Sunday, June 26, 2016

There's always this year

When I was a small child, probably five or six years old, I wrote and illustrated a book called "The cleveland browns Story book." I have no actual memory of writing this story, but I still have the book, and have enjoyed looking at it several times over the years. The full text of the story follows:

Once there was a man. His name was Berny kosar. He was a qurterback for the Browns.

His passes didn't score a point.

The other Team fumbled his team scored and kicked the extra point.

The kikoff went in to the other teams endzone. Hi's Team maid a safty. it was 9 to 0 at the end of the half.

Hi's team scored a 100 yard t.d.!

15-0 and there was no more scores. It was a shut out!

Cleveland was in the play offs.

They won the division title!

and maid it to the super bowl!

I have only vague memories of watching the original (before the move to Baltimore following the 1995 season) Browns. I do not remember seeing The Drive or The Fumble. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, but based on my writing this book, I was clearly a Cleveland sports fan from a young age (not surprising, as Columbus natives tend to go for either Cleveland or Cincinnati pro sports teams, and my mom was from Northeast Ohio). A couple of things jump out at me from my story. One, I didn't seem to have a high opinion of Bernie Kosar's quarterbacking skills. ("His passes didn't score a point.") I'm not sure why this was. When I wrote the book, the Browns were coming off of several consecutive playoff appearances, with Kosar generally playing well although not putting up gaudy statistics. And two, I seemed to know that it would be very exciting for the Browns to make the Super Bowl. Notice that the book abruptly ends before we get to find out whether the Browns actually win the Super Bowl.

My favorite pro sports team in the 1990s was the Cleveland Indians, who made the playoffs every year from 1995 to 1999. I definitely remember watching both the 1995 and 1997 World Series, both losses for the Tribe. My first real taste of what it was like to be a Cleveland sports fan was the heartbreaking Game 7 collapse in the '97 series vs. the Marlins.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were my favorite pro basketball team by default due to their representing Cleveland, but I have no actual memories of watching them as a child; their games were rarely available for me to watch. Most of my NBA memories from that era are of watching and rooting against the Michael Jordan-led Bulls. My younger brother and I hated the Bulls and even came up with what we thought were hilarious nicknames for many of their players - Michael Jordan was "Psycho Boredom," Scottie Pippen "Snotty Pickens," Toni Kukoc "Toni Cockroach," Luc Longley "Puke Longley." Every year we hoped to see the Bulls fall in the NBA Finals and every year we were disappointed. But looking back, those are some good memories to have.

I have now lived in Cleveland for almost fifteen years since starting college in 2001, and I truly consider it my home. I feel a much stronger connection to Cleveland than I ever did to Columbus. This was not really the case during my undergrad years, but once I started dating Cara in 2006 and we began to explore the city together, and especially after she moved here in 2008, I really fell in love with Cleveland, and so did she.

It was during our first year of dating that the Cavs reached the NBA Finals for the first time, in 2007. Before then, to be honest, I was a pretty casual fan of the NBA and probably paid less attention to it than any of the other big four major league sports. I do vaguely recall seeing this Sports Illustrated cover in 2002:

I wondered how it was possible that a high school junior could be receiving so much hype. (The fact that he has turned out to be even better than he was hyped up to be is truly remarkable.) I was happy, I'm sure, when the Cavs got to draft LeBron the following year, but it's not something I really remember; as I said, I was a pretty casual fan.

2007 is my first strong memory of watching the Cavs. They were playing their heated rival the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. After Game 5, the sporting world was abuzz at LeBron's spectacular performance in which he scored the Cavs' last 25 points in a thrilling double overtime victory. Game 6 was in Cleveland on June 2, and on the same day the Indians had a home game against the Detroit Tigers. Cara and I attended that Indians game, a 9-5 loss for the home team. After the game ended, the Cavs game was still going on. A huge crowd gathered on the plaza outside Quicken Loans Arena to watch, on a huge screen, the game occurring inside that arena. That game was "the Boobie Gibson game" - Cavs rookie Daniel "Boobie" Gibson played the game of his life, going off for 31 points including 5/5 on three point attempts to lead the Cavs to their first conference championship. Cara and I joined the crowd in exulting at the Cavs' victory. It was a thrilling moment.

