A Child’s Belief .. A City’s Hope .. A Team’s Destiny

A child's hope

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.

Tragic Loss of Kevin Love Will Galvanize #Cavs Going Forward

Let’s get one thing out of the way at the beginning of this post, the injury to Kevin Love was a senseless act of a desperate player who couldn’t control his emotions in the moment. His team had just completed a game where he only played 3 minutes. He was trying to establish his position by blasting into Love’s back under the boards and was completely blocked by Kevin Love from getting the ball. Love turned to get the ball and Olynyk immediately grabbed at Love’s shoulder, locking it up, grabbed his forearm with the other hand, dropped down and turned away from the ball trying to drag Love with him away from a ball he knew he had no chance to get. This was almost a picture perfect MMA or self-defense move where a person can incapacitate an attacker and drag them to the ground even if the attacker is bigger and stronger. The person has to follow you because they know their shoulder is about to dislocate if they don’t. In the heat of the moment, Love’s momentum going the other way wouldn’t allow him to turn in time to avoid the inevitable. Within an instant, Kevin Love’s shoulder had sustained major damage and his season was ended. Olynyk, hearing Love scream in agony, immediately released the arm in a typical NBA acting move to show the officials he had done nothing wrong.

Kevin Love getting arm ripped outIf you doubt that this was not just a simple “lock up” of shoulders as so confidently and defiantly defined by Charles Barkley, take a close look at this Cleveland.com picture of the incident. Look at the grabbing of the forearm by the second arm and the look on Olynyk’s face and the look on Love’s face. And by that time neither man was looking at the ball, with Olynyk completely turned away from the ball. When you lock up you are still trying to get the ball, not drag another player’s helpless and dangerously exposed arm with your two arms.

I happen to be an experienced injury physician who has taken care of hundreds of athletes and injured people through the years. I am an expert in looking at how an injury occurs and why it occurs. I would not be so presumptuous to know that Olynyk was trying to dislocate Love’s shoulder. That would certainly give Olynyk too much credit anyway. What I do know is that this was a deliberate act of aggression in the heat of the battle that was not in any way a basketball play. Look at Olynyk’s face! He was mad he wasn’t going to get the ball and was going to show Love who was boss by dragging his arm. I doubt he even gave any thought as to what terrible harm he could do at that instant when he pulled and dropped his body away from Love. Notice carefully how much lower Olynyk’s body is than Love’s. It is that fast violent downward drop while turning away (that took less than a second) that ripped Love’s shoulder out of the socket in the most vicious way. In this case, because of all the force generated by Olynyk and the bodies in motion, major damage to the joint was done when it was dislocated.

My final piece of evidence is Kevin Love himself. How often have you EVER heard a player after they get hurt call out their opponent for a cheap play??? Virtually never. They virtually never say the opponent did it on purpose. But Love said exactly that after the incident. The victim usually knows when he has been attacked vs when an accident just occurred. In over 25 years as a sports medicine physician, I have never heard that said by an athlete after they are injured.

So for those national commentators and ex-players and the NBA league to say Cleveland fans are overreacting and this was just an unfortunate incident, I say we know better!! It is expected that this will be covered up and that the Cavs management and players cannot say anything further. They made their case to the league and the league said “We will slap him on the wrist for one game. Now be quiet.”  And Charles Barkley had the nerve to say that was “unfair” to Olynyk. And now the Cavs know the league could care less what they say and they just need to move on and keep quiet. Not being affiliated with the league in any way, I am under no such obligation.

Based on specific comments by key individuals including David Griffin and LeBron James and others, it is clear that they know the stark truth as well. They have no doubt that what I have outlined here is the truth. Kevin Love certainly knows the truth. Kyrie Irving knows the truth. The entire Cavs organization knows the truth and the only thing they can say and not get fined is that it was “not a basketball play”. That’s fine. They can move on from here and the fans must move on from here.

Sure, we can boo Olynyk for as long as he plays the game and comes to Cleveland but that’s about it. He would never be “killed” as he so loosely states but he will find it unpleasant. Cleveland fans are passionate and have long memories.

