My name is Megan, I am 34 years old, and I live in a city called Cleveland, Ohio. I have been born, raised and lived here my entire life. Today, June 20, was known and celebrated across the United States as the First Day of Summer. Here in Cleveland, Ohio, it is being known and celebrated as something different: History. Until yesterday, June 19, 2016, our city has been known for, and referred to, as many things. Unfortunately most of those things were not pleasant. People constantly referred to our city as “the mistake on the Lake” or an Analog City in a Digital world. Sure, like every place, there have been some things that have occurred here that were not great.
The sixties were an especially bad decade for our city. In 1966 their were the Hough Riots, which were a spontaneous outbreak of race-related violence characterized by vandalism, looting, arson, and sporadic gunfire lasting 6 days that garnished negative international attention. In 1969 the Cuyahoga River, which runs through our city, was so polluted from industrial wastes by the steel mills that it actually caught fire. Then there were the late 1980s and 1990s when the steel industry tanked, along with most of our economy. Then as our city began rebounding, our other backbones of our economy, the auto and construction industries started tanking around 2005. Yes, every time things start looking good for our city, the bottom falls out.
The bottom line is, we are a very “blue collar” working class town, meaning that many of the inhabitants worked in the trades, or steel industry. The past 20- 30 years have not been kind to either area financially. Like many “working class” people, Clevelanders have always tried to live vicariously through their sports teams. In fact, Clevelanders are RABIDLY loyal and avid sports fans. Now before you quit reading, stay with me here, as I’m not necessarily a sports nut either. Focusing on sports helped many of the population to briefly “forget” their “real life” problems. The city has boasts major league baseball, football and basketball teams, as well as many minor-league baseball, hockey, indoor soccer and indoor football teams. We are definitely a sports town.
Unfortunately our sports history is about the same as our economic history. Whenever things start looking up, the bottom falls out. The last championship the city of Cleveland ever had was in 1964 when the Cleveland Browns (American) Football team won the Superbowl. It has been FIFTY TWO YEARS since the city of Cleveland has won a Major League championship. OH we have come SO CLOSE. In fact we came SO close and to SO many championships and lost SO many times, that we even started naming the championship deaths.
The Drive. The Fumble. In the 1980’s our beloved Cleveland Browns also known as the “Cardiac Kids” (for coming back from way behind late in the moment of the last quarter of every game) led by Bernie Kosar ALMOST made it to the Super Bowl championship. Twice. These were all names of ways that the Cleveland Browns managed to lose championship games in the last minute of the game, that would have led us to the Super Bowl. The Move. Because the city couldn’t afford to build a new stadium, in 1995 the owner of the Cleveland Browns moved the team to Baltimore Maryland instead. I remember crying myself to sleep as a young girl the night that as announced.
The Cleveland Indians baseball team made it all the way to the World Series in 1995 and 1997. In 1997, the team made it all the way to Game 7 (of 7) only to lose in “sudden death” in the 11th inning (11 out of 9 innings)
Then in the 2000’s it looked like the Cleveland Cavaliers would break the streak with our “home grown Akron boy” LeBron James. Then came The Decision. In 2010 LeBron James decided to move to Miami to pursue his championship dreams there. After he won his title in Miami, Lebron that Cleveland needed a championship more than he did. In 2014 Lebron returned to Cleveland proclaiming that he would “end the drought”.
With every team, and every year, the fans would alway be there. And it always ended in despair. Many proclaimed that the city was “cursed”. But despite the bitter disappointment of the previous year, we would all secretly hope and believe: “there’s always next year”.
Fast forward to Sunday June 19, 2016. In game 7 of the NBA Finals, against the “heavily favored winningest team in the league” Lebron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3 game loss deficit. “No team has ever came back from being down 3 games (out of 7) in the Finals.” This was a monumental game. As I sat in my house, packed with good friends, many of whom “weren’t basketball fans” or “weren’t sports fans”. It didn’t matter how much or how little anyone knew of sports. We all sat together, shoulder to shoulder with bated breath, as CLEVELAND Fans. Could this be the year? There’s always… THIS YEAR!
In the final minute of the game, Kyrie Irving made an unbelievale 3 point shot, and Lebron James gritted through the pain of a NASTY fall (and possible fractured wrist) to give Cleveland a 4 point lead ahead of the Golden State Warriors TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. ON THE ROAD. There’s always…THIS YEAR. June 19, 2016: the day the curse, the draught, the shame, and the wisecracks ended. Not only the day that the Cleveland Cavaliers became the 2016 NBA Champions, but the day the world recognized Cleveland, Ohio.
So as the coverage and parties went on into the wee hours of the morning on June 20, 2016, I realized something. For Clevelanders this would no longer “just” be the beginning of summer. Admittedly, I’m not a basketball fan (I’m a football fan, which is why I’m sober enough to write this :). But I am a Cleveland fan. I love my hometown and have always been saddened to hear the constant negative talk. We are a great city, with wonderful food, diversity and innovation. And now, finally, we have a championship. As I drove around today running errands and going to work, I couldn’t help but notice how happy I was. ME, on a Monday morning with about 4 hours sleep. And everywhere I went, every Clevelander was smiling, and happy. Whether young, old, sports fan or “book nerd” we were all smiling, high fiving and hugging. Because Cleveland make the Lakes GREAT, and now the world knows it!