The Cleveland Cavaliers have forced a Game 7 in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Nobody can deny that the Warriors have dominated the NBA for the past couple of years because numbers don’t lie. Last year, the Cavs faced the Warriors in the Finals and were beaten in six games. Two amazing victories and four heartbreaking losses.
And here we are again.
As it stands right now, it’s 3-3. No team has ever been up 3-1 in the Finals and lost it, so the Cavs are poised to make history in more ways than one. You see, Cleveland hasn’t won a championship in any major sport since 1964.
That’s 11 years before I was born. [this is the 3rd time I have edited this because I have forgotten simple arithmetic]
I was born and raised in Ravenna, Ohio. It’s a sleepy, small town about 45 minutes southeast of Cleveland. Most of the people there support the Cleveland sports teams, and I have never known a professional sports championship from any of “my” teams. In fact, it’s often very much the reverse.
There is “the Drive.” There is “the Fumble.” There is “the Shot.” And then there is whatever it was that fucked the Indians in their World Series bids over the years (I’m actually a Mets fan and have been since 1986, so apologies to my Cleveland peeps for not being with them 100%).
So what do we do now, being 48 minutes away from the end? Do we dare hope that maybe, just maybe LeBron James and his team will do what feels literally impossible and bring a championship home to Cleveland? What does Cleveland even DO if that happens? So much of the city’s identity is built on despair. We’re afraid to hope for the best because we know, at a cellular level, that it will never, ever happen.
But it might!
We have hope. We have faith. Cleveland sports fans are the very definition of faith. An agnostic myself, I’m skeptical of anything I can’t really find evidence for. Sure, there might be a God out there somewhere, but I’m not really buying it. Same with Cleveland sports. There might be a championship out there, but we are none of us convinced. Still, we hope. We show up. We buy tickets and t-shirts and those foam fingers and stale popcorn and we show up. We yell, we scream, we boo, we cheer, we laugh and we cry. We believe. We have faith. It’s tenuous, it’s shaky, but it’s there. We. Believe.
Faith means showing up even when you are convinced the outcome is not in your favor. Faith is Charlie Brown giving Lucy the football because maybe this time, MAYBE THIS TIME, she won’t be a total cunt about it and he will finally get to kick it. Faith is hope.
I honestly don’t care that much either way about NBA basketball. But I understand symbolism and what this would mean to a place that I call home (despite having lived in the wilds of suburban New Jersey for over 17 years). Ohio is shaped like a heart, and that’s where mine is.
So we go into tomorrow, Father’s Day, with hope. It’s the kind of hope that you almost have to deny. It makes your skin hurt, with the apprehension and the heady mix of joy and anticipated pain that we’re all going to feel when Cleveland takes the court in enemy territory. Golden State might have the skill, but I guarantee you that nobody, and I mean NO GODDAMNED BODY in the history of the entire world, ever, wants a victory more than those Cleveland Cavaliers do. Sometimes, wanting it hard enough can make it happen.
I will likely spend tomorrow feeling like I want to jump out of my skin. I probably won’t watch the game, because when I do, Basketball Rachel comes out and she scares children. I’m not into praying, but I might try that. What I probably will end up doing, is the same thing I always do on Sunday nights: I’ll be sat on the sofa, reading a book and checking scores on my phone while What’s-His-Name watches something completely devoid of any cultural relevancy. Whatever happens tomorrow night is up to LeBron James and his teammates. I can’t think too hard about it.
I can only hope.