Monday, June 20, 2016

The Curse Reversed, the Kingdom Restored


In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected to become the 44th president of the United States of America, I had the honor of living in Washington, D.C., of being friends with a bunch of politically minded, liberal Jews. We watched the election results together, biting our nails & cracking jokes to ease the tension, hold signs that said "YES, WE CAN"... in Hebrew. And when the results came in, we cried & hugged & laughed & cried some more, & then I walked the mile & a half home from Dupont Circle to Cleveland Park, high-fiving stranger & whooping at honking cars as they passed. It was the most joyful experience of my entire life...

...until now.

Last night, I watched Game 7 of the NBA Finals from Hoopples, a dive bar on the edge of The Flats, with more than a dozen friends. The place was packed - completely out of seats, & they quickly ran out of all the good beer (& by the end, even the bad beer). In the first quarter, they closed the kitchen because the staff was too overwhelmed to keep up. The glorious thing about Hoopples is that it displays the games in the Clevelandiest way possible - by projecting them on the side of a derelict bridge. That means that every seat in the house is a good one!


We bit our proverbial nails through every minute of that game, yelling & cheering & panicking & hoping. And when it came down to those final minutes - nay, those final seconds - there was that same old fear this city knows so well, the fear that the game would, in the end, conclude the same way every Cleveland sports game has for, like, ever. It was more than a fear: It was, in some ways, an expectation.

But they say you can't spell "miracle" without C-L-E, & we haven't been calling this place "Believeland" for nothing. We didn't expect to win, but we still hoped we would. We still believed we could.

And so there it was. The win. The fucking win, the win this city has awaited for 52 years.

You've never seen a place go crazy like we saw Cleveland go crazy last night. There at Hoopples, where we watched history in the making, there was screaming & crying & laughing & hugging & more crying. We came together in a huddle, a pile, a mass, & I almost blacked out because I realized I was so excited that I wasn't even breathing. We watched grown men cry. We watched everyone cry.


And then we took to downtown to see what a city full of happy chaos looks like. As we walked across the bridge into The Flats, the cars that passed us honked & we whooped in response. People hung out of their car windows & sat on top of their sunroofs as they made their way out of the city. We high-fived or hugged nearly every single person we passed. As when we turned the corner into downtown, we were stunned by the thousands - I am telling you, thousands - of people who were, just like us, meandering around the city, aimless, in sheer joy. I have never touched so many damn strangers in my life - old people, little kids, black people, white people, men, women, the whole of Cleveland all in one place, celebrating together.

Finally we gathered under the LeBron sign, the huge banner that adorns the side of a building at the entrance to downtown. Above it, there was a new addition: the word "champions," alight, with the Cavs C glowing in the night. Down the street, Terminal Tower blazed red & gold. Across the city, the state, the country, social media lit up, too, with pride & shock & pure elation.

Mike & I walked the two miles home & fell asleep, incredulous & thrilled. We woke up this morning knowing it wasn't a dream. And like the rest of this city, we went through today bulletproof in our joy, hanging onto the kind of happiness you can only find from a city that's never, ever known a win like this.

When asked why this championship win was different than his other two, LeBron James, who wept openly on the court in the wake of the win, said plainly, "I'm home." Well, so am I, & I have never been prouder to call myself a Clevelander than I was last night. After all those other moves & all those other cities, I am finally home. Cleveland is forever.

Two won six, y'all. They did it. We did it. Cleveland rocks.

 
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