Joe Gilbert

The night in Cleveland that was not just a dream

The entire Cleveland was one on Sunday, celebrating and taking in the moment of finally being a champion in professional sports.

“It really happened, it was not a dream,” Joe Gilbert said on Monday morning following the Cleveland Cavaliers breaking the curse and won the city’s first championship in 52 years. Joe Gilbert, my dad, was just four years old when the Browns won the championship in 1964. So, he only briefly felt a winner, but mostly only living through a period of sports misery. He was just speechless moments after the clock struck zero and the Cavs became WORLD CHAMPIONS, saying only, “Wow, they did it.”

When the Cavs won Game 6 this past Thursday, I immediately spoke with my family about going downtown to watch Game 7. We decided to watch the game at JACK Casino. On Sunday, Father’s Day, my family and I started off the day celebrating all around Cleveland, including eating at Little Italy and going to the Cleveland Art Museum. Once it got closer to five o’clock, we started driving down to find parking around the casino. While we were on our way there, we all noticed that the city was abuzz with groups of people trekking their way toward the Gateway area, the center stage for Cavs fans.

Joe Gilbert

After an interesting ordeal to find parking, we made our way to the casino to get some food and map out an area to watch the game. The casino was stocked with fans donned in Wine and Gold. After getting a bite to eat and searching for a good spot to watch the game, it was finally game time. The casino environment seemed like we were in The Q, including the traditional crowd sung National Anthem. As you know by now, the game was back and forth with runs coming from both teams. We had spotted out a TV by the walkway to the parking garage. The crowd cheered and chanted throughout the game. But then came the final minutes. 

It was one of the loudest moments of my life. The first burst came on the big block by LeBron, followed by the (eventual) game-winning three by Kyrie. But those were not even close to the moment when the clock struck zero. The entire casino went nuts. Screaming, jumping up and down, liquids flying through the air, hugging, high-fiving and pure jubilation. Moments after the game, it felt as if the entire casino ran towards the walkway to go outside and celebrate.

We waited, watching the trophy presentation, and then made our way downstairs to go out to Public Square. The casino was now virtually empty, a ghost town. When we reached Public Square, we saw fans all over the place—and I mean all over the place. There were people in the street, people on buses, and people on top of the RTA stop roof. But, the overlying elements on the streets were happiness and joy.

Joe Gilbert

My family and I walked throughout downtown and whenever we passed someone on the street, we would high five. Complete strangers were celebrating with each other, many of which were in embrace. No one cared what time it was, everyone just wanted to be together and celebrate as a city. And boy did we do just that.

Joe Gilbert

It was the greatest moment of my Cleveland sports life, along with being a part of my high school football team’s championship. What made it great was that I was able to celebrate with my family and the city of Cleveland. My dad and mom, who had seen nothing but heartbreak and who had become pessimistic to no fault of their own because of it, were just amazed and overjoyed with what we were witnessing.

My dad said it best. “The shot, the drive, it is all gone. This win erases it.” It was one of the best night’s of my life and I got to spend it with my family and my city. We are the champions.

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