What a week, huh? Have you finally come to grips with the fact that Cleveland has a championship? Someday we'll stop talking about it quite so incessantly, but if you're anything like me, it's still sinking in a little bit.
In fact, despite having really great stories about the Cleveland Cavaliers winning Game 7 and watching it with my son Ben, it still hadn't quite sunk in for me until parade day. I didn't attend the parade, but I was able to watch most of it and the entirety of the presentation from the stage. We could spend the next hour talking about the trio of speeches from Frank Jackson, Armond Budish and Dan Gilbert, because holy hell were those awkward. Rather, I'm going to pass those over for the Cavs because that's when the Championship finally hit me and hit me hard.
I didn't consume myself with thinking about how I was going to make peace with a championship or all my personal sports history before Game 7. In the after-glow of the Cavaliers winning, I wasn't ready to do it either. But watching the city celebrate in unprecedented fashion and watching those players - newly crowned champs and guys who added another ring to the collection - react on that stage, it finally hit me how far I'd fallen as a fan. I'd been pretending for the better part of five years that I still believed anything like this was possible. I had given up hope, and was in a constant state of denial about it. You'd have to be in denial to continue to write and podcast about something for hardly any money about something you actually didn't believe.
Losing your belief in the possibility of winning is really problematic for a sports fan. Belief is what drives fans to buy tickets, or watch teams. You can enjoy the Browns for a tailgate, the Cavs for the lights and fire in the arena, or the Indians for a nice summer day at the park without needing to believe they can win, at least in the short run. In the long run, however, it's unsustainable.
Take the Indians, for example. We've been mired in conversations about the Indians and attendance and ownership for a long time. Forget about Jose Mesa or anything else that lives in a montage, the Indians gave us trade after trade of stars to help implode our belief. Between those trades - some well-reasoned and some not - and the lack of drafting, combined with organization stability - oddly enough - the Indians almost single-handedly created a hope graveyard. Indians superfans did their best to try and convince other fans that what they were watching was "good," but few were buying into it. It's such a far fall for the Tribe, because that's the team that kept hope alive for my generation when the Browns weren't here. Even though they fell short in the late 90s and gave us the 1997 heartache, they left you feeling like winning it all was at least possible. Not so after 2007, with a seemingly annual exodus of talent, and ever-dwindling gate attendance. And yes, the Indians made the playoffs in 2013, but it was about a one-month span that ended in one-game playoff heartache.
It certainly wasn't all their fault though. A quick glance toward Berea shows another side of the coin.
If "stability" was a dirty word in Progressive Field for many fans, it was the unachievable promised land for Browns fans. The Browns gave us new coaches, new GMs and even new owners, not to mention quarterbacks. No organization has driven belief of hope into the ground via roller coaster more than the Cleveland Browns. They continually get the benefit of the doubt because they make changes consistently in a league that seems most likely to enable quick turnarounds.
What's difficult to explain to outsiders is how Browns fan bitterness probably isn't actually rooted in Red Right 88, The Drive, or The Fumble as much as it is only having one playoff game since the team returned in 1999. At least The Drive and The Fumble were playoff moments, right? And even that one post-comeback playoff game - a loss to the hated Pittsburgh Steelers - isn't tragic just because it's a loss to that team. It's tragic because that one playoff game is such an isolated incident.
Between the Indians, the Browns and LeBron James leaving for Miami, I'm pretty sure I had almost zero belief that any of my teams were ever going to be capable of winning ever again. I'd run out of energy to try and convince myself just how it was possible. It was painful, especially because I was so plugged into the whole thing because of WFNY.
And then the Cavaliers hit the parade route and eventually the stage. All the blips of emotion I'd had over the Cavaliers winning it hit their peak. LeBron James was going man-by-man across the stage talking about how they contributed to a team that won the whole damn thing. He talked about how he couldn't do it alone, even as we all know what an integral part of the equation he truly must be. More than just honoring his teammates, LeBron James was teaching us all a lesson not just in winning, but how you win and what he's learned about it. It takes LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love, but it also takes coaches we don't know and practice players like Sasha Kaun. It takes Channing Frye for delivering on the court early in the playoffs and off of the court during the Finals.
You can hear it a million times. You can see it take place in other cities. Until you experience it in your city and see it happen and then explained by a once-in-a-lifetime talent like LeBron James, it might just not sink in. It didn't for me until then, but it has now. It's a gift. It's the gift of belief that your team can actually win the whole thing. I now not only have that belief, but I've seen the evidence that it truly does exist. That's something that will never get taken away from me and hopefully I'll never have to wait so long to be reminded of in the city of Cleveland.
Bill Simmons gives LeBron James his props after NBA title...
Bill Simmons not only gave LeBron ultimate credit, he even says LeBron has surpassed Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
(Warning: Tiny bit of salty language.)
Your weekly moment of soccer zen...
Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo.
That's it from me this week. Appreciate all the fun we've had together over the past week. Here's to doing it again sometime in the near future.