If you're a longtime or even a short time reader of Banners, you know that most of the clan that brings you this site hails from Cleveland. I am 33 years old, Joel and Bryan are slightly younger. In our combined 93 years as brothers cheering for Cleveland sports teams, we've never seen a winner. I saw The Drive live as it happened, I can remember The Fumble vividly because of the brief moment I thought Byner was through untouched. I cried in 1997 when Tony Fernandez couldn't make the play and Charles Nagy couldn't make the pitch. I watched my NFL team leave town, and then watched the savior that followed them follow suit.
Tonight, finally, that changed. Our 99 year old grandmother put on her headphones, cranked the volume and, convinced it mattered, fervently played solitaire as she watched the game slowly build to its denouement. Somewhere in southern Ohio our dad and mom watched while two more brothers hung close. Being a home full Cleveland fan has probably destroyed some families, but the comfort of kin in the face of searing loss has undoubtedly brought more together. Shared suffering is the quintessentially Cleveland way to bond. As the game ticked down, Draymond Green (gross) put the Warriors up four with five minutes to play and it seemed like the same wretched movie was playing over again.
This time was different though. LeBron James got fouled and made all three free throws, then he jarred a three pointer. Taunted by his foe, the King, was about to put the cap on a three game tour de force unequaled in NBA Finals history. A definitive display in why you don't wake the sleeping dragon. All up and down East 4th St, the crowd was on the verge of insanity. Golden State tied it and then never scored again. LeBron was everywhere. The hometown kid raced the length of the floor and pounded Andre Iguodala's layup off the glass. At that point in time, it seemed possible. 1:50 later, it was. But that's almost not the point here.
I can't even begin to describe the feeling after that. For once, my team was the one streaming onto the court. More importantly, the city that I so dearly love is finally a winner. The Cleveland jokes get old, the "why would you want to live/work/travel/exist near there?" questions become wearying. Maybe it takes a special kind of person to love this place. Maybe there's something in the people of NE Ohio that makes a hard and cold city on an unforgiving lake feel like the warm blanket of home. There's a pride that comes from having toiled in this town, a recognition that this place so unique in Ohio for its almost East Coast arrogance took you in as its own. The 216 leaves its particular brand on its inhabitants, and they love it all the more for it.
It's possible none of this can be explained. This could just be a borderline incoherent outpouring after the longest city wide drought in sports finally ended. All I know is this: I've stood in Cudell and Edgewater and watched the sunrise illuminate the Terminal Tower. I've driven Lakeshore out to the east side and watched that same sun dip back down into the lake and cast the whole city in an amber glow. Cleveland will always be a large part of who I am and tonight, finally, there is no one laughing. Down 3-1 with the anointed kings all but celebrating already, Cleveland stormed back. Nothing is given, everything is earned. The city on the lake is home to a champion.