Often in our lives we wish we could turn back time and see the world like a child again. So much hope, so much belief, unspoiled by failure, supported by family. Although this is not the reality for some children, it is the idealized life we dream for ourselves. It is a place where we can go when times are hard and the world seems to be collapsing around us. If we could just believe like that child again, we would see our reality in a different way … a better way.
Sports is such a small part of life but can have a big impact on each of us. It can support self-belief or self-doubt. It can color our day with candy sprinkles or darken it like Raven’s feathers. Do we understand why sports can do this for many? Not really. Is it true? Yes! Does it make our lives better? Some cities sports fans would say yes. Cleveland sports fans would say a qualified “yes?” with trepidation. For those rooting for teams in other cities, they would have a tough time believing that a “yes” was even possible in Cleveland. For us, we always believe “next time” will be THE time.
As I stood in awkward sadness watching the Cavs let Golden State get to every loose ball and nearly every stray offensive rebound, I looked around at my now adult children standing beside me. My daughter in tears, my son ever defiant, and my son-in-law uncomfortably stunned. I had thought I was a good father after spending a small fortune taking them to that Finals game. Now, I wasn’t so sure. My confidence in my being a “good father” was being taken away by a sports team. Odd. Nonsensical really. But happening. I wondered if all the times we had spent watching and following Cleveland teams … ALL Cleveland teams … was a smart idea. I had thought I was so wise introducing them to sports as young children, something I loved and had played in and followed with my family since childhood. It would give us a family centered activity we could always enjoy together.
My wife, ever the trooper, has been with us every step of the way and supported our journey. On this day she was watching the grandchildren at our home, hoping and praying with the rest of us that the “real” Cavs would show up like two days earlier. They did not. And, for a small bundle of time, we went down the black hole with them. We argued in the car about listening to the post-game, a tradition I have had driving home for 40 years. My daughter didn’t want the anger and openly questioned why she cared so much for Cleveland sports if this was the result. My son-in-law buried in his shirt not wanting to see or hear anything. My son just mad. Honestly, I couldn’t blame them. How could I have made such a mistake for their lives?!! Sanity eventually prevailed and we are trying to look at the better side of everything again. But that dark time still makes me wonder ………… ??
I wish I could say that my experience was vastly different than other Cleveland sports fans but I can’t. I wonder how many other families, if even for an instant, were torn asunder by the Cavs failure that night. I suspect a number higher than I wish to imagine. If we could just look at this NBA finals like my 13 and 15 year old children did in 1997. They just couldn’t understand why Dad was crying on the bed after that devastating 7th game defeat by the Tribe. The Indians were an awesome team!! They would come back and win a championship next year. It would happen!! They knew it. So there was no reason to be sad and cry! Why can’t you see that Dad? Well now, many years later, we are all doubting our emotional investment in Cleveland sports. And I am doubting exposing my kids to this mess.
You see, our family gained a tiny bit of notoriety in 1996. A year after that spectacular Tribe team went to the World Series and lost. They went down 2-0 in a best of 5 ALDS series with Baltimore. We made a sign and a slogan. Three In a Row and ON WE GO!! It got into the paper and we were mentioned in an article about it. At that time and with that team, Cleveland fans honestly believed it was reasonable and could happen. It was a rallying cry. If you tried doing that now and with this Cavs team, as great as they are, it would be an object of derision and appear laughable. How weak have we become? How hard have we all fallen?
As I said many weeks ago and long before this year’s playoffs started, it takes true belief to have a chance to win. When I wrote that article, neither the team nor the fans believed. Since that time the team gelled and LeBron seemed to believe like the rest of us that this team was special. Three of the four games in this series, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not looked very special. And I can see the belief being drained from the team and their coach. So again maybe it won’t be THIS year. WFNY may win again! Trust me, when my blog ClevelandWins prevails, we will all be much happier!!!
So I have some advice to myself and all of the Cleveland fans out there:
1) Don’t believe you ruined your children’s lives by fostering their love of Cleveland sports
2) Keep rooting for all Cleveland teams but avoid dropping down the black hole when a team fails
3) Understand that when Cleveland wins a championship, it will probably be when we least expect it and with a team that just doesn’t seem good enough
4) There is not now and never has been a “curse” on Cleveland sports
5) Cleveland professional sports teams do not play “for” the fans, they play for themselves, fans are separate, don’t mix this up
6) ESPN is not worth watching 99.9% of the time
7) The NBA is not fixed, it just appears that way
8) This Cleveland Cavs team down 3-1 now fits my definition in #3, so stranger things have happened
GO CAVS!!!!!! And keep believing fans ……….. Our time will come.