Sports Page

​Curse Reversed

Cleveland Celebrates its Champion Cavaliers

(Lutz/2016)
Chad W. Lutz
"They said it'd be over in five and we took it in seven!" a man with a bald head and wearing jean shorts shouts from atop a dilapidated Port-o-John. He's waving a Cavaliers championship pennant and smoking a cigarette. He makes a point to reiterate his claim and yells "Seven!" again, much to the crowd's delight.

Behind you, news crews capture it all on 16mm. They're pulling the prettiest people out of the crowd and putting them on digital display for the viewers at home to see just what kind of frenzied excitement is taking place in their beloved city. But it's hard to tell who the prettiest is today. Everyone looks like a magnetic version of themselves.

The air is tense and electric. The smell of marijuana is everywhere. Next to you, a red-bearded man wearing a 2016 NBA Champs hat backwards swills a pint of Jim Beam and passes it to the other partners in his group. All of them grimace at the taste. The crowd starts to cheer, and you think it might be the parade starting, but there's no sign of floats as far as the eye can see. No, they're cheering for the girl who was able to scale the tree two blocks down for a better vantage point. She waves to the crowd adoringly.

There's a guy behind you that orchestrates a, "Let's Go Cavs!" chant every five minutes. He shouts up to the people standing on crossing signs and the Port-o-Johns to spread the word. Lines of onlookers peer out and over the tops of buildings; some, like repelling mountain climbers, have wedged themselves into abutments and buttresses in seemingly impossible ways. The streets are plugged tighter than the champagne bottles being passed through the crowds in celebration. You can taste the bodies standing next to you with every breath you take. Kids kick at your calves, drunks fall into you, and that giant group of fifteen people won't fold up their lawn chairs so everyone can have a little more room to roam.

​That's when it dawns on you: the parade hasn't even started yet, but you couldn't care less. It's a day 52 years in the making, and even if the forecast predicted the skies would open and start raining cat blood at noon, you wouldn't have missed this for the world. And it's a day 1.3 million in attendance and millions of fans watching at home or work across Ohio and around the world will never forget. 
Left: two parade-goers watch the festivities standing on top of crossing-walk signals.
Right: A row of Port-o-Johns meets an untimely albeit celebratory demise.
(Lutz/2016)
​On Sunday, the exhaustive hopes of an entire region came to dramatic fruition for a city that's been waiting for more than half a century to bask in any kind of sports glory, and then was paraded along Ontario and E. 9th for five hours in culmination of those 50-plus years in a massive celebration that took place yesterday in Downtown Cleveland. Mayor Frank Jackson, albeit always looking a little bewildered and increasingly disheveled, made right and officially proclaimed June 22, 2016, a regional holiday commemorating the Cavaliers victory over the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

The parade route began on E. 6th, jogged over to Huron, and then crept along Ontario before making the turn onto E. 9th before ending at Mall B in the heart of the city. The group I was with, which consisted of my mother, my coworker, and her eleven-year-old daughter, posted up at the intersection of 9th and St. Clair. It took an hour and a half for the front of the parade train to reach us after it's official 11:00am start, and didn't end for another four and a half hours.

As an Akron-native and Cleveland sports fan since before I graduated out of di-pees and into big-boy underpants, it was everything I could ever have dreamed of. Cleveland was alive in ways I don't even think the most optimistic out of all of us ever thought possible. Businesses closed. Entire city streets were shut down. People hugged and high-fived each other, banners waved proudly, and confetti flew through the air like the best kind of Wine and Gold snow. All it took was one look around you to not only see but feel the spirit of a city and region long-since short-listed as the butt of so many national jokes rise and show its true colors.
A fraction of the 1.3 million people that lined the streets at yesterday's championship parade. This shot taken from E. 9th and St. Clair.
(Lutz/2016)
​There's an old saying (more of a turned phrase, really) that most of us are probably tired of hearing our grandmothers recite that goes, "Good things come to those who wait." I haven't the slightest idea where this quote comes from or who started it, but it's one I've heard ad nauseam pretty much my entire life, and I'm sure you have, too. These days, waiting itself appears to be what's nauseating, and almost downright taboo. I mean, we can text a tiny emoji to our favorite pizza shops and thirty minutes later have a pie delivered, hot and steaming, to our doorsteps. With that kind of convenience, who the hell wants to go through the trouble of making their own?

But, no matter how frustrating and annoying waiting for anything can be, there's something to be said about the rewards of holding out for what we want. Imagine a world where we get everything we need instantaneously; where we don't have to wait for anything. Countless philosophers have pondered over the subject of a world without pain or suffering, heartbreak or loss, or anger or frustration for centuries. An antiseptic world void of lack and granting all of our deepest desires.

The problem with this kind of reality is that there wouldn't be anything to compare the average moments of any day to. If every day is good, then good would become average, and average would be subpar. The unexpected evils and prolonged droughts of the world are what hue our lives and make the bad times obstacles and the good times so savory and memorable. They're what drive us to hold our loved ones closer, to cherish the things we do have, and to hold onto hope for the future, even if that hope is for a sports championship.
This double-sided sign from one boisterous Cavs fan just about sums up the sentiments of the entire city.
(Lutz/2016)
​There isn't a single part of me that would part ways with images of J.R. Smith, still shirtless, and dabbing his way down the parade route, Kyrie Irving in mid-chew, Lebron poking along in his Rolls-Royce, my coworker's daughter crying at the very sight of King James, her high-five with Matthew Dellavedova, the crowd chanting, "One more year!" as the parade wagon hosting Richard Jefferson stopped right in front of us, even as he, laughing, waved us off. I wouldn't even trade the also shirtless Iman Shumpert and his afro pick sticking out the back of his magical puff of hair, or when Timofey Mozgov dwarfed the tiny sports car he was riding in by standing up to acknowledge the crowds.

​Despite almost being marred over by an unfortunate shooting while the stage presentation was taking place across town, the day was about as close to perfect as the City by the Lake has ever seen. And even then, given the city's gritty, blue-collar history, even that tragic occurrence makes sense, even in its senselessness. No, there really wasn't anything like yesterday. It's the first and only time the Cleveland Cavaliers will ever win their first championship, and the only time (hopefully) the City of Cleveland will ever have to reverse a curse, sports or otherwise.

I think Lebron James put it best: "Nothing is given, everything is earned." And while a lot of us would have loved to have been given championships in 1989, 1995, 1997, 2007, and last year's NBA Finals, all that losing made yesterday's victory parade that much sweeter and made us all a little prouder for never giving up on Cleveland, Ohio.

No sympathy for that Wretched Curse…
All images copyright AltOhio, Inc. and Chad. W. Lutz/2016