Monday, June 27, 2016

One Week Later... This Is A Dream Right? #Cavs

By Alex Hale, @ThatCLESportGuy

Is this all a dream?  I’m going to wake up any second, right?  I mean Cleveland is a World Champion once again, after 52 years.  It’s been a week and yet I still think I’m going to wake up from this dream and the Cavs will still be down 3-1 and on the brink of elimination.  Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to make sure this is real.  Last Sunday I remember walking into my weekend job and telling everyone I was working with, “We got this!”.  Was it overconfidence after the Cavs came back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the series at 3-3?  Or was it for the first time as a fan whether it was false hope or not, I truly believed it was our moment that night.  That evening I went downtown with friends from work, we got into Downtown Cleveland at 5:30 to see the whole city was jammed with people ready to go for Game 7.  We spent the next 2 1/2 hours walking around from The Clevelander, to the madhouse on East 4th St, and ended up watching the game at Barrio standing at the bar with everyone jammed together there to watch the game.

Now my friends who I was watching the game with, this was their 1st Game 7 Championship game.  I told them numerous times that I’ve waited 19 years to avenge the Indians heartbreaking loss to the Marlins.  I explained to them how hard this game was going to be for me, that they were lucky they are going into this game unaware of the emotional roller coaster they would be on.  I think they are the lucky ones at the end of the day because they had no idea how to feel during the duration of the game.

As the game started we saw at first the Cavs and Warriors battle back and forth, then Draymond Green hit everything in sight.  I felt sick to my stomach as my best friend played with Draymond at Michigan State and the last thing I wanted was for Draymond to beat us.  It seemed like the man was possessed shooting the ball.  It seemed like the Cavs were playing lackadaisical basketball and it infuriated me going into halftime.  For a moment I felt like it was the same old story, but then I saw the shooting percentages.  Golden State couldn’t miss and the Cavs were missing everything.  At that moment I said this, “If they beat us by shooting lights out, that’s their game and good for them”.  But I also thought in this time that Golden State couldn’t shoot like this forever.

Then out of nowhere it seemed… god bless you, JR Smith.  Coming out of Halftime it seemed the tables had turned, it suddenly was the Cavs who were coming out firing and the Warriors seemed lackadaisical.  Once JR got the Warriors lead down to 1, I started to feel that confidence of winning this game was back.  The Cavs by the end of the 3rd had cut the deficit down to 1 and I looked at my friends saying, “Win the 4th Quarter…that’s all we need to do”.

That 4th Quarter was unlike anything I experienced in my life.  You were on the edge of your seat the whole time and it felt like two Boxing legends were trading blows back and forth and it was a test of who would fall first.  With around 3:00 to go, Steph Curry had a wide open 3 to break open the game and really start to put away the Cavs…he missed!  The Cavs at the same time were struggling to make a shot as well and the Warriors got another shot.  This time it was the red hot Draymond Green who got a good look and once again…he missed!  At this moment, I sensed something different was going down.

Think about it. Normally the script for, “Old Cleveland” would be the Warriors would’ve made one of those 2 shots, the Cavs would answer and right at the end, the Warriors would make the big shot and win the game.  This script wasn’t happening and for me it became a question of who would take that dagger shot for the Cavs.  As we all know that man would end up being Kyrie Irving, who got the 1-on-1 matchup with Steph Curry and buried that 3 with about 1:00 to go.  Man… Barrio and everyone surrounding the restaurant (you should’ve seen outside the windows of Barrio!) exploded. 
We all sensed something special was happening and when Kevin Love shut down Steph Curry with his defense and forced the bad shot that led to LeBron’s  dunk that turned into a foul that sent him to the line.  Understand… KEVIN LOVE STOPPED STEPH CURRY!  LeBron would shake off his injury and go to the line.  We all knew, just make 1 Free Throw.  LeBron missed his first but nobody panicked, which looking back was odd for Cleveland.  We all knew he was going to make his 2nd shot.  When that 2nd shot went it…madness!  There may have been about 13 seconds to go, but we knew it was over.