What is much more important to do is focus on the playoffs going forward and try to root for our team to win a championship. What is more important for the organization, players and coaches to do is focus on the task at hand and take care of business. Crying over losing Kevin Love to a senseless act is silly and self-defeating. But I see no reason why it can’t be used as a rallying cry and to help Galvanize the team. That is why my featured picture with the post is the new shirt made at GV Art and Design. I think finding things to bind us closer together now is more important than bemoaning the loss.

Do it for the love of the Cavs. Do it for the love of the city. Do It For Love. I personally think the playoff crowds will be more intense. The players will be even more focused. David Griffin says now that we are the hunters instead of the hunted. That is kind of true. Now we aren’t the odds on favorite to win it all this year. Vegas has changed odds to give the Warriors the gambling edge to win.

It won’t be easy. Players will have to step up. The coaches will have to step up. The team will have to play even harder. We still have the best and most experienced playoff player in LeBron, a star who rises to the challenge in Kyrie, and a ton of other good players who have contributed much to our season or contributed little but will need to contribute now.

Make no mistake, there is NO REPLACING Kevin Love. As LeBron said, “He is special for a reason”. However, we have the team to overcome this and still accomplish a goal not achieved in Cleveland since 1964. To abandon that goal because of some bad luck is defeatist and doesn’t fit Cleveland’s toughness. We can do this !!! When all were doubting them, I told you this team was still special. I am telling you now that they are still special and it will be a monumental task for ANY team to defeat the Cavs 4 times in 7 games! Until that happens, Cleveland hasn’t lost a thing.

Happy Holidays From Cleveland Wins !!

Snoopy Thanksgiving

We just want to thank all of our blog viewers for a record 2014 thus far. We are slowly gaining traction as a site to look for about Cleveland Sports. That is all because of you.

From the editors and authors of Cleveland Wins, we wish you, your family and friends a blessed Holiday Season. Enjoy the food, family, friendship and sports! We will be there with you.

Things To Be Thankful For About Cleveland Sports Now

While you enjoy your turkey (or whatever tradition you have), here are a few thoughts on what I am thankful for this year as a Cleveland Sports Fanatic.

1.  Lebron Coming Home

Obviously the story of the summer, LeBron coming back to the Cavs makes them relevant again. He also lifts the region in so many ways that are well documented and don’t need to be spoken of here. Watching our team and expecting them to win again is something definitely to be thankful for.

  1. A Browns coach that gets us

Since Mike Pettine took over as the head coach of the Browns he has begun to change the culture of our football team. He has the team at 7-4 and no one will ever know how much difference the press conference after the first Steeler game made. Instead of praising a moral victory he clearly stated that losing was not acceptable. This set the tone for the Brown’s season. The team has had ups and downs but is “in the hunt” for the first time in a long time.

3.  Terry Francona

Terry since he has been the Indians manager has pushed the talent that he has been given and has gotten more out of them than any other manager could. He has done it with class, humility and humor. If the players on our team can step up and perform at their career average levels the team has tremendous potential.

  1. Ping Pong balls

Cleveland fans should petition to make ping pong the state sport after the plastic orbs fell correctly to give the Cavs the #1 pick this summer. Obviously the Cavs parlayed that into Kevin Love, who as he finds his way with his new team, will become a key cog for the Cavaliers championship machine.

  1. The National Media’s Love Affair with Johnny Manziel

Cleveland fans should be thankful for several reasons. It gave the Browns some preseason love in a disappointing Indians summer (except every 5th day when CY Kluber pitched.) He made Brian Hoyer come in more prepared (even though it didn’t look like it in the preseason.) Also, he has made #BrownsTwitter much more interesting during Browns games when Hoyer has struggled. We all wait to see what he will do on the field, but he sure has spiced up all Cleveland Browns discussions.

  1. Corey Kluber

The Cy Young award winner was fun to watch all summer and made every 5th day of the baseball season must see television. We were able to have fun with his lack of outward emotion and his stoic facial expressions. Who would ever forget the sunflower seed shower? If I make this a yearly post I should be able to write this one in until 2018.

