Admittedly, I was not #Allin216. Not after the Golden State Warriors’ 104-89 drubbing in Game 1. Not after a similar trouncing in Game 2. Honestly, not even when the Cleveland Cavaliers found their mojo with a 30-point victory in Game 3.
At 46, I just couldn’t muster the #Believeland spirit. The residual scar tissue was too thick. I had cried on the stairs as an 11-year-old for Red Right 88, broke my hand out of frustration during the 2001 Cleveland Indians American League Division Series loss and sat numb in The Q as the San Antonio Spurs celebrated an NBA championship in 2007.
During these Finals, I cheered, I swore, I hashtagged. But I couldn’t fully give myself over to it — even on the eve of Game 7. I tried to brace myself with Mark Winegardner’s words from our November Cavs fan guide: “Don’t think about how it all might go wrong, because we all already know that, all too well.”
So I went to The Q. I needed to be there, if ... “if” was the best my superstitiously tormented, fan-twisted brain could muster. Anything more would jinx it.
During our last championship Game 7 in the 1997 World Series, I was the news editor at The Morning Journal in Lorain. My son had just been born and my wife was still in the hospital. But I went to work, because this was going to be history.
In the ninth inning, Page 1 was tacked up, ready to go: pitcher Jose Mesa pointed to the sky with “Finally!” splashed across the top. When it all came apart, I took the page down, rolled it up and put it away with the city’s championship dreams. It’s been like a ghost in my attic ever since.
That baby boy, now 18, has been raised on Cleveland sports. But we rarely watch games together like my father and I did. The Cleveland Browns have been so awful during his lifetime that he roots for the New York Giants — and I can’t blame him. When LeBron James left for Miami, he tossed his No. 23 jerseys in the garbage, but I took them out. What if? I told him.
He went to The Q with friends for Game 7. This was going to be history.
When James embraced Kevin Love at the buzzer, the arena shook in a thunderous, jubilant release. “Cleveland, this is for you!” he told reporter Doris Burke.
But even then I’m not sure I believed it.
Then as the arena was emptying and the streets were filling, I got a text: “Happy
Father’s Day .” And I knew it was real.