"In a place like Cleveland, hope comes in small morsels." Alex Kotlowitz, Writer.
There's a reason why, on Tuesday, I was standing in the middle of a sports bar clasping my hands in prayer while watching as the Cleveland Cavaliers let Game 4 slip away.
Though I stood several hundred miles away watching the game from a New York City restaurant, I knew exactly how my fellow Clevelanders felt, as we all witnessed what seemed to be hope dwindling away in the remaining seconds of over time.
Being born and/or raised in northeast Ohio means a few things; blue collar working class background, gray days, and living and dying with every single Cleveland sports team from the Browns, to the Indians, to the Cavs. It also means being resilient and holding strong to our pride in the face of Chicago Bulls and Pittsburg Steeler fanatics, and even uninspiring sports writers.
Ever since I was a young girl growing up during the quintessential "Jordan Era" I've been a die-hard Cavs fan. I used to send birthday cards to my hero, Mark Price, every year - and when I wasn't attending the games or stalking my favorite players, I'd typically be watching my boys on television alongside my father. Some of the best moments of my life.
It's more than just a game to us.
To be a Cleveland sports fan is to know what intimacy means. By definition, intimacy is a unique closeness and familiarity with another thing. It's also an enduring love, despite the pain, to which we usually associate deeply felt emotions and long-standing memories. It may sound silly to others, but until you know what's it's like to come from a city most notoriously taunted and heckled for just being what, and where, it is (yes, I'm talking to you, Charles "I'ma Professional Hater" Barkley), then it's difficult to grasp why winning a championship is so important to the city itself and to its citizens.
It's about hope.
And in Cleveland with the unemployment rate at 8.8%, with 1 and 13 homes vacant as a result of foreclosure, property selling for $5000 a pop, jobs being outsourced, and General Motors (one of the largest employers in Ohio) going bankrupt, it's no wonder why even the smallest amounts of hope in the form of a winning NBA franchise ultimately means so much - abundance even.
Perhaps it's naive and foolish to admit, but I believe that if the Cavs can bring home an NBA championship for the first time in history then Cleveland's economy and its culture can be resuscitated. Tourism will likely increase, possibly opening up more small business opportunities for the locals. City leaders, with the right prioritizing, might actually work together and budget to build better community centers, parks, and invest in local entrepreneurship. Maybe then, we can remedy some of the rampant crime and poverty. Even find ways to reinvest in and rebuild abandoned homes.
Perhaps it's a pipe dream to 1) believe that the Cavs can pull out a series victory over Orlando only to face the Western conference champs for another grueling series, and 2) believe that a championship team can single-handedly save a city from its perils.
A pipe dream, perhaps, but a dream nonetheless. A dream that many in Cleveland are quite familiar with, frustrated by, and even exhausted over because we've all been hanging on to it for so many
But since the rest of the country could care less about the city of Cleveland, (presumably because they have their own issues to deal with state-by-state, and city-by-city), it's up to Clevelanders to do what we've always done, continue to work hard and believe in brighter days beyond our gray skies.
For Cavs fans, bringing home a championship is more than just winning a game; it's reclaiming a legacy tarnished by others. It's living for that moment when the nay-sayers react to our win with a "betch you're happy now that Cleveland's back on the map."
To which we Clevelanders will respond,
"We never fell off."
Note to all the haters, only Clevelanders can poke fun at Cleveland, or "The Land." Ya'll better recognize . . .
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