7. Kyrie Irving Learning How to Play

It kind of started when he became the MVP of the NBA All Star Game and has become much clearer as this summer evolved. His play on the USA team began to unlock his full potential defensively and allow him to more effectively pick his spots on offense. It seems that has carried over to this season. Good for us!!!!! He is only 22!

8.  Michael Brantley

He was an inspiration this year to all Indian fans as he took on the challenge of simply being the best player on the field for the Tribe. As he drove toward a near AL MVP season, he remained calm and cool under pressure. Very rare for a young player who had just signed a huge contract extension.

9.  Kevin Love

Although not showing how dominant he can be quite yet, it was refreshing to see another NBA star coming to Cleveland. He gave no indication that he intended to leave after this year and he gives the Cavs one third of a nucleus that may be unmatched.

10. David Griffin

No one gives him any credit for putting the Cavaliers together because LeBron came home. And, to a degree, that is true. But in the early hours of free agency, he was able to ink Kyrie to a long term contract that set the tone for the entire off-season.  His ability to persuade Shawn Marion to take far less to play for Cleveland also cannot be minimized. Yes, LeBron had a strong hand in all of this but Griffin and Blatt had plotted the course long before LeBron actually signed.

This is my top 10, but I am sure you have your own. Feel free to leave your comments on what you are thankful for in Cleveland Sports.

Nov 23 Cavalier Scribbles – Cavs Have Some Work To Do

Before I go further, please remember the basis for the Cleveland Wins Blog, this is ALL commentary and not reporting. I leave the reporting to the other web sites and the regular media. But the commentary is based on over 40 years of close observation and deadly focused fan support of all the Cleveland professional sports teams. I put my observations up against anyone, including the better known media and web sites with younger commentators that have not been through the wars that I have seen. Yes, that includes seeing the 1964 Browns Championship game as a child on TV. And, yes, I remember it well.

And I was also regularly at the Richfield Coliseum to see playoff games with mentally tough teams that were undermanned because of injury. Make no mistake about it, the Cavaliers with Russell and Carr and Smith and Snyder were mentally as tough as they come. And the fans responded. The Cavaliers with Daugherty and Price and Nance and others were also crazy tough but they could never get Price to the playoffs without highly restricting injuries in his legs and Jim Chones injury sank the other generations in the playoffs. So there are many reasons why great teams do not win championships. Some of it based on coaching, some based on personnel, some based on injuries, and some based on lack of mental toughness.

That brings us to the current Cavalier team. A team I am 100% convinced has tons of talent and a great head coach. They have one key injury to a player with truckloads of mental toughness and marginal talent. So I don’t think injuries are an excuse at this point. It is now becoming clear that the lack of mental toughness is the defining characteristic of this enigmatic team that has yet to gel. The players are now acknowledging it and the coach is getting there, but I think does not want to throw the team under the bus on that count. It is a wise move by Blatt. To call his team out on floor balance and sharing the ball and sloppiness with passing and defensive trust is far more palatable than saying they are not tough mentally. Luckily the players are saying it so that does help going forward.

Lets cut through the crap that is the Cleveland Cavalier’s public persona. From LeBron on down they have said that this will be a “process”. That this will take time. That this is going to look bad before it looks good. Everyone has said it. Outwardly they have believed it. But inside, where it really counts, they never believed it. And, to be honest, neither did we.

The funny thing about all of this is that the players who mouthed what they inside did not “feel” and the fans who have said it while they inside said “70 wins” were both right with their public pronouncements! They were wrong with what they actually felt inside and believed in their core.

The problem comes when the inner self believes something and it quickly becomes clear that it is not true, self doubt quickly comes into play. That is true of the team and the fans. So those who are having trouble dealing with 5-7 and some really hideous losses can take comfort in the fact that it is only natural. As it is for the team to begin to question and falter under the pressure of their own egos and outside expectations.

LeBron has explained this over and over but despite his public education campaign had secretly hoped it would not be the same this time. He was hoping because he had learned that it would be different. And the addition of Kevin Love, despite it being a brilliant short term basketball move, caused all of the inner beliefs to be out of sync with the outward statements. If that trade wasn’t made, the inner self would have matched the outward statements (that it would take time, that it was a process) and the Cavs might have had less soul searching to do this early in the season.

