Closing a Chapter

[Ezra Shaw — Getty Images]

[Ezra Shaw — Getty Images]

Growing up in Cleveland, there’s a phrase you’d sometimes hear: “Just one before I die.” It was kind of a running joke in the city for years because it read like a fairly simple request but felt to us like an unattainable dream.

Through May 2014, I had serious doubts that I’d ever see my city win a title. The Cavs were toiling, the Indians were desperately struggling to escape small-market purgatory for more than a year at a time, and the Browns were a perennial Hindenberg.

On July 11, 2014, everything changed. Cleveland’s prodigal son came home. For the first time in my life, I caught myself thinking that — over the course of the next few years — the city had championship odds at greater than 50 percent. The center of the American sports world had shifted to the shores of Lake Erie and our day of reckoning had come. We’d get our turn.

The road to the mountaintop was winding, but I was right.

LeBron James brought a championship to Cleveland, Ohio. I got to watch it with my own two eyes. I got to cry, scream, and gallop through the flooded streets of Believeland. It was every ounce as good as I had dreamed it would be. I saw grown men — the ones that endured many more of the 52 years of tortured fandom than I had — weeping in the crowd and my only reaction was, “Yeah, I get that.”

Today he left. I won’t pretend to understand the basketball reasons behind joining a middling team in the absurdly-crowded field of the Western Conference. However, if you’d asked me nine months ago, or six months ago, or three months ago, I would’ve told you this day was coming. I’ve had time to make my peace.

And you know what? It wasn’t that difficult.

I think it’s easy to forget how things felt four years ago. There’s only one thing that truly matters as a sports fan, and Cleveland had more than five decades of heart-wrenching evidence that it would take a miracle to reach that peak. The miracles came though, and so I’m alright with closing this chapter. It was a really, really good one.

At least for me, “Just one before I die” was more than a t-shirt slogan. It was an honest mission statement — one that I’ll stick to.

I got to watch one of the greatest athletes of all time wear CLEVELAND across his chest for 11 years. That was awesome. Whether this is a “goodbye” or a “see you again,” thanks for the memories, LeBron. Today was worth it and then some.