Not long after the game ended, a fight broke out in the crowd not far from where we were standing. It wasn't anything too serious and ended quickly, but as soon as the fighting began I instinctively hugged Cara close to me and turned to shield her, putting myself in between her and the violence. She later said that it made her feel very safe when I did that.

As a not very knowledgeable NBA fan, I thought anything could happen in a seven game series and that LeBron might be able to lead the Cavs to victory over the San Antonio Spurs. As it turned out, the Cavs were horribly outmatched and lost in a sweep. That was okay, though. LeBron was still quite young and just on the verge of becoming the game's top player. I, and probably many other people, thought it was just a matter of time until he would succeed in "getting one for the Land" (not that we would have used that phrase back then).

The 2007 Indians, by the way, provided my second real moment of Cleveland sports heartbreak, blowing a 3-1 lead against the Red Sox in the ALCS. Now a true Clevelander, I felt this loss much more deeply than the '97 World Series loss. Cara and I were both very into the Indians that year. I remember going to a Nada Surf concert in Columbus and buying a double set of earbuds so we could both listen to game 3 of the ALCS on a single portable radio while we waited in line outside the venue, and also watching the game on the TV at the bar in between acts. I also remember watching another game in that series at Cara's parents' house.

It was in September 2008 that Cara moved to Cleveland, and in the season that began the following month the Cavs took the NBA by storm, rolling to a 66-16 regular season record. Was this finally Cleveland's year? I had so much confidence in LeBron. I thought he could lead the Cavs past any obstacle. Yet in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs lost the first game to the Orlando Magic, and then blew a 23 point lead in game 2 and looked ready to fall into a two game hole as the Magic took a two point lead with one second left.

Then LeBron did this:

Cara and I were watching the game at La Dolce Vita in Little Italy. It was just down the street from where she lived (at the time, we still lived separately, but I'd be moving in with her in less than two weeks) and she often hung out at the bar there on nights that we weren't doing something together. It's funny to think about, now. Hanging out at bars just wasn't something I really did back then.

I still remember the feeling of disgust at the Cavs blowing the game turning suddenly to exhilaration at LeBron's amazing game winner. It's one of those sports moments I'll always remember.

Alas, the Cavs went on to lose the series four game to two. I curse the names of Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis, and Mickaël Piétrus to this day for their ridiculous ability to hit backbreaking shots in that series. (Although less so now, I suppose!)

The following year brings another memory of a 60+ win Cavs team putting up a disappointing playoff performance. This time they didn't even make the conference finals, falling to the Celtics in round two. My most prominent memory from that series is actually of a game I didn't watch - during Game 5, Cara and I were at the Beachland Ballroom seeing Local Natives perform. My brother was texting Cara updates about the game. "I don't know what's going on," he said (or something to that effect), as the Cavs were demolished 120-88 and LeBron had one of the worst games of his life, shooting just 3-14 from the field.

So the first LeBron Cavs era is something that carries a close connection in my mind to the early years of my relationship with Cara.

The Cavs lost that series to Boston in six games, with LeBron infamously removing his Cleveland jersey as he left the court after the closeout game.

Then, of course, came The Decision.

I remember well all the speculation and rumors about LeBron's free agency. Of course, I was worried that he might leave. But when it was announced that he would make his decision known in a live TV special, I started to feel fairly confident. Surely, I thought, he wouldn't hold a live TV special just to crush the hopes of his hometown team's fans!

I remember sitting there in the small living room of our Little Italy apartment, watching the TV with Cara, full of nervousness but cautious optimism.

When LeBron said that he was taking his talents to South Beach, I was stunned. And then deeply saddened. Somehow I had built an emotional connection to LeBron and the Cavs unlike any I'd had with any other sports team. In a way, I suppose, the seeds of that connection were sown when Cara and I stood together in a huge crowd of people, watching the Cavs win the 2007 ECF. And for LeBron to leave, at the time, was devastating.

The following year brought LeBron's first Finals trip with his new team, and it also brought my and Cara's wedding. As the series between Miami and Dallas progressed, I noticed that game 6 was scheduled to be held on June 12, the same day as our wedding. And I began to worry that our wedding day might be marred by it also being the same day that LeBron won his first title, but not for Cleveland. I'm not joking when I say that. It was something that I felt genuine concern over. I was very relieved when the Mavericks took a 3-2 series lead, ensuring that my worst fears would not come true.