Don’t misinterpret that statement!! I would have made the Love trade in a heartbeat once I knew his “heart” was to try and stay beyond this year and build a championship team. That seemed to be his honest feelings coming in and I am convinced they are genuine. Now it is up to the team to adapt to make all of that initial “love” become a reality.

If you look at this Cavs team with an open mind, you will see that it is remarkably similar to the Cavs teams of the last four years. They have talent and, when they exert maximal effort, they are really tough to handle. When they get challenged, they wilt and resort to terrible bad habits that result in scoreless runs of immense proportions and the opponent rolls over them. Even in my more realistic views of this team, I never thought the same Cavalier huge scoreless runs would manifest with this team. They are just too talented.  Well, I was wrong. The influence of the old team and rookie presence seemed to have rubbed off on LeBron and the veterans. The opposite should have been true but it has not been.

So, as was suggested by @lullonsports and my daughter (sorry Joe you were not the only one), we may need to make some rather drastic changes in the starting lineup and rotation to alter the mental chemistry. I think Mike Miller is very limited now in his play. He needs help on defense and isn’t getting into the flow of the offense. But, in my view, he will be a critical part of any success this team might have. And he played 82 games last year so I know he has it in him. I think he is better as a starter than as a bench player. He would get more help on D and be more into the flow of the offense. Having Miller in the corner to pop those 3s over Shawn Marion just makes sense.

Maybe Andy needs to go back to the bench and play with the second team. He has become a safety blanket with LeBron and almost all pick and rolls are with him. The problem is that he almost has to roll and LeBron is trying to make pocket passes that are ill advised. If LeBron and Kyrie were forced to run pick and roll with Love, he could roll or pop. That would add a dimension to the offense that we currently don’t have. Plus, it would add energy and more skill to the second team. Dion could take advantage of Andy’s skill set on pick and rolls.

For now, Marion needs to go back to backing up LeBron. There is less of a drop off in defense and he has the skills to be more engaged in the offense. He is kind of out of place as a shooting guard on the first team.

Joe Harris, as much as I love him, is still a rookie and a second round draft pick to boot. He needs to get his minutes now that Delli is out but maybe not quite as extensive as they have been. He is one that is prone to rookie mistakes and missed shots at the most inopportune time. His time will come. I love him as a player. Maybe not quite yet in crunch time.

TT needs to move back to the first team. His offensive skills are much more limited than Andy’s. That makes the bench much more prone to long stretches of no points. However, because of his athleticism and generally smart play (he doesn’t throw as many idiotic passes), he fits well with the offensively gifted group of Kyrie, Miller, LeBron, and Love.

So I would start those 5 and consider adding James Jones to the rotation. Put Dion at the point, Harris at the 2, Jones at the 3, Marion at the 4, and Andy at the 5. Now, of course, I would never put all of those 5 on the court together unless they proved they could ball as a group. My feeling is that some combination of Love, Kyrie and LeBron need to be on the court at all times. Not sure how to rotate all of that, but I think they could play 10 deep and get away with it.

This is just a brainstorming group of ideas but I think that the team will increase it’s mental toughness if they have 3 veterans with winning experience in at all times. Keep the “old Cavs” to a minimum in each rotation. I include Kyrie in the veteran winning group because of how he has played this year and his experience with Team USA that was like playoff experience. Of all the players this year (and that INCLUDES LeBron), Kyrie has played with the most consistent intensity, wilted the least, and never forgotten the defensive side of the ball. I have been super impressed with his advancement over last year.

In summary, keep the faith Cavs fans!! They are mentally weak right now but, once they recognize that (which is already starting – see LeBron’s and Dion’s comments), they will start to grind their way out of it. They need some success and hopefully this home stand will bring some of that. They need to see that, if they play the right way, wins in bunches will follow. Then the “old Cavs” will rise up to become an integral part of the New Cavs. Enjoy the ride. As bumpy as it seems the road is going to smooth out eventually. Do you have the mental toughness to stick with it?? I say yes… :-)..