Thoughts on NBA FINALS ’16 and Why It Matters So Much

lebron scream game 2 '15

It’s finally here. The Finals. God help me.

In no more than 18 days, I will be sobbing on the floor like a giant baby. The only thing that’s not yet determined is the duration, the intensity, and whether it’s tears of sadness…or joy. This is guaranteed.

Why do I care this much? Let’s see if we can figure it out. … I blame my father…and the Indians of the ’90s. It’s pretty much that simple.

My family was born in Northeast Ohio. It is difficult not to be a fan of the Cavs, Browns, and Indians in this scenario. It’s just what you do. There’s not much else to do. My dad, in particular, was a very passionate and emotional guy when it came to sports, and a child does what children do, emulate their fathers. … I blame my father.

When you’re in the moment, you don’t see it. You can’t appreciate the decades of suffering because that does not mean anything to you when you’re a kid. Sure, you can hear tales from your dad about how his heart was ripped out in the ’80s by the Browns, but when you’re 10+ years old watching the juggernaut ’90s Indians teams, you’re hooked, and you don’t think the good times will ever end. You’re just excited watching the ’95 Indians smash records and getting to the World Series. You’re obsessed with Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez. You have so, soooo many baseball cards; so many carefully clipped newspaper articles about all the exploits of Tribe mania. It’s like you’re in a cult. ’97 breaks your heart, but you fully expect to be right back. The good times will keep rolling! … But it doesn’t happen. Twenty plus years later, it hasn’t happened. … I blame the Indians.

Then you start becoming aware of the misery. You just didn’t notice it before.

You’re never really invested in the Browns because you’ve never had anything to cheer for. All you know is how much you hate the Steelers. Then the team is gone. Your former coach, Belichick, wins several championships with the Patriots instead. You hate the Patriots… The Ravens, win two Super Bowls. You hate the Ravens… So many what ifs circle through your mind. Maybe next year. The Factory of Sadness keeps on going.

Misery, decades and decades of misery. The spark of hope is gone. There’s nothing to be excited for…

And just like that, a miracle happens. In 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA lottery and draft a local basketball prodigy, an Ohio native with the #1 pick: LeBron James. The savior of Cleveland, the breaker of curses. The Chosen One. The city and the most passionate fans in the world will finally have what they so desperately yearn for: a championship. … Except, it doesn’t happen. You hate the Magic. You hate the Celtics. LeBron leaves. Wins two championships, and the deep, painful ache continues…more what ifs, more sadness.

And…then, he comes back. Jubilation, conflicting feelings…but a chance at a championship that has eluded you your entire existence on this planet. You just want one. Just one. Just want to feel what it feels like to follow a champion. Just once. Not like those gluttonous, terrible, disgusting, bandwagon Yankees, Cowboys, Red Sox, Patriots, Steelers fans. JUST ONE. But ’15 happens, but…it doesn’t happen. It’s the 2nd closest we’ve ever got, doesn’t happen.

And…here we are. June 2nd, 2016. The latest and greatest chance at delivering a poor soul the chance at happiness it’s been yearning for its entire miserable life. The chance for millions of like-minded poor souls to experience a taste of what it must feel like to be a champion.

You don’t know why you continue to torture yourself. But you do. In some ways, you feel like it’s made you a stronger person. One who appreciates moments that should be appreciated, because joy is oh so fleeting. It helps to manage expectations and never allow yourself to get too excited. Lowered expectations is the key to living a satisfied life. That’s your motto. That’s, unfortunately, all you’ve been able to extract from years of disappointment watching the Cavs, Indians, and the Browns.

Knowing the significance of the small window of opportunity that has presented itself, you go all out. You buy NBA League Pass and watch, every, single, game. You’re obsessed. You’re that 12-year old again watching that magical ’97 Indians team! Except now…now there’s fear. There is no longer the naivete of a child, but the sad, hardened experiences of a man in his 30s. There doesn’t have to be the magical ending. The crushing heartache is just as likely, if not more likely, of a result.

The truly sad thing? You start to take it personally. Like you have something to do with it. Like you’re worthless. It’s completely absurd, but it seeps into your subconscious. You’re not good enough. You will never win at anything. There’s deep pain there…and it just won’t go away. You just feel the tension in your chest. It doesn’t go away. Why won’t it go away?!

So, it’s now ’16, and it’s one more shot. It’s the 5th shot in your lifetime, and the window is closing. The Cleveland Cavaliers. NBA Finals. Will it happen this time? Odds say no. The odds say you have only a 30% chance. You’re always the underdog. Always. Will this time be any different? … No, it won’t. It can’t. Because you’re destined to be miserable and cursed for life, and all you know are walls. Walls that pop up just when you have a chance: Jordan. Pedro. Jeter. Roethlisberger. Brady. Dwight. Elway. Chipper. Rentería. Curry…Curry.

Lowered expectations is the key to living a satisfied life. It makes the pain more bearable.

The only possible endings to this ’16 season are:

  • Cavs are swept (Cavs: ’07 Finals)
  • Cavs lose by collapsing in 7 (Indians: ’97 World Series)
  • Cavs have a shot but get injured (Cavs: ’15 Finals)

Why? You’ve seen it all happen before.

But, a small part of you still thinks it can happen. It can happen. This team is different! You’ll be wearing your Dellavedova jersey (and you’ll need to be careful; as it’s lucky powers are limited, but it’s 2-0 in the playoffs when you’ve worn it so far). This team feels different! JR Smith is playing like a man possessed on defense and you know he can turn into the Cavs version of Curry/Thompson at the flip of a switch. Kyrie Irving wants his revenge, and you know the man has enormous talent. You’ve seen Kevin Love have absolutely dominant games, even though you’re terrified he’ll shrink in the moment. Tristan Thompson gobbles up offensive rebounds. Channing Frye could seriously be breaking 3PT % playoff records (he is shooting 58%!!). You believe in your bench. Snipers. Delly! …and there’s LeBron. It can happen. It can happen…but can it? … Did it have to be against possibly the best team ever?! I’m all for challenges, but can Cleveland just win one first?!!

You just hope for, somehow, a 3-2 advantage going into Game 6, so you can buy a plane ticket to Cleveland and find a way to scalp a Finals ticket, and be there when the curse is finally broken and absolute euphoria is abundant. This year. A man can dream…

At least I’ll always have Game 2 of the ’15 NBA Finals.

OK. Look, I get it. Sports, and sports fans, in particular, are completely absurd and irrational, me included. Definitely me. What possible vested interest does a fan have, really? Nothing. Nothing. You’re meaningless. What did you do to contribute to the championship, if it should occur? Nothing. All an emotional sports fan is, is a gambler who’s bet on Black 33 thirty years in a row and come up empty-handed. You just feel like it’s your time…but it just never happens. It never happens. Why don’t you just stop caring!? I don’t know. Pride? Loyalty? The feeling that if you walk away now and a championship actually does happen at some point, you couldn’t face yourself? All of the above. It’s a terrible fate. … Don’t judge me. You’re probably not a Cleveland fan. You don’t know. You can never know!
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1 Response to Thoughts on NBA FINALS ’16 and Why It Matters So Much

  1. Matt says:

    Wow! What was the feeling like when they came back and won?

    I’m a Vikings fan and at this point just hoping they can play in a Super Bowl before I die (I’m 29 now).

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