I am not quite sure what to say post-Game 6. I usually take losses with a greater swing of emotion, either sad and disheartened or glowing sense of optimism. These are the general emotions most northeastern Ohioan and Cleveland-ers feel after an exceptional run leading to the doorsteps of a championship.
Yet my emotion is not at any extreme, conditioned from our many days of having found those doors locked upon our arrival. The cynics might say it is tradition. The romantics might say it’s the long process of what leads to the final and long awaited prize. For most of us though, it is just a part of our lives, and this feels ironically no different.
My christening into this “tradition” began in 1986, with the birth of the Cleveland Browns rivalry with the Denver Broncos. A young side-arm throwing quarterback named Bernie Kosar would lead the Browns to the playoffs and into the conference finals, only to go up against another young quarterback, John Elway. Despite a late 20–13 Cleveland lead, Elway and the Broncos came back to tie it in the fourth quarter, and won it in overtime.
I was at home with my uncle and father when it happened. Homemade pizza was being prepped by my dad in the kitchen. An overtime field goal kick would finish off the day, and the evening dinner pizza was tough to swallow. I was too young to understand I had a lump in my throat, and even more so, too young to understand why.
The next few years would help provide more education, and each lesson is easily earmarked by symbolic quotation names: “The Drive” and “The Fumble.” Yet these were not limited to football.
A young Cleveland Cavaliers team began to form in parallel with the new era of the Browns: Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, and Larry Nance. And with all the successes, amazing games, and textbook teamwork, came the eventual fate of another name to symbolize a moment in time when fate would take hold, and the wind from the powers that be would shift from at our backs to in our face: A young out-of-no-where small-forward, Craig Ehlo, in his first few years, proved to be successful both as a role player, and in guarding a young superstar named Michael Jordan.
And even as the pages of history were being written laced in the ink of our glory, an in-bound pass to Ehlo with just six seconds left in the final game in the 1989 1st round playoff series against the Bulls, would leave the Cavs with a 1-point lead. What we thought was a series-clinching shot soon turned into Cleveland’s cruel sports fate making its presence known once again.
With still three seconds remaining on the clock and Ehlo guarding Jordan on the other end of the court, his airness caught the ball and broke free for a shot at the top of the key just before the clock expired. Game over. Series over. The crushing moment is forever immortalized with a fist swinging number 23 there to crystalize another named moment in history: “The Shot.”
The years rolled on, and there were less wins, more losses, less symbolic named moments in time, but one more earth shattering: “The Move.” The losses amidst the season weren’t enough. Many of us fans now had to watch their once-favorite NFL team being moved to another city—and winning Super Bowls under a different name.
Why couldn’t they do it in Cleveland?
Fate would take a different turn a few years later, with the emergence of a local Akron rising star from St. Vincent-St. Mary.
While jogging along in Sand Run Park in late May, 2003, a woman would jump in my path, causing me to literally stop in my tracks, to announce “We’ve got him!” LeBron James.
And somehow the magic seemed to sprinkle on our shoulders and push the wind at our backs again. Glory was to come, and the next few years were a process of watching a young man grow, learn, and take on the responsibility of bringing a Championship to Cleveland and northeastern Ohio. Each year a step in the process, inching our way closer.
We were all proud parents of our hometown hero, our Hercules. And with it our much deserved destiny, or so we thought. The 2006/2007 season seemed like it was the year. A Finals appearance was granted, and once again as confidence rose, the dance of fate would appear. A “Spurred” sweep. Almost like a relationship where distance begins slowly, but the impact significant, another symbolic named moment in time, “The Decision,” would be branded and our hero would leave.
Most of the recent has been read, written, and heard. And maybe for most it is just a story, words on a page. For those who have lived it, it is much more and the line between the game and life blurs. Hashtags become a hat-tip to neighbors and friends, knowing there’ll be more salt on the wound to come with the new season. But this season and post-season was something to be recognized by all fans: A true legend being born.
It’s somewhat sad and unfortunate because we recognize champions as the ones who win, the ones who hold the Championship trophy high, or those who give that memorable ceremonial speech. That wasn’t the case this season.
The true champions endured. The true champions faced the odds and battled back. LeBron James won hearts and minds league wide, and with penance paid and each additional cent requested, he and the Cavaliers dug deep into pockets to pay again, and us proud parents held our shoulders high.
A championship awaits Cleveland—there is no doubt—paid for in the blood, sweat, and tears of Lebron, Delly, Price, Ehlo, Kosar, Byner, others, and of all the fans who continue to believe. And no matter the winds and twists of fate, we’ll never stop believing that it will happen.
Call it illogical or delusional, but I am guessing it’s only something you would understand if you were where I am from.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.