On our wedding night, I did not try to convince Cara to let me watch the entire game (I wouldn't have wanted to, really), but I did want to see the end of the game, and I talked her into having the TV in our hotel room on for the fourth quarter. As this was going on, we sat side by side in bed, each on our laptops, simultaneously updating our relationship statuses on Facebook to Married. I was overjoyed when the Mavericks finished off LeBron's Heat to take the championship. It was a perfect cherry on the top to the day that I still consider the best of my entire life.

The next three years saw three more Finals appearances for the Heat. Each time, I reflexively rooted against them, but I found that my feelings toward LeBron were gradually changing. By 2013 I don't think I even disliked him anymore. I couldn't help but admire and be awed by his tremendous basketball skills, and I also admired the fact that he continued to make great philanthropic efforts in his hometown of Akron. Although I cheered for the Heat's opponents in each of their four consecutive Finals appearances, looking back, I feel that things actually went perfectly with the Heat losing the first, then winning two, then losing again. If the Heat had won the title in LeBron's very first season after leaving the Cavs, it would have been simply too painful to watch. But LeBron needed to win titles in Miami, so that he could learn how to lead a team to greatness, and so that he could gain a reputation as a winner that would make talented players want to join his teams in a way that was not the case during his first go around in Cleveland. So it turned out to be a great thing for Cleveland that LeBron won those two titles in Miami. And yet it was also great that the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the Heat in 2014, because I very much doubt LeBron would have left Miami coming off of a threepeat with a chance to make it four in a row.

It's funny how now when I watch old highlights of amazing plays LeBron made wearing a Heat jersey, I find myself cheering him on, when I certainly would not have done so when those plays originally happened.

The summer of 2014 brought another much hyped LeBron free agency. Again there were rumors, this time that he would return to Cleveland, but I couldn't bring myself to believe them. I guess my years as a Cleveland sports fan had gotten to me, and I just never expected anything good would happen.

In 2014 Cara, of course, was going through various different treatments for her cancer. It was a difficult time, although one that we made the most of, enjoying many great experiences together.

Still, it was rare for me to experience moments of pure, unadulterated joy.

One such moment came on July 11 (it's easy for me to remember the date because it's my sister's birthday). I was at work, on my computer, when I saw the announcement. Could this really be true? I wondered. I clicked on the link. And saw... this was really Sports Illustrated's official website that I was on... and that was really a picture of LeBron James and the headline "I'm Coming Home." My jaw dropped. A Cleveland sports story with a shocking twist in a good way? Even seeing it, it was hard to believe at first. But it was true. I quickly shared the article to Facebook, my only comment on the post being "omg." Shortly after, I made another post:
By the way, anyone who is still upset at LeBron over The Decision really needs to get over it. Yes, the way it went down was handled poorly, but he did have every right to leave, and seriously, that was four years ago. If anything, the fact that LeBron was able to forgive that idiot Dan Gilbert is pretty commendable, and shows a lot more maturity than anyone still holding a grudge against LeBron!
I eagerly anticipated the beginning of the new NBA season. When LeBron's first game back with the Cavs finally rolled around, I decided I wanted to watch it with a crowd, so Cara and I headed out to a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings. The place was absolutely packed, and we returned home before ending up at the New Heights Grill, a local establishment just around the corner from the house we had moved into the second floor of a few months prior. It was my first visit to the New Heights Grill; little did I know how much time I, but not Cara, would spend there in the future.

We were able to secure a table, and we sat to watch the game along with all the other eager patrons. Cheers rang out as LeBron got an and-one on an early fast break. But after that, the Cavs just didn't look very good. It was surreal to watch. They ended up losing to a New York Knicks team that would go 17-65 on the year.

The Cavs, as it turned out, wouldn't look very good for the entire first half of the season, but in the second half, they really turned things around. I remember thinking that it would be really nice if the Cavs could win the title that year, so that Cara would get to see it, because I wasn't sure she'd still be around a year later. That doesn't mean I expected her to die within a year, but I was distinctly aware of the possibility. What I didn't expect at all, though, not until the very last week of her life, was that Cara wouldn't even be around to see that year's NBA Finals.

One of the very last things I did with her was watch game three of the Cavs' first round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. Well, watch the second half of the game, that is; during the first half her mother and I were picking up Papa John's pizza, which was what Cara wanted for dinner. I sat in a chair next to her hospital bed as we ate. At that point I was sadly aware that she didn't have much time left, but it was still something I was thinking about in terms of days or weeks. Not hours. Cara wasn't really paying a lot of attention to the game, to be honest, but at that point she was still herself. Still lucid. Still the same wonderful Cara I had spent all those years with, only now having to come to grips with her pending mortality.

