Everybody processes things differently.
Whether it’s good news or bad, some people react instantly. They scream, they yell, they celebrate in the moment. Whatever they’re feeling... they just go with it. Other people prefer to take their time, working through emotions and sorting through thoughts and feelings until they feel composed and sure.
And then, there’s people like me... who only recently became able to talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers winning it all without tearing up. I’m not joking, you guys, I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks watching hype videos and looking at pictures of LeBron James while quietly weeping.
I can’t really explain the post-NBA Finals emotional meltdown I’ve been feeling. I can only think about the fact that, as much as I wanted that Game 7 win with all of my heart, I really didn’t believe we’d do it. Because we never do. At least... we never did. Didn’t we Cleveland fans just become conditioned to expect the absolute worst at every turn?
So to win in such dramatic fashion, when facing such high improbability? When all signs point to “LOL, YOU GUYS ARE NEVER GOING TO WIN,” and then you do? How do you process that? Most of us have spent our entire lives being told we’d never have a championship. What are we supposed to do with all of these feelings?
I took in Game 7 at an outdoor club in the East Bank of the Flats. Fortunate enough to have a few friends with good connections, we ended up at a prime table directly in front of the largest projection screen I’ve ever seen. It had all the makings of a perfect evening: The night was beautiful; the river didn’t smell; the club was packed; and our view was sweet.
The first three quarters are a blur, but I’m quite sure not one person around me sat for the entirety of the game. We screamed and cheered. We clutched each other during tense moments, and threw around high fives and fist pumps like confetti. When it was all over, people bought entire bottles of Champagne to do nothing more than spray the crowd. I can tell you with absolute certainty that tears of joy are especially sweet when they’re mixed with Champagne.
The walk home that night was almost as overwhelming as the win itself. Strangers didn’t high-five, they hugged. People danced atop fire trucks to the tune of cars happily honking their horns. “Woo Girls" 1 were having a heyday. The entire scene was dazed and delirious and, except for one ill-placed police car, quite nondestructive. It was pure happiness, pure magic, pure Cleveland.
And that was all before 1.3 million of us came out for the parade.
Coincidentally, the city of Cleveland chose to host its first championship parade in 52 years on my 32nd birthday, but I didn’t mind sharing. And shout out to the generous stranger who heard it was my birthday and bought me a “BYE AYEHSA!” pin from a vendor on the street. I’ll treasure it always.
My friends and I had staked out our spot for the parade a good six-and-a-half hours before we saw a single Cavs player go by. It was a long day of standing around and doing very little, but who can complain about drinking beer in the sun with their friends while waiting for a chance to wave at a shirtless J.R. Smith? Strategically posted up on the Winking Lizard patio outside of the Galleria, we had easy access to food, drinks, and (most importantly) bathrooms, all day long.
The photos from that day will always astound me. The memories of strangers helping each other get a better view, of little kids on dads’ tired shoulders, of bus shelters and portable toilets collapsing under the weight of equal parts eagerness and bravery, will never leave me. The decision to end the day at the Indians game is one I'll never regret, although my blistered feet and aching back may have disagreed.
It's a funny feeling, isn't it? When you realize you're in the midst of a moment you'll tell you grandchildren about someday. And, when I think about that magical Sunday and the days since, I believe it’s a unique combination of pride and elation and excitement that’s been ruining my mascara time and time again. And the knowledge that we did the impossible. We were all in it. Together.
Happy Thursday, friends. Go make the most of it.
1 You all know at least one.