The final seconds ticked down and we knew the drought was over, I grab my friends and we’re jumping up and down in excitement and we all run out of Barrio and onto the street and already the streets were packed with people.  I walked down prospect still in shock and suddenly a random person who was probably 6’5", 300 was running down the street and ran towards me to do a chest bump in celebration.  I had no time to react and he absolutely leveled me down to the street pavement and ended up scraping my right arm, hurt my left shoulder, and my ribs hurt for a day.  He apologized and I simply told him to not worry and go celebrate.  My friends and I got to East 9th to see it shut down because of the amount of fans blocking the street.  I was about to cry out of this sight of people celebrating with love and happiness.  They were giving high fives to anyone in cars who approached the street.  It was something that I dreamed I would see and doubted I would live to see it.

At this point I called my father, who I watched Game 7 in 1997 with and cried next to him until I fell asleep.  How fitting it was to fall on Fathers Day and I called and the one thing I wanted to do throughout this playoff run was to tell him, “IT’S OVER”.  I got through and as I told him, I broke down into tears.  Understand, my Dad isn’t a huge sports fan (let alone a Basketball fan), but he wanted to see this drought end.  He was alive to see the Browns win the last Championship back in 1964.  I told him, “It’s over Dad, we did it” I was crying the whole time and I asked to talk to my mother as well.

Again it was fitting on Father’s Day this occurred.  I prayed from Game 5 on to my Zayde (Hebrew for Grandfather), who passed away in 2002 to give the Cavs the heart and strength to pull this off.  Understand this about my Zayde, he is the definition of a Warrior (not a GS one), he had heart problems all his life, had countless heart attacks and close calls.  He always fought and won until the rest of his body shut down.  When he passed it wasn’t because of his heart failing, it was the rest of his body shutting down.  He taught me was strength is and I prayed for the Cavs to have that strength.  I told my mother this because in a way, although my Zayde was from Detroit, he wanted me to experience a Championship and on Father’s Day I believe his spirit was there in the Cavs, giving them the strength to pull this MiraCLE off.

I got texts afterwards from friends out of town saying if Cleveland can win a Championship, so can my team.  In one night, Cleveland became the joke of the sporting world to the ray of hope to every snakebitten franchise in sports.  It’s truly unbelievable how one Championship can change the outlook for a city.  Anyone who doubted it before, can’t deny it now.

I was there for the parade and it felt totally like an out of body experience to me.  To see the lines at the RTA Rapid station, to see at 9:30AM the E. 9th St. was pretty much jammed was unreal.  The parade was a celebration of not just the Cavs, but Cleveland.  I love how the Lake Erie Monsters were part of the parade to celebrate the Calder Cup (I feel sorry too because they will go to Columbus next).  To see Jim Brown, Earnest Byner among the Cleveland legends on hand to experience this was great and it was also nice to see MGK having fun performing.  When the Cavs players came out, you could see the love the Cavs players have for the fans, they were posing for photos, coming out of the cars to shake hands, signing random autographs that somehow had to find their way back to the people who gave them the memorabilia.  It was unreal.

So one week later, I ask myself, this was a dream right?  No it wasn’t a dream, this really happened.  Our time arrived and we got to live what a lot of fans thought they’d never see.  This week I’m not going to forget for the rest of my life.  There aren’t that many fanbases that will experience the same sense of euphoria that Cleveland fans felt.  For most fans in LA, Chicago, NY, Florida, Texas they probably get a World Champion once every couple of years.  It’s almost routine to them.  Cleveland waited 52 years for this moment and like myself, still fans don’t believe this is real.

Hey Cleveland, this is real!  The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship.  Forget about the past and believe brighter days are right around the corner for this city.  Who knows Cleveland…you want to do this all over again in October?  Because now that we’ve had one, let’s keep this positivity going so we can experience this all over again.

So this is what it feels like to win a World Championship?  Man, this is the greatest feeling in the world.  It was well worth the wait.

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