The Cavs won the game to take a 3-0 lead in the series. It was not too long after the game ended that Cara's condition began to stunningly and rapidly deteriorate. There was a second NBA playoffs game on TV that night, the Golden State Warriors against the New Orleans Pelicans. As Cara worsened, more and more of my attention was on her. I would still occasionally glance up at the TV from her bedside, and I remember looking up to see Steph Curry nail a dramatic three pointer to cap a remarkable comeback for Golden State from a 20 point deficit and send the game into overtime, where the Warriors were victorious. That happened around midnight. At 4:15, Cara was gone.

And so I've realized that I will always carry a mental association between the NBA playoffs and Cara's death. It's really not a bad thing, though. Watching the playoffs, often with friends, provided a fun distraction from the deep sorrow I was feeling in those early weeks after her death. I even got to go, with my brother, to see in person the Cavs winning the Eastern Conference championship. As they were awarded the trophy to thunderous applause, I felt very excited, but also very sad that Cara wasn't there to see it. She wasn't really much of a sports fan, but she loved Cleveland and was always happy to see our teams do well. In the fall of 2014 she even became legitimately enthusiastic about the Browns for once, as they got off to a 6-3 start and briefly held first place in their division. We all know how that turned out.

In the very next game after Cara's passing, the Cavs finished off the Celtics but lost Kevin Love to a season-ending injury. In the first game of the Finals against Golden State, the Cavs lost the game and lost Kyrie Irving to a season-ending injury in overtime after barely missing a shot that would have won the game in regulation. That was Cleveland sports for you! Heroic efforts by LeBron James and Matthew Dellavedova helped the Cavs win the next two games. What a great story it would be, I thought, if LeBron could carry his team to the long hoped for title after losing the next two best players on his team to injury. Alas, the Cavs and their depleted roster became too worn down and the Warriors took the series in six games, adding another entry to the long catalog of heartbreak for Cleveland sports fans.

The next season brought fresh hope. But as the season progressed, and the Warriors went on an ultimately successful quest for the greatest regular season record in NBA history while the Cavs looked underwhelming in comparison, I began to wonder whether LeBron could succeed in bringing a title to Northeast Ohio - now, or ever. As the playoffs started, though, the Cavs took their play to a whole new level. Cautious optimism emerged. The Finals rematch between the Cavs and Warriors was one of the most hyped ever - the 73-9 Warriors led by the league's first ever unanimous MVP in Steph Curry trying to finish off the greatest season in league history against one of the greatest players ever trying to end Cleveland's decades long title drought.

The Warriors took game one. Then, in game two, the Warriors not only won, but they utterly dominated the Cavs 110-77, and at that point I had honestly pretty much given up on the Cavs winning the series. I just hoped they wouldn't be swept. But in game three, the first home game, the Cavs won in just as dominating a fashion as they had lost the previous game. Perhaps there was still reason to hope.

In game four, the Cavs led at halftime but then sputtered out in the second half and fell into a 3-1 hole in the series. Now they would have to do what seemed like the impossible - winning three games in a row, with two of the games in one of the toughest road environments out there. Sigh, Cleveland sports... I and many other people undoubtedly thought.

A faint glimmer of hope appeared when it was announced that Golden State's star forward Draymond Green would be suspended for game five. Some Warriors fans will no doubt go to their graves contending this was evidence that the series was rigged, but Green's repeated shots to other players' groins over the course of the playoffs easily justified the suspension. The only curious part was that he hadn't been suspended during the Warriors' previous series. The Cavs responded, with both Kyrie and LeBron putting up masterful 41 point efforts in a Cleveland win. And now my cautious optimism returned. Game six was a home game, where the Cavs had been outstanding all playoffs besides the second half of game four, and if the Cavs won game six? Who would bet against LeBron James in a game seven?

The New Heights Grill that I mentioned earlier had become my go-to spot for watching Cavs games that season, especially in the playoffs, sometimes alone but usually with a friend or two. For game six, the New Heights Grill was the most crowded I'd ever seen it. And the crowd was jubilant throughout as the Cavs delivered play after highlight reel quality play and knotted up the series to force a single, winner-take-all final game.

I quickly realized that this was a potential once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that I had to be in downtown Cleveland to watch game seven. Official watch parties, both inside and outside Quicken Loans Arena, sold out almost instantaneously, frustrating me and countless other fans. The next best option was to simply go downtown and find a restaurant or bar in which I could watch.

And so my friend Fiona and I took a bus downtown that Sunday afternoon, arriving several hours before game time, and already downtown was like I'd never seen it before. Throngs of people decked out in Cavs gear roamed the sidewalks wherever I looked. Popular establishments for watching sports were already packed, some with long lines stretching out the doors. We decided to inquire about the wait at Barrio, a popular taco joint not far from the arena. At 5:25 we were told there was a three hour wait, which would result in us being seated after the game had already started. We weren't even optimistic at that, figuring most people, once they had tables, would simply stay there. Still, we put in a name just in case, and then wandered around the downtown area for a while, scoping out other possibilities, and marveling at the crowds. One thing we both realized was that we had to get some food into ourselves at some point, so after a while we headed east on Euclid Avenue, away from the crowds, and eventually grabbed a bite at a Jimmy John's on Cleveland State's campus. Then we headed back into the heart of downtown to look for a bar where we could stand.

At 6:50, as we were walking through Playhouse Square, Fiona's phone rang. "We'll be there really, really soon," I heard her say. We had a table at Barrio! We walked as quickly as we could (for Fiona, with much shorter legs, it was more of an alternating walk and jog) and navigated our way through swarms of other Cavs fans to make it to Barrio in a little over five minutes. And there we were taken to our table. It was on the far side of the room from the projector screens that would be showing the game, but we had an unobstructed view, we were in a place packed full of other excited fans, and the location downtown was right near the center of where all the celebration would be going down if our desired outcome came to be.

I instantly regretted having eaten at Jimmy John's, because Barrio has much better food, but that was okay. I did eventually order one taco to enjoy along with a couple of margaritas. And then we settled in to watch one of the biggest games in NBA history.

I've never been so tense watching a sporting event. At times I was shaking with excitement. The game was a thriller from the start, with numerous lead changes, neither team ever taking a double digit lead. The enthusiasm of the restaurant patrons was incredible. Chants of "Let's go Cavs!" and "Defense! Defense!" repeatedly filled the establishment. I'm pretty sure it was a more into it crowd than any I've seen at games I attended in person! Cheers and applause filled the room with each made field goal by the Cavs.

None, of course, more so than Kyrie's clutch triple with less than a minute left that broke a long scoring drought by both teams and gave the Cavs a three point lead. At that point it was pandemonium. Could this really be happening? I'm sure we were all thinking. We were so close now to that long awaited title, but this was Cleveland, there was still plenty of time for something to go wrong. With ten seconds left, LeBron rose up for a thunderous, game-clinching dunk - was fouled hard and barely missed his shot - and fell to the ground writhing in pain, clutching the wrist on his shooting hand.

The inside of Barrio became quieter than it had been in a long time.

Nightmare scenarios spun through my mind. The injured LeBron would miss both free throws - or even worse, be unable to finish the game and the substitute free throw shooter would miss both. The Warriors would hit a three to force overtime. The Warriors would win in overtime. It would be a classic Cleveland sports ending.

LeBron shook off his injury and stepped to the line. His first free throw was up - and no good. Tension mounted. LeBron sent up his second attempt - it hit the rim - and it rattled home!

Jubilant cheers once more filled Barrio, only to increase many fold in intensity soon after as time ran out on the Warriors. Strangers exchanged high fives and hugs. It was like being in a dream. It was hard to believe it was real. Gradually, it began to sink in. The fifty-two year drought was really over. And what a way for it to end! The Cavs going up against the team with the best regular season record in history. Falling into a 3-1 hole from which no previous team had ever come back in the Finals. And led by LeBron James, the "kid from Akron" returning to Northeast Ohio with a promise to bring his hometown fans the title they'd craved for so long. Going up against the player in Steph Curry who was causing many people to question, for the first time in years, LeBron's status as the game's top player. LeBron clearly took this personally and it was amazing to watch him crush Curry's spirit by repeatedly swatting the smaller player's layup attempts over the course of the series. It's only fitting that the championship that finally came to Cleveland came in such a dramatic fashion. It's truly one of the great stories in all of sports history.

Shortly after time expired, we headed out into the streets, and instantly my decision to watch the game downtown was validated. A growing crowd of people joined together in raucous celebration the likes of which the city had never before seen. There was no wanton destruction of property (none that I witnessed, and very little overall). No setting things on fire. Just a whole bunch of people overjoyed at finally getting to experience something they'd long wondered if they'd ever get to experience, and sharing that joy with each other. We stayed there for a while, taking it all in, basking in the moment. People yelled, chanted, high fived, embraced, laughed in disbelief. It occurred to me that what we were experiencing - a city winning a major sports championship after having endured that long of a drought - was something that no one else had ever experienced. And what an experience it was!

Eventually we decided to make our way from Prospect back over to Euclid Avenue via East 4th Street. This was clearly not the fastest way to go, but speed wasn't our goal. Revelers were packed into East 4th like sardines. Progress was very, very slow. At times it was like navigating an obstacle course as we climbed over railings of restaurant patios and once even over stacks of chairs. Numerous high fives were exchanged. I've never before seen such a dense concentration of unmitigated human joy. Finally we made it out to the other end of the block. "That was an adventure," I remarked. We quickly reached the bus stop at which we'd disembarked hours earlier, but it was immediately apparent that the crowds of people in the streets were preventing buses from running downtown. So once more we began to walk east on Euclid.

We passed more and more excited Clevelanders in the streets and sidewalks. And soon a curious sight became apparent - a line of traffic backed up with cars driving into downtown. Apparently when the game ended numerous people decided they wanted to be where the most excitement was, and some just hopped into their cars and started driving. Celebratory honks from car horns frequently sounded, with passersby on foot whooping in response. Some passengers in cars held their hands out the windows, and we ran over to give more high fives. As we walked, I pulled out my phone to check the time. At the appropriate minute, I commented, "It's midnight, so it's my birthday now." Best birthday ever? Yeah, I'd say so.

Around Cleveland State's campus we reached a spot where we were able to catch an eastbound bus, which we rode to where Fiona had parked her car that afternoon. I do wonder just how long it ended up taking for people who parked in garages in the heart of downtown to get out of there. Most of them probably didn't mind.

Once we returned to our neighborhood, I decided it would be fitting for me to go over to the New Heights Grill and have a celebratory drink. When I went up to the bar, one of the employees, recognizing me because I'd watched all but one of the previous games in the series there, greeted me with a high five and then asked where I'd been. "I was downtown," I replied. "It was amazing."

Wednesday brought the parade that Clevelanders had been dreaming of for years. It was the biggest party the city has ever seen and it was a wonderful experience, but to me, being downtown in the epicenter of all the excitement during the immediate aftermath of the victory was even better. The fact that I was able to live that moment is something I'll cherish for the rest of my life. One thing I will say about the parade and subsequent rally - LeBron's speech was truly great. He credited all his teammates and said very real and meaningful things about each and every one of them. LeBron is not only an amazing basketball player, but also a great leader and a great public speaker. The man could probably be president one day if he wanted to (I doubt he does). Additionally, as LeBron is just one and a half years my junior, I've very much enjoyed watching him grow and mature into the man he is today at the same time as I myself have gone through a great deal of growth and maturation over those years.

For the last week the whole city has had a different vibe to it. It's a really cool thing, something that is probably hard to understand if you haven't experienced it yourself. And most people will never experience something like this. There's something I realized. I'm a Cleveland sports fan because I love sports and I love the city that I've called home for almost fifteen years now. But also, being a Cleveland sports fan has fit really well with my identity as a person. Because in Cleveland sports, we've always expected bad things to happen. And in my own life, I've also come to expect bad things to happen. If you know me and especially if you've read my blog over the past half year, you can understand why I'd say that. It's an interesting coincidence that the first week of this past NBA season was the same week when I spiraled into a state of depression triggered by an awful recurrence of an old chronic pain issue. And the beginning of the playoffs coincided with me finally feeling like I was truly coming out of that depression, with the Cavs' run to the title coming alongside me feeling better and better. Throughout all that time, basketball, both watching and playing the sport, has been very important to me. And now that the Cavs have won that championship, and we finally have a Cleveland sports story with a happy ending, I'm thinking - maybe I don't have to expect bad things to happen? Or maybe that would be naive. I don't know. But it's a nice thought to have, and one I intend to keep with me for now.

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