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So this is how it feels

When I was little, my dad would sit in his blue recliner and watch nearly every game the Cavs played. To be fair, he watched most Tribe games as well as all Browns games. I learned this pattern quickly and without any words being said, I became a never-say-die fan.

We were Cleveland people, long-suffering and stout, tucked away in the verdant northeast corner of Ohio. Even though we lived 75 miles south of Cleveland, a phrase Iíve oft repeated to anyone wondering where in the world Berlin is located, we were just inside that invisible line that led people to stray and sometimes root for Pittsburgh.

We were included in the Cleveland weather reports, our rectangle of a county nestled snugly against Wayne County, clinging to all things Cleveland. Anyone outside our corner of the world felt sorry for us, languishing away our lives rooting for teams that took us to the brink just before heartache every year.

I learned how to lose graciously, a burning lump in my chest and throat so big that tears never quite dissolved it. I walked around with it in the off seasons, always telling myself that next year was going to be the big one.

You see if anything, we are a loyal bunch. Tragically loyal.

Iíll be the first to admit I donít watch every Cavs game, but I know exactly what theyíre up to. Just like I know what the Indians are accomplishing. The Browns are on my agenda for every Sunday starting in September and ending with a delicious sigh by my husband at the end of December when the wind blows cold on our hearts. I warm myself by the fire and rejuvenate until next season rolls around. Itís always a long winter.

But that taste, the tickle of a championship never swallowed, an exquisite wine not tasted, hasnít left me. It was ingrained in me to know that one day but maybe never in my lifetime would I know the sweet feeling of bringing a trophy home to rest gently in the arms of the city of Ohio. With each loss, near miss and heartbreaking game that thread of hope continued to be sewed into the fabric of our Northeast Ohio lives, especially mine.

When Lebron left for Miami, I was upset. Yet I knew it was his choice to make, like a child who leaves home and wants to explore the world, a taste for things on the outside. I never hated him. How could you hate your own child? When a community of sports like ours loses a homegrown son, we grieve, and when one comes back, we stretch our arms out to the prodigal son and enfold him close, so close, and breathe in the scent of his return.

As the playoffs began to unfold this year and we won series after series, I could sense a rematch against a Golden State team that was cocky and wanted back-to-back championship wins. Steph Curry and company, full of that sweet taste of victory that coats oneís throat, left them feeling invincible. When we went down three games to one, a staggering mountain to climb up, I felt that sick lump rise from my stomach to throat, threatening to choke me. I wanted to be done and wash my hands of the series, receiving defeat, that too close neighbor, like Iíve done every year of my life. I wanted summer to begin so I could quickly forget another season lost, but that little spark, that part of being a Cleveland fan, just wouldnít die. I found myself parked in front of the TV with my hand to my heart, and I watched the grittiest rise to the very pinnacle that I have ever seen.

I watched the Cavs, along with all of you, grind out the toughest and most glorious finish I have ever seen in my life. Every single second wrought with emotion and victory by narrow and seemingly unreachable margins. That Sunday night, a game seven having been attained after coming back from certain death, was played out before me in a fashion I havenít seen in the NBA in years. It was stellar, and our living room was filled with the screeching of an up and down seesaw, my head thrown back in agony as well as the ecstasy of such a beautifully crafted game.

It was a ride I couldnít bear to be on; yet, I couldnít step off. When Kyrie hit the trey to put us up by three with less than a minute to play, I leapt from the couch and couldnít sit down. When Lebron was fouled in the key, went down hard and got back up again to swish 1/2 free throws, a sweet trickle, unbeknownst to me ever before, slid down my throat. I could taste it, and the tears, unbidden, flowed down my cheeks. I watched Lebron on the floor, crying tears of joy and pain. I cried like a baby. I cried for Cleveland. I cried for my dad, and I cried for all the times we were so close and couldnít finish. I cried for all the times Iíve received looks when I say Iím a Cleveland fan and for the way I could never give up being one.

Lebron was asked after the game why this game meant more to him than the wins in Miami. He simply said this, ďIím home.Ē Sweet victory was ours that night, held tight and shared freely with those that know what it means to not win. As our collective breaths let out across Northeast Ohio with a mighty whoosh, we breathed in the scent of champions and let it settle gently to us, this strange, sweet scent filling our nostrils. Dad would have been so happy.

Published: June 28, 2016
New Article ID: 2016706289988