Cavaliers

As Good As It Will Ever Be

Have you ever wondered what exists in the space after the hero saves the day and the screen fades to black? When he and his trusty steed shrink to but a tiny speck against a setting sun and finally disappear? In Cleveland, it turns out, the hero is heading to his driveway to eat a Cinnabon and drink some rosé while filming himself try to rap along with his stereo.

Cleveland currently resides somewhere over the rainbow, where blue birds sing, championship banners fly, and dreams really do come true. It’s a strange and foreign place for most fans, who weathered years1 of losing seasons washing over them like waves crashing on the shores of Lake Erie. The Cavaliers, riding the prime of maybe the best basketball player of all time, have been to two straight NBA Finals and are on their way to a third after winning it all last year. When we had time to finally come up and breathe from the Cavaliers’ title run, the Indians were in the midst of a 14-game win streak. The Tribe rode that momentum all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. Already sporting one of the most exciting players in baseball in Francisco Lindor, they also signed one of the most coveted sluggers on the market in Edwin Encarnacion. The Browns were in position to draft a generational talent at defensive-end as well as a treasure trove of other picks that were widely applauded. If you believe the scarlet and gray of the Ohio State Buckeyes bleeds two hours north to Cleveland, they have also enjoyed the best four-year stretch in their football program’s history, losing only six games.

As LeBron James said when raising the championship banner, “At this point, if you’re not from here, live here, play here, dedicate yourself to Cleveland, then it makes no sense for you to live at this point.” And no one would argue Cleveland fans failed to live it up.

But the continued success has left Cleveland fans in a bit of a strange place. For so long it was about winning a championship. ANY championship. When your entire sports life is dedicated to just getting that one ring, can you still ride the highs and sink to the lows that come with sports fandom? It’s difficult not to let some apathy creep in. Sure, it would be nice for the Cavs to win again, and they certainly have a chance, but if not, it’s fine. Yeah, we’d like to see the Tribe win the World Series, but it’s May and they’ve been pretty mediocre so far. The Browns added some talent, but I’ve fallen for this before, I want to see it on the field.

Stop.

This is likely the greatest era of Cleveland sports of your lifetime. Your closet has a 2016 NBA Champions shirt next to an ALCS Champion shirt. And both of those teams could easily repeat that level of success. The Browns are adding an elite defensive talent and tantalizing quarterback prospect. This city should be living and breathing these Cavs playoff games. We should be huddled around the water cooler every morning talking about Francisco Lindor’s latest feat. When you tuck your kid in at night, the bedtime stories should be about a swarming Browns defense.

This is what we live for. It’ll likely never be this fun again.

And we don’t have to look far back to understand just how fleeting these windows can be. It was 10 years ago that LeBron Superman’d the Cavs to the NBA Finals, the Tribe watched Fausto Carmona turn into a star on their way to the ALCS, and the Browns shot to 10 wins on the rocket arm of Derek Anderson. The following year the Celtics found the Cavs’ kryptonite, Fausto turned into Roberto, and Derek Anderson came back to Earth. When you’re at the peak, it’s easy to see it going on forever. But one championship does not a lifetime of sports misery erase. These moments are fleeting, and we of all people should realize that.
So go nuts. Obsess over the day-to-day. Scream until your throat is sore and shed tears when your team does something truly amazing. This is as good as it’ll ever be, and finally winning last year doesn’t mean we’re so spoiled as to not enjoy what is happening now. There’ll be more 26-game losing streaks, 1-15 seasons, and press conferences where the team’s heart and soul is crying over news he’s been traded.

The sequel may never be as good as the original, but is certainly better than anything we had seen for a long time, or may see again.

  1. generations []

  • JNeids

    I’ll fully admit that the Cavs title changed me, but I’m ok with it. It has allowed me to enjoy life without the worry that this year might NOT be the year. In other words, I won’t be NEARLY as upset if the Cavs don’t REPEAT than I would have if we were still searching for title #1. I still follow as closely as ever, but if I can’t watch a game and instead can only follow along online because I am spending time with my kids, oh well.
    Don’t get me wrong, Nom is correct here – this is (probably) as good as it will ever be. I’m just enjoying it differently than I would have had the Cavs not won it all last year.
    P.S. If you’re gonna bring the Buckeyes into this, why no love for Stipe or the Monsters?

  • Last year’s success has definitely reduced the amount of pressure I’m putting on LeBron and Co. this time around, and reduced my overall anxiety as a sports fan. It has also ratcheted up the pressure I’m putting on the Tribe to break through themselves because we now KNOW it can be done–that a Cleveland team CAN win it all. In our lifetimes. I don’t feel like waiting another 20 years for the stars to align just so–let’s end this miserable World Series drought this time around. As for the Browns…whatever. I’ll continue to root for them because it’s what we do. But I have zero confidence in them ever getting it together enough to make it to a Super Bowl, let alone win one.

  • Indeed, had the Cavs not won, I would STILL be wounded from the World Series. It’s just like my Philly-fan husband said after the Phillies won in ’08 (after a 30 year city drought) .. once your city finally wins, you can just shrug off losses with a “Eh, we got the 2008 Phils”. It’s so true!
    (not to say the WS loss didn’t burn… it just didn’t flat out sideline me)

  • mgbode

    I’m still wounded. Starting pitching in 2017 is not helping either.

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