I waited all day for this and I got it: The Cavs defeated the Raptors in Game Six tonight, pushing them into the NBA Finals for the second-consecutive year. Last year, they lost the finals in six to a ridiculously overpowering Golden State Warriors team, the core of which came back this year to set an NBA record with 73 regular season wins.
As much credit as I want to give the Warriors for last year, I can’t see them as the perfect champs other people do. Kevin Love went down in the Boston series and Kyrie Irving went out in the first game of the finals. Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert played heavy minutes, while Timofey Mozgov was playing on one good leg. Still, the Cavs were still up 2-1 and within a whisker of a 3-0 start. However, it was another year without a championship for the Mistake by the Lake.
1964 and counting.
Tonight, the Cavs were up about 18 with 4 minutes to go and my dad kept pressing me, “Look, it’s over. Switch to the Brewers game.” I couldn’t. If you spent your whole life loving the teams of Cleveland, you know it’s never over until it’s over and even then you expect to get screwed.
The Drive. The Fumble. Red Right 88.
The Shot. The Shot II. Le-Gone.
Jose Mesa’s blown save. David Justice’s solo homer. Up 3-1 in 2007 against Boston.
What I have learned about loving Cleveland sports teams is that you never, ever get a break. You can make it to the precipice, but you never make it over. You’re basically Moses: You get a peek at the promised land, but you die before you can enter it.
It’s hard to say what’s worse, though: The years of “almost, but not quite” or the decades of futility in between.
The new Browns.
The Shawn Kemp/Mike Fratello era of 80-point games.
The Indians of my youth.
It’s like they keep you frustrated to the point of abdication, only to rise from the ashes, fly toward the sun and then watch the wings melt off. The crash is so painful. Always.
And yet, we endure.
I was born 10 years after the last Cleveland championship. My hometown teams (Bucks and Brewers) never won a title in my lifetime. My only respite has been the Packers, but everyone here claims them as their own.
Once. Just once. Please God. Give me a championship where I can call it mine.
Let MY team win. Let MY team have the moment that lives on the other side of heartbreak.
As Joan Hodges once said, “I prayed (during the last game of the 1955 world series), ‘Please, the Yankees have won it so many times. It means nothing to them. Please, just this once…'”
And yet, I’m a Cleveland fan. I know “next time” is our home and our vestige. I have visions of LeBron blowing out a knee in Game 1 or some ridiculous play costing us a Game 7. Living the life I have with the teams I love, I expect the next horrible nicknamed play that will break my heart again.
I’ll be holding my breath tomorrow, hoping that the OKC Thunder will dethrone the champs, thus giving Cleveland the home-court advantage for the finals and eliminating a scary-good team. And then June 2, my hopeful prayers will begin again.
Please, God. Just this once…