sumn' outta the ordinary.
Today could have possibly been "THE GREATEST DAY IN CLEVELAND SPORTS HISTORY" (since 1964). Hyperbole? Maybe. But even if the Cavs never win a championship, or even if they do, the scales of justice balanced out today. That could better than a championship.
Of course, analyzing today as potentially THE GREATEST DAY IN CLEVELAND SPORTS HISTORY also underscores how horrible our city's sports history has been in my lifetime. Yes, we nearly won the World Series in 1997 with one of the glorious Tribe teams of the '90s, but they coughed up the lead in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 and then lost in extra innings. Ouch!
I've always said that you learn more in making mistakes and in losing than you do with winning, and that is why Northeast Ohio has the most self-knowlegeable people on the planet. Seriously, through years of being a gamer and a fierce competitor, I know that competition is not about the end result. It's about the ride.
LeBron's return is going to put my beloved Cleveland on an internationally envied ride. Yeah, it would be nice if he and the Cavs sealed the deal with a championship. I do yearn to have just one Cleveland championship in my lifetime, and if that happens before I'm 50, it will be 28 years earlier than I thought it might happen (I used an abacus for that calculation).
But, really, goodness is in the air. I feel great. I feel alive. My trip to Cleveland last week helped, reading the book "Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?" by Dr. Seuss to my daughters also helped.
Yes, LeBron was an Outkast for the past four years. We viewed him as a Foreigner.
LeBron, as Andre 3000 also sings in "Prototype," I must say:
Girl, right now I wanna say, I wanna say I wanna say stank you very much For picking me up And bringing me back to this world... I wanna say stank you, stank you.
I am leaving heaven today, but I'll be back in a few weeks.
Now, some friends I have from California may not believe that my own personal Valhalla — Cleveland, Ohio — is as majestic as I say it is. My suggestion to them: Go there in the summer.
Every night I spent in Cleveland got to be a running joke because I'd behold the twilight and remark, "Oh my god. This is beautiful. This is more beautiful than Spain."
I wasn't exaggerating. The twilight in Cleveland puts a godlike glow on the many trees there, and the sky remains lit until about 9:45 p.m. The sun will officially go down at 9:04 p.m. today, but it really doesn't go down until another 40 minutes of wonder.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous each day I was here, and this land has two key natural things that Southern California does not have — clear, fresh air and fertile ground that needs no artificial watering. For me, Cleveland also has a support system of family and friends that makes me identify Cleveland as home. My Wolfpack, which dates back to grade school, reunited, and that was especially impressive because a critical Pack member traveled all the way in from North Carolina. I also played six (yes, six) rounds of golf. That's 108 holes. I played Sleepy Hollow, Astorhurst, Ironwood, Fox Meadow, Creekwood and Ridge Top. All of those courses are beautiful. They're all carved out around trees that have been around for centuries, and I hadn't played Astorhurst and Ridge Top since I was a kid. It simply felt right to be out there. But beyond that, the big reason I was in Cleveland and, in total, will be there for more than a month this summer is the relationships. I have my mom and brother and cousins, who are like brothers, plus an extended family that felt good to see. Yesterday, on the Fourth of July, I went to Chippewa Lake, where the Stevens family now has three cottages at the circle. My idea is that I should buy a fourth one, and then we'll be allowed to tear them all down and build a hotel.
Chippewa always will hold a lot of memories for me, and with all these cottages now, many family members will be there much more now. Things evolve, and I — and perhaps many in the Snooze Button Generation — look to the past with nostalgia, whether it be the Apple IIe, dial-up Internet or blowing off firecrackers at age 10. Sometimes it's nice to look back to the past to enhance the present. Hopefully, that's what I was doing in Cleveland, which is growing and thriving and the most beautiful place I've ever been to in the summer.