2016: The Year of the 216
Time has flown by for Cleveland sports fans in these last four months. The Cavaliers made a historic comeback from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the 73-win Golden State Warriors in seven games in last year's NBA Finals. It was the first major pro sports championship for Cleveland since Jim Brown and the Browns won it all in 1964. LeBron James came back home and delivered on his promise. All the anguish, pain, frustration of The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot and even The Decision was washed away when the final buzzer sounded. I'll forget Sunday June 19, 2016 as long as I live. My brother, his girlfriend, a family friend and myself were all watching Game 7 in my apartment. As the game stayed close in the 4th Quarter, I was pacing back and forth throughout the apartment because I just knew Cleveland was on the cusp of doing something special, and I didn't want it to (quoting the words of the legendary poet and fellow Clevelander Langston Hughes) "dry up like a raisin in the sun" like it had for so many other Cleveland teams in year's past.
When LeBron made the now-classic chasedown block over 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, we all jumped up with excitement. My heart was racing like never before in the final minutes as the game stayed tied 89 apiece. Then LeBron passed the ball on Kyrie, he dribbled and locked in on the unanimous MVP Steph Curry. He wore him down, pulled up and hit the biggest three-pointer in Cavs history to put the Cavs up for good. After the final buzzer sounded, I was elated, we were all screaming and I was jumping up and down. I hugged everybody in the house, it was four of us but it sounded like 20 people was in the apartment. Cleveland finally got over that hump and had itself a champion. But, the moment was also bittersweet as I had to attend the funerals of two of my close aunts the day before. I also thought about my late mother, who was a big Cleveland sports fan, wasn't around to witness this moment.
I posted a little singsong I posted on Facebook after Game 7, "Clear the way, y'all! Clear the way, ya'll! The Land is back on top! There ain't no Fumble, Drive or Shot." I had been saving that ever since I was aware of the Cleveland sports drought. My best friend and I rode around Cleveland in his car, and finally stopped in Ohio City. As we walked up the street, strangers were high-fiving us, hugging me and celebrating. People were jumping on top of cars, street signs, cars and buses were honking their horns as they drove past. Even people were running up to cop cars and high-fiving the cops. It turned into one unofficial block party in The Land.
Three days later, a championship parade was in Cleveland. My family friend and I caught the RTA Rapid all the way Downtown. The Rapid was packed from the beginning of the car to the end. Everyone was dressed in all kinds of Cavs gear. It was so packed that the Rapid had to be drive up at its final destination on Van Aken, and driven to Tower City in Downtown Cleveland with no stops. When we walked through the streets of Downtown Cleveland, there was a whole new vibe in the city. A certain swag in the people's walk that they hadn't had previously. A bunch of smiles that replaced years of frowns. The sense of pride that was once lost was founded again.
We ended up in Mall B and saw the parade on a big screen. It felt surreal seeing all the Cavs fans packing the Mall. We cheered as we watch the final minutes of Game 7 all over again as if we were watching it for the first time. After hearing and seeing other cities celebrate their titles for years, I finally had a chance to attend a parade in my city. 1.3 million fans flooded the streets of Downtown Cleveland, one of the largest championship parades in history. The streets were filled with Cleveland residents, Cleveland ex-pats and just pure LeBron fans. i took it all in and enjoyed every moment of it. A month later, the 2016 Republican National Convention rolled into town to (unfortunately) nominate Donald Trump the party's nominee for President of the United States. Delegates who shared an scathing view of the city coming in left Cleveland with a whole new perspective. Now, the momentum keeps on rolling for Cleveland.
Fast forward to late October, the Cleveland Indians are in the 2016 World Series for the first time since 1997. They will try to end a 68-year championship drought against the Chicago Cubs, who haven't won it since 1908. Cleveland will also attempt to be one of the few cities to win championships in the same year (1988 Lakers and Dodgers, 2002 Lakers and Angels, 2004 Patriots and Red Sox and 2009 Steelers and Penguins). It's amazing how the Tribe has made it to this point despite missing two of their best starting pitchers in Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, All-Star Michael Brantley and catcher Yan Gomes being injured most of the season. Manager Terry "Tito" Francona has done a masterful job in these playoffs. This would be his greatest accomplishment as a manager when the Tribe captures the title.
The Indians have been huge underdogs throughout the postseason. The Tribe were suppose to be props against the Boston Red Sox for Big Papi's farewell tour. They were suppose to shutdown by Toronto's starting pitching and scorched by their hot bats. Now, it seems like the Indians are going up against the Golden State Warriors of the MLB in the Chicago Cubs. They are the nation's darling, a lot of people (die-hard fans and bandwagon jumpers) are rooting hard for them. But, this Indians has gotten used to being the underdog during their playoff run. So, why should one more series matter? But, I think all the national pundits are in for a rude awaking in this series.
2016 has been great year for Cleveland sports, you can't say 2016 without 216. This is a year that myself and many Cleveland fans would had never dreamed about. The Cavs and Indians playoff runs are stories that Hollywood movies are made of. Both teams overcoming insurmountable odds to win against mighty opponents. For the perfect Hollywood for Cleveland in 2016 would for the Tribe's run to end in October like the Cavs' run ended in June: with a World Series championship.