Musings of a Champion

(Greg Nelson/Getty Images)

There have been a good number of commenters and readers who have stepped into the primary role of writer for a guest appearance over the years. Continuing in this grand tradition is Frank Ryan who has been a longtime supporter of WFNY. Enjoy.

Every Cleveland sports fan has his own way of expressing his personal heartbreaking experiences of being a sports fan. We all have our own perspective of the Jose Mesa game, the Shot, Lebron James deserting us, and so on. The older you are the more gut-wrenching tales you have to tell. You start talking about the Drive and the Fumble, and your children’s eyes get wider and wider. It affected generations of native Clevelanders each in their own way. How we coped was not the same for each individual.

And yet, we all were in this together.

We had all gotten the smirks and mock sympathy from new coworkers when they discover you are a Cleveland diehard. We all got the same tiresome jokes from brothers- and sisters-in-law, about how many games the Browns have won in the last two decades. The ESPN articles bemoaning the fate of Cleveland came in like clockwork with national coverage of our beloved teams always carrying a tinge of mockery for a fanbase that refused to let go of perennial losers.

However, none of this ever shook our fandom. Turning on a radio station in Cleveland in mid-September, it was seen we still believe in an Indians run to end with the elusive pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. We still argued about who to draft at quarterback for our upcoming annual high pick in the NFL draft, and were drawing up game plans to beat Steph Curry. Waiting for Next Year is a brilliantly named website because it is the perfect description of the vast majority of our base. We waited with a genuine belief and eternal optimism. This will be the year. We could not be talked into giving up or moving on. We continued to live and die with every pitch, every shot, and every third and 12.

And then, June 19 2016 happened.

We became champions! Our team was the one that made the impossible comeback. Our players were the ones that made the plays down the stretch that counted. Our opponents were the culprits of crumbling in the biggest moments. I doubt I am the only one who walked around with a silly smile on his face for two months or rewatched the last 10 minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals a minimum of 300 times. For the first time in my life, I tasted the sweet fruits of investing in sports. The feeling was everything I hoped it would be. It made everything worth it.

It also shook my all encompassing addiction.

What years of losing and ineptitude could not accomplish was done in by a historic blocked shot and a rainbow three from the right wing. In that moment, something was taken from me. When the 2017 season began, I felt it right away. I did not have to watch every game and did not care about every loss. I had moved on and I didn’t know why.

I now know the answer. Spending a lifetime in pursuit of something and reaching that goal is the sweetest sense of satisfaction you will ever know. Nothing will ever replicate that feeling. How can you be invested in something when you realize that even if your guys are the one standing in victory it will not give you remotely what you have already tasted once? The exhilarating feeling that anything is possible and the world is there for you to be conquered will not repeat itself the second time around. I can no longer justify the investment and risk of pain and heartbreak when my goal is no longer attainable.

Make no mistake. I still earnestly hope, for the Larry, the Lombardi, and that beautiful World Series trophy to reside in the 2-1-6. It’s just that if they get derailed in their journey to where they belong, I won’t lie in bed replaying the last few minutes of that deciding game, while agonizing over what could have gone differently. I won’t blame myself for changing my place on the couch. I will be content, pull up that YouTube video of Game 7 in the Bay Area– again– and drift off to sleep with a smile on my face.

The culmination of a lifelong dream comes with a price. I miss the thrill of following every moment, and the suspense and drama that kept my mind off the real world. It is something I value but am no longer capable of maintaining. This is the price, I guess, of being a champion.