I love Cleveland. How can you hate the underdog? Cleveland has been Underdog City since the ’60s, and her sports teams have followed suit. The narrative on the south shores of Lake Erie is that living in Cleveland (and being a Cleveland sports fan) instills a certain brand of strength and passion. It’s become a cliche because there’s truth to it. You don’t have a choice but to grind through the kind of heartbreak this city has seen. We’ve got 52 years worth of it. 18,785 days. At some point curses are broken. At some point the underdog wins.
From the day LeBron came back to Cleveland, we knew it wouldn’t happen overnight. It didn’t in Miami. We knew we could make the Finals in year one, but the championship would probably have to wait until Year Two, after the team had time to gel and take off. Here we are.
I was in Cleveland for the Finals last year. I could’ve easily crowd-surfed down East 4th Street from Euclid Avenue to Quicken Loans Arena. I’ve been a Clevelander since 2004 and I’ve never seen the city like that. I’ve been a sports fan my entire life and I’ve never felt an environment like that. The city was alive, but I didn’t feel it like I do now. I don’t know what it is, but after the Cavaliers were eliminated in Game 6, I wrote this:
A familiar trope in these parts is “waiting for next year”. Like it or not, it’s been the unofficial slogan of Cleveland for the past 144 seasons. And so we’ll wait. One day it’ll happen, right? That day is coming. We got ’em next year.
This is it. Welcome to Next Year.
This one’s for Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Move, and The Decision. This one’s for the 2007 Cavaliers, Indians, and Browns who ignited our imaginations but paled in the face of destiny. This one’s for all of my Cleveland sports heroes who never got the ring they deserved. For Ronnie Belliard, Coco Crisp, and Travis Hafner. For Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson. For Boobie Gibson, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Anderson Varejao. For the Browns legends who have always carried Cleveland’s black cloud over their legacy. For Craig Ehlo, Earnest Byner, and Bernie Kosar.
Let’s do this. For broken curses. For underdogs. For Cleveland.