Taking in the NBA Playoffs inside The Corner at Progressive Field: While We're Waiting...

Where Game 6 and Game 46 collide: Sharing my experience watching the Cavs--at an Indians game.

The very first time I covered a While We’re Waiting, Scott told me that the only rule is there are no rules. Which is great, because I’ve got 600 words on why I hate Draymond Green.

Wait... no. Maybe that’s in bad taste. How about, “Here are all the things I think the “A” in “Stephen A. Smith” might stand for.”

Nah? Still kind of too negative?

Alright, let’s stick with the positives. THE CAVS, YOU GUYS. Are we in this? I think we might still be in this. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I was feeling quite down and out going in to last night’s Game 3 against the Golden State Warriors. It was make or break time, and LAWD we made it. We made it to the tune of a 30-point victory, in which our beloved Cavs looked quite unstoppable at times—and the league’s reigning MVP looked, well... quite average. 

If you’ve spent any time with my writing here, you might know two things about me: First, I’m a sports fan driven purely by emotion. And second, I love it when we’re all watching the same thing together. (Alright, you probably also know that I love food and wine and Seinfeld and The Bachelor franchise, but let’s stay on topic, ok?)

Anyways, I absolutely love the feeling of watching the same live event with a group of people who are as into it as I am. Whether it’s in the literal sense, like taking in a game in a bar packed with fans, or in the figurative, like watching the Browns from my couch, tweeting away a Sunday afternoon with countless others, it doesn’t get much better than that. I feed off of the energy—and the emotions—of those around me. 

With that in mind, let’s talk about a Friday night a few weeks ago, which ended up coming together as perfectly and unexpectedly as an Iman Shumpert man bun. 

It was the second of two Indians games for which we had traded in our rained-out Opening Day tickets, chosen at random way before we were thinking about when (not if) the Cavs would be appearing in the Eastern Conference Finals. Shame on us, but our planning only went as far as “Oh... it’s a Dollar Dog Night? And there’s fireworks? Alright, I’m in.”

Then suddenly, as the night drew near, it dawned on us. Oh... F. Nothing against our beloved Tribe, but we were saddled with five tickets on a night when we’d much rather saddle up to the bar at Barrio and feast on chips, queso, and Cavs. We’d never waste Indians tickets, though... so there we were. Five Cleveland sports fans on a Friday night, heading to a seemingly unimportant Indians game against the Baltimore Orioles... while the Cavs were about to play a hugely important Game 6 against the Toronto Raptors. 

"Coming together as perfectly and unexpectedly as an Iman Shumpert man bun." 

Punctuality’s not necessarily our thing, and we found our way to The Jake sometime during the second inning. We grabbed our dollar dogs and our nachos and made our way to the stadium’s Right Field District, where we planned on grabbing beers from The Corner before finding a spot to stand and take in the game. 

Named in honor of Tom Hamilton’s signature opening line, “We’re underway at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario,” The Corner is an open-air bar tucked away in the right field corner of The Jake. It is both expansive and inviting, with ancient-looking wood and steel (reclaimed from the old Columbus Road Bridge in the Flats) adorning the walls, pillars and floor. Bridge decking and handmade sand-casting patterns, plucked from a foundry formerly located on East 71st Street, add to the bar’s overall vibe. Pieces of Tribe memorabilia do too, like Corey Kluber’s 2014 Cy Young award, which sits behind glass in the middle of the bar.

It couldn’t exist or be replicated anywhere else. The Corner is uniquely Cleveland because it’s made from Cleveland—quite literally.

That night, as we approached it, we noticed The Corner filling up even more than normal. Always a popular destination during games, it offers a unique atmosphere and delicious craft beer, but not necessarily a great view of the field. That night, however, The Corner was offering something else: a place to grab a barstool and watch the Cavs game, while the Indians played quietly in the background. My sincere apologies to the Indians, but we did exactly that.

We were lucky enough to grab a coveted table before they were all snatched up, and from there, we watched as the Cavs attempted to clinch the Eastern Conference Championship and punch their ticket to The Finals.

As the game went on and the Indians trailed the O’s behind us, the bar gradually filled up. Slowly but surely, fans in Tribe and Cavs gear alike gathered around tables, asking strangers what they had missed. Some checked the score and went back to baseball. Most didn’t. Beers were filled—and refilled. Spilled, probably a little bit, and refilled again. All the while, The Corner continued to fill up.

The Indians eventually lost 6-4, and we stepped away from our spot only long enough to watch the post-game fireworks over the center-field bleachers. We scurried back to our table, which was guarded by a particularly selfless friend, to take in the final minutes of the Cavs' victory. Well past the final out of the Indians game, fans continued to file into the overcrowded but still open Corner. Bless the heart of whoever at the Jake calls the shots, because that bar stayed open very late for us, ensuring that each and every fan packed inside had somewhere to watch the Cavs win the Eastern Conference Championship.

Considering the cost of our tickets and the fact that we didn't watch the Indians at all, we essentially paid a very expensive cover charge for a sports bar. But the energy in that place was simply magical, and the experience was truly one of a kind. Moments like this felt worth every penny.

I don’t need to tell you the rest. The Cavs went on to win that game, and now trail the Warriors 2-1 in the NBA Finals. I haven't been back to the Jake since that night, but I'm sure I'll return soon. Nights like that, and mornings like this, on the heels of a pointed and necessary Game 3 victory for the Cavs, make me so thankful for Cleveland. Game 4’s tomorrow, y’all, and no matter where you’re taking in the game, rest assured: We’re all watching together. 

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