All Is Forgiven (Cleveland Sports)

I do think it seems easy to see professional sports as a tremendous waste of resources when looking at how little is produced towards the basic needs of humanity. The Orwellian view of professional sports is not necessarily incorrect, but it would also take a great deal of ignorance to deny that the human species has need of belonging to something much larger than just oneself.  Be it feeling a part of the Universe, Earth, Country, State, City, Town or Community there is a fairly obvious need to be a part of something larger. It seems mostly emotionally driven for me be it for security, belonging and acceptance. Sports adds the entertainment value of it simply being fun to view and participate. It simply brings out the natural desire to compete. Thinking back to when I was a child, it was when a friend said, ” Last one to that tree is a rotten egg”, that the natural instinct to compete came alive without much conditioning to compete being instilled prior from what I can recollect. My not wanting to be a rotten egg may have been an initial programming event towards despising losing. This old city by Lake Erie has smelled of rotten eggs for far too long.

I think it may do good for each of us to go into our own selves over these attachments and the effects on our emotions at least into a simple form of understanding as to the why of what is to the why of the ease of being drawn into these type of distractions in a nonjudgemental way as possible. There is a great deal of learning there that can’t be communicated easily by language, but it has been well worth the effort to look for me.

I have been a Cleveland fan since the age of eleven. My father enjoyed following Cleveland teams, but his fandom of sports was carved from being a UK basketball fan. Him being from the southeastern hills of Kentucky; he had little choice in this matter. Which left me with little choice as well regarding being a UK fan. With Cleveland teams, I had a choice and until now it was a very poor choice considering the level of misery involved. It was 1979 and my uncle and his family were visiting from Celina, Ohio. My uncle was and is a staunch Browns fan. I can’t recall much from that game on that Sunday afternoon other than Dave Logan catching a long wobbly pass from Brian Sipe to win the game in the closing seconds of the contest against Green Bay. Watching that game with my uncle pushed me into being a Browns and Cleveland fan. Of course, it helped that all the local sports information available made following a local team logical due to the ease with which following them closely was. It just happened that I became a Cleveland fan. It just happened, so maybe I didn’t really have a choice in being a Cleveland fan.

The relationship between a father and son with following a particular sports team can be a bridge between the two when all other bridges in the relationship are in a wretched state. It is something shared without any authority being present other than the bond of relating the emotional experiences experienced with the shared fandom. So, no matter the intellectual perspective on the worthiness of the professional sports business, there is possible for communal benefit in this crazed society at the very basic family level. This is a truth for me, by simple reflection on my own experiences. I don’t need any authority other than myself to see that plenty of good can come from this form of the logical idiocy that we call professional sports which I allow myself to be distracted by and learn more about myself and my relationship with others through. It helps that it is partially fun.

Now onto the most recent experience. I don’t know why that when I sit down to write something, that that something comes out as not intended. Such is life, I suppose.

Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and I am at work listening to the game on a personal device with an earphone. The score is tied at 89 with around four minutes left. I am in our work area in a spot that has the best radio reception. I am near a co-worker who is telling me that he doesn’t want to know. I reckon he like many others have seen this play out before and had accepted that it will be what it will be and doesn’t desire to go through the misery that all Cleveland fans have experienced. I was pacing the floor as both teams missed bucket after bucket. I was feeling that old feeling return from the past. That feeling of defeat was ominously on the doorstep again. Then as the radio broadcaster described a two on one fast break with a defeatist tone; He described with great enthusiasm the play that is now called, “The Block”, as Lebron came out of the backcourt and blocked the layup. Lebron had extended the hope, although I had no confidence as a fan. I didn’t believe. I waited to know. Any Cleveland fan that believed, was a God Damned fool to me. A beautiful fool, but a God Damned one. It was a little later that Irving knocked down the three that gave the Cavs the lead. I still didn’t believe. I waited to know. Then Lebron was fouled on a dunk with ten seconds left. He missed the first free throw and when he made the second shot, I looked over to my coworker and told him that we are up 4 with ten seconds left with a smile on my face. I told him that I had to let him know. that I believed. He smiled broadly himself and said, “No”. I can’t really describe how I felt when the clock ticked off. The whole plant erupted with joy and screams that that ole plant may never hear the like of those collective screams again.  We finally knew…. As a Cleveland fan, all was forgiven.

It was Tuesday when the oldest son approached me about going downtown to the parade. The parade was to be held on the next day. I was apprehensive about going. I thought it a bad idea. I thought about how many times I did stupid things by doing something at the time seemed like a good idea. I said, ” Fuck it, le’ts go.” We got up at 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning. We drove to the rapid station in Warrensville, Ohio which is the last stop out of Cleveland on the Blue line. It was around 4:50 a.m. and the trolley was almost full on