As the Cavs ended the 52-year Cleveland Curse, my dad wept
This is how much it means to Ohioans
Before last night, the city of Cleveland hadn’t won a sports championship since 1964. That year, the Cleveland Browns football team won an NFL championship in Cleveland Stadium, making it the last time the city brought home a trophy and the beginning of what ESPN dubbed the Cleveland Curse.
When you type, “Cleveland sports” into a search engine, “heartbreak” is among the first five terms it suggests. The city’s well-documented sports famine – the Cavaliers, Browns and Indians have gone a combined 144 seasons without winning a championship – and the nicknamed near-misses like “The Drive,” “The Shot” and “The Fumble” are the subject of regular news segments and sports films. Rarely is Cleveland ever mentioned as anything but a punchline.
People in Cleveland haven’t been this happy since…wait, this is the first time they’re happy.
— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) June 20, 2016
Nevertheless, citizens of the city which was once referred to as a “factory of sadness” have always somehow managed to maintain their pride.
For twenty-two of those years in the desert, sports have been the thing that separated my father and I. Looking retrospectively at my childhood, a Cleveland sporting event was a ubiquitous third-party in our relationship. When I was just a toddler, easily bribed with stadium sweets and deep-fried promises, my father would swaddle me in scarves and tote me into Cleveland’s coliseum like an adorable accessory. He grew up in a small town outside of Cleveland and has lived in hitting distance ever since.
When he chaperoned my seventh grade dance, it came as no surprise when I stepped out to go to the restroom and found him with his nosed pressed to a gargantuan flatscreen he had stolen from the school’s computer lab. The Cavaliers were playing that night, and every last seventh grade boy at St. Patrick’s of Heatherdowns school wanted to be my father’s son.
I am the daughter of a man that proposed to my mother during half-time of a Cleveland Browns game, and until last night I could not rationalize his devotion. Every season, I shake the pom poms. I wear the t-shirt. And I sympathetically pat my father’s back each time Cleveland loses. Last night should have been no different.
“We made it to Game 7 and it’s father’s day, this is a good omen,” he announced as every member of my immediate family took their seats and assumed position. We were all poised for disappointment. But not him.
By the third period, he left his seat and began to pace. At the start of the fourth, he pretended not to wipe his brow. When the final minute had arrived, he was right where he had been for the last fifty years: with his nose pressed to the screen. And for the first time in my life, I was right beside him.
At the sound of the final buzzer, Lebron James, my father, and every Cleveland devotee in the nation wept for a spell that had been broken at last.
18,000 fans inside Cleveland’s Quick’N Loans arena, some of them strangers when Sunday night began, shared a moment many of them have spent decades dreaming of. And in downtown Cleveland, thousands of fans packed themselves into the streets for a party that could very well last for days. A few climbed aboard a fire truck and a bus and up trees and light poles.
Three shots of Patron, two bottles of wine, and several cases of beer later, I Facetimed a friend that was there in the thick of it all.
“Wish you were here,” she slurred as a man in the background did pull-ups on a traffic light.
Although I am likely to have missed the only opportunity for me to celebrate a championship win in Cleveland with my friends, I needn’t have been been any other place than beside my dad. Crying. On father’s day. Both of us thoroughly drunk on the events of the night.
“Worth the wait?” I ask him, fourth shot of Fireball in hand.
“Worth the wait,” he sniffs. “Until next year.”