Maybe next year…
Those thoughts inevitably start popping up in your mind as a Cleveland sports fan with under 4 minutes to go in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals all tied at 89. It’s just the way we think (or maybe it’s just me).
Hey, we’re just happy to have defied the odds to get to a Game 7. We at least aren’t laughingstocks, we played hard. But…wait a minute, we have a chance to win this thing! … No, it’s just another cruel $1 bill on a fishing line trick…no…we actually have a shot here! Still, something is going to go wrong.
Here’s the perfect set up for another rip out your heart moment in Cleveland history. You just know that at any point here Steph Curry is just going to drain a 3 to extinguish your feeble attempts at happiness. … But, wait, everyone is missing their 3s… OK, surely Iguodala is going to crush your dreams with a breakaway lay-up. But, oh my God, did this just happen?!
OH MY F’ING GOD, THE GAME IS TIED STILL AT 89 AND THERE’S A MINUTE LEFT. CAN WE REALLY DO THIS?!
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And just like that…it was over. LeBron James hits a super clutch 2nd free throw to push it to 4 (after missing what would have been the most epic dunk of all-time; small aside: holy hell would that have been amazing) and it’s over.
52 years of ghosts just vanish. 52 years of misery…gone. My personal 25+ years of rooting for Cleveland teams finally yields the absolute…absolutely greatest Cinderella story I could have ever dreamt up.
A team down 3-1, against what most stat nerds would say is the #1 or #2 best team of all-time, could somehow win 3 in a row against a team (with 2 games on their home floor) that hasn’t lost 3 in 2 years, and has only lost 2 in a row all season. Oh yeah, a team that had, prior to game 3, just won 7 games in a row against you. Cleveland only has to win 4 out of the next 5 to win a championship. You like those odds? I don’t. …But, it happened.
I’ve been on the other end of a 3-1 loss (’07 Indians). I’ve been on the other end of a 2-0 loss (’99 Indians). I’ve been on the other end of a game 7 loss (’97 Indians). I know how it feels to blow a huge series lead, and those feelings of despair never go away. Especially ’97…oh man…especially ’97…
But, this changes everything. I always wondered what it would feel like to witness Cleveland win a championship. It’s not exactly what I expected, although deep down, I knew this is how I’d feel. The feeling?
Peace. Relief. Finality.
Sure, there was exuberance and excitement, especially with how it ended, but the major takeaway for me? I’m content. I can be happy now. Everything else from here on is just fun.
The despair and depression is gone. That may sound incredibly stupid, but this was one of the last remaining major “bucket list” items that I needed to happen before I die. And it did. I don’t know why we as humans value things like sports this much, but oh man, when you get the payoff, it was so worth it. I will cherish this experience for the rest of my life. I will remember Father’s Day as the greatest day ever. I will tell my future child(ren) about this and we can watch videos of Game 7.
My personality has changed and I like it. I have always been a deeply cynical glass-half empty kind of guy. It’s nice being to bask in the light for awhile. I just hope it lasts!
But don’t think I don’t realize how if a few things go down differently, this isn’t a story of triumph, but another “The” in the history of Cleveland sports. But it didn’t. It didn’t. I don’t have to play the what if game. Finally, finally, finally, things broke Cleveland’s way. I have been daydreaming of this ending for the last few weeks…my version had Kyrie hitting a 3 to win it at the buzzer while down 2 in Game 7 (no joke, I saw no one else hitting a jumper to win the game; he’s out best clutch shooter by a mile; he’s done it many times), but I’ll take a Kyrie 3 to win the game tied at 89 any time.
Congratulations to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a wonderful season. It was sometimes hell. It was sometimes frustrating. It was a lot of the time very, very fun. This was a great team when they played their best. They broke playoff records. They started 10-0. They pulled off something that has never been done before by winning 3 in a row and coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals (now 1-33 lifetime).
I watched almost every game. I put my wife through hell. She’s not the fan I am, but my wife was there with me in my balled heap of tears of joy at the end, after she had uttered, “I think I’m going to puke”, just before Kyrie hit the most wonderful dagger in the history of Cleveland sports. That’s a flashbulb moment, and it’s something I’ll forever cherish. That’s why we watch sports. That’s the payoff. I can only hope that everyone gets to experience something like that before they die. I am truly blessed. Go Cavs! CLEVELAND ROCKS!!