Game 7 Bigger Than Just a Game
Bob Toth | On 19, Jun 2016
Rarely do I break character. You have come to the right place. You’re at an Indians blog, but today, I’m going to take a few moments to talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers because there are moments bigger than a game, a sport. I keep the emotions contained on this blog generally, preferring to stick to the stats, the moves, some speculation, but mainly those glances at the Cleveland Indians – their past, their present, and their future. That future seems to gain more and more focus for me every year, because we Clevelanders are always waiting until next year.
Today is different.
The city of Cleveland eagerly awaits its date with fate. A story 52 years in the making is just hours away.
I have tried like hell to keep myself busy. There is always plenty of work to be done in my two gigs and I don’t care to let my emotions get the best of me there or in life.
But today I’m jittery. Anxious. Excited. Unfocused. I can’t get rid of this heavy pit in my stomach. I’m trying to drown out the “what ifs” and just focus on the here and now.
Winner. Takes. All.
For some of you reading this, this is the first time you’ve seen Cleveland in a full-on elimination game that literally comes down to win it all or go home. You’re young. You know the history, you’ve watched Believeland, you’ve heard the pains of yesteryear through the stories of those old enough to experience the agony, and are reminded of your birthright through the previously prepared highlight reel of every moment that the collective Cleveland experience was crushed and tears may have streamed.
You’ll watch it again tonight. The national media will never let us forget our calling card.
For others, the pain of the city’s last winner-take-all game in 1997 was your first foray into what it is like to be a Clevelander. You might have been old enough for the Shot, the Drive, the Fumble, and all of those moments that we have relived painfully for three decades, but just once with one game standing between heartache and the most glorious parade the city could imagine. You still remember Mesa and Fernandez, Nagy in relief, Renteria scoring Counsell. This is my generation; I was a child watching the resurgence of my Tribe and thought for sure one of those teams in the 1990s, packed with superstars, would bring that trophy home.
It never happened.
Even fewer of you can recall that last glorious win in 1964, when the Browns were the champions of the city and the world, and Cleveland was proud. The emotions those select few of you experienced were likely not valued the same at the time, because who could have predicted 52 years later, the feeling would be unmatched, that the Browns’ reign as perennial winners was at its end and more than a half century of suffering would soon replace that jubilation after such an incredible start to the franchise in the All-American Football Conference and later, the National Football League.
We in Cleveland have endured. We have seen the city at its lowest and we have watched it grow and rebound, yet here we are, “losers”, residents of the city whose river once burned. We have had some highs in the last 30 years, but we have had far too many more lows. We have been the butt of more jokes than one group of fans should ever have to be subjected to.
The pain, as they say, has been very, very real.
It can end tonight. Sunday, June 19, 2016, could become a date forever etched into our collective memories.
I was asked on Saturday if I was disappointed that it wasn’t the Indians in this spot to end the curse, to drown out the noise, the jokes, and the mockery. I have always had my strongest pull to the Indians, but Cleveland is home. I’ve lived in northeast Ohio my whole life. I’ll never leave. I may write about the Tribe, but my heart still bleeds orange and brown and wine and gold just the same.
Our allegiances are put aside tonight. Whether you’re an Indians fan first, a Browns loyalist foremost, or are always all in for the Cavaliers, we are all Cleveland.
We are behind you, LeBron. Kyrie. Kevin and Lil’ Kev. RJ and his snap stories, his passionate letter to the city, and his ability to make the Cavs more than just basketball players in this city. JR, Shumpman, Dirty Delly, and Double T. Channing Frye’s culture changing efforts, Mo Gotti’s return, Mozzy, Dahntay, James, Sasha, Jordan, and Ty Lue, too.
Win it for Joe Tait. Win it for Price, Nance, Daugherty, Ehlo, and Hot Rod. Win it for Herb Score, Dick Jacobs, Nev Chandler, Gib Shanley, Pete Franklin, Casey Coleman, and all of the other legends of our town lost who witnessed all of the bad years, never giving up hope that one day, our time would come again.
They believed. We believe.
No more waiting for next year.
The time is now.
Defy the odds. Make history. Become legends.
Bring home the win tonight, Cavs. Bring this city the championship it deserves and the party 52 long years in the planning.
Photo: Mike Lawrie/Getty Images