Cavaliers

One Year Later: The Flag Still Flies

On June 19 2016, the identify of Cleveland’s professional sports fans changed forever. With a Block, a Shot, and a Stop for the ages, the Cavaliers closed the book on 52 years of suffering and ushered in a new Era of Champions. On such an auspicious occasion, I cannot help but remember the unique circumstances under which I enjoyed the greatest Game 7 in history.

Living on the West coast in 2016 offered both benefits (hello 5:00pm PST tipoff) and drawbacks (hello thousands of bandwagon Warriors fans). One year ago, I flew from Seattle to Los Angeles for business. Despite booking the ticket a month in advance I deliberately chose an early departure in case the series went seven games.1 That morning, I researched the only Cleveland-sports bar in all of Los Angeles – St. Felix at Cahuenga and Selma. I parked a block away, and walked over to the watering hole. When I entered the first two jerseys I saw were of Eric Snow and Larry Hughes. Clearly this was the right place.

The bar served as a beacon for roughly 175 Cavaliers fans. They filled the bar stools, tables, back room (where I sat), and outdoor patio. Despite being so far from home I felt immediately at ease. Everyone appeared eager to meet a stranger comparing parishes and high schools. Most of them came out to LA chasing the Hollywood Dream, but many others were simply there briefly for work like me. The menu consisted of Great Lakes and pierogies. My people.

The crowd locked in the entire game. Every Draymond three pointer elicited a round of boos and cursing. Every Kyrie handle or LeBron dunk brought us to our feet. Maybe it was the crowd’s relative youth, but the mood remained confident throughout. No one spoke of Michael Jordan, John Elway, or Jose Mesa. It just didn’t seem relevant. By the fourth quarter, we were all standing.

When Iguodala began his fateful breakaway, we all groaned, fearing for the worse. The Block elevated us five feet off the ground. When Irving shook-and-baked Curry for three we were jumping, delirious and giddy. We rose from mild to concern to rapturous applause as Love bottled Steph like cologne. When LeBron fell after his would be dunk we all immediately assumed his wrist was broken, he would miss both free throws, Curry would hit a three to tie it, and we would lose in overtime. From what I hear that was a popular theory nationwide.

When the final Warriors three pointer bounced off the rim we all jumped together, a mass of sweaty, crying humanity. Champagne was produced and popped. We hugged strangers. Despite the 2,350 miles separating us from downtown we for a moment were the 216, 440, and 330 combined. Amid the din we were Little Italy, Coventry, and Ohio City. We were All In.

I stepped outside and called my parents. They were crying. I called my grandparents. They were crying. I called my fiance; she was at work but still excited. No one left for hours as we sang “We are the Champions” and “Cleveland Rocks” until hoarse. We were cursed no more, reveling on our liberation deep in Hollywood.

I mention this because while the 2017 Finals did not end as wonderfully as the previous year we will always have June 19, 2016. The day brought generations of Clevelanders together not only downtown but in cities across the country. For years we wanted for just one moment to stand alone atop the mountain. That flag will fly forever.

Where were you one year ago today?

  1. hat tip to WFNY’s own Jacob Rosen for the idea []

  • Eric G

    FYI, I don’t think a whole lot changed about Cleveland sports on a Tuesday in January 馃槈

  • MartyDaVille

    Terrific story, Corey! I really enjoyed it.

    As the seconds ticked down, I was on my knees in front of the TV. And when the clock struck zeroes, I was rolling around the family room floor in disbelief. Finally!

    And then the phone started ringing, and several happy, babbling conversations ensued. It was a completely unique feeling.

  • mgbode

    I don’t know what you are talking about 馃檪

    But, if I did, then I’d like to note that it wasn’t Corey’s fault whatsoever and there is an idiot person who made an edit and somehow screwed things up.

  • JM85

    Watched with my parents. My dad is a diehard fan and had to watch some awful teams growing up. I sat stunned for five minutes then we all celebrated like crazy.

  • chrisdottcomm

    Game 7 was Fathers Day, after wrapping up a get together at my parents house (where we left the kids to spend a night at Nana’s) the wife and I jumped in the car towards downtown.

    As we got closer to the city my wife wondered why I passed the exit and continued to the West side. It was then I had to reveal my plan hatched that morning of getting to Homage at Crocker Park to secure the Undertaker shirt worn by LeBron earlier. If this was going to be a funeral game, we were going all out.

    Friends had already landed in the city and due to the Tribe afternoon game / Game 7 crowd all hitting at about the same time there wasn’t a seat in a bar anywhere near 4th street. We headed over to an old haunt of ours the Nauti Mermaid and secured the bar in the backroom; this was 3 hours before tipoff.

    It was hot, my stomach hurt, my hands were shaky but the initial beers helped slow things down. 30 minutes prior to tip and now the once empty backroom there was now filled to capacity.

    Fast Forward to the 4th quarter and as the final 30 seconds were ticking away the shouts started “OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO DO IT”. Phones were out set to record the screen, record friends reactions, etc.

    The final shot clanked, and almost in unison with LeBron and Kevin embracing our group grabbed each other for that perfect moment. As the crowd flooded the streets we stayed back. We watched the trophy presentation and we drank our first shots as Champions.

    Walking the streets that night was surreal. Music, smiles, high fives, hugs, drinks, with what felt like 1,000,000 strangers is something that is hard to describe or replicate. Here’s to hoping we do it all again with the Tribe in a few months.

  • Harv

    “When LeBron fell after his would be dunk we all immediately assumed his wrist was broken, he would miss both free throws, Curry would hit a three to tie it, and we would lose in overtime.” Same. In that great recent video of LeBron, Draymond and others at “The Shop” someone asked him about the wrist injury and he … changed the subject.

    My thing was Shump on Curry’s last missed 3. Up four points with 12 seconds left you give him the 3, you just don’t put your hands near Curry and let him draw contact. But watch the video – there’s Shump with his moving hand 6″ away from Curry’s. Still pisses me off.

  • CBiscuit

    Shumpert is not the sharpest knife, and certainly not a smart defender. The number of careless or silly fouls he committed were beyond frustrating. His label as a good defender I think is solely limited to his springy athleticism, and that’s it. It sometimes makes up for his lack of good positioning or stance, but the mental aspect prevents him from being worthwhile as a reliable 3 & D guy.

  • Harv

    I think he was a good defender in 2015 (until injured in those playoffs). Could be wrong, but seemed distracted once he got his first big money, stopped moving his feet but continued to try and swipe for steals. So now he picks up lots of silly reaching fouls and lost the benefit of the doubt he was starting to earn with refs. He’s still lovable to fans here, and certainly played hard in the Finals, but not sure opponents view him as anything other than an energy bench guy without any sort of reliable shot.

  • JNeids

    As chris.com noted, it was Father’s Day. After playing softball in the morning, I spent the afternoon with my dad finishing the construction of a playset in my backyard. I had 5 tickets to the watch party at the Q, but for some reason that I will never comprehend, my dad wasn’t interested in going. I had a casual dinner with him and some other family members before heading downtown with my uncle-in-law, his girlfriend, my sister-in-law, and her boyfriend. Watched the game from the top row of the Q, enjoyed the celebration in the streets for a little, then went home and enjoyed a 120 Min IPA while scrolling Twitter. Only thing that would have made it better is if my pops had been down there with me.

  • Allen P

    Thanks for the good vibes, Corey (and all who shared in the comments). It’s great to read some apprecation of what we very recently were priviledged to witness. Thinking about that last minute and the immediate aftermath still gives me chills. Watching the cell phone video taken by my friend in the bar we were at (Becky’s Bar on E.22) still fogs the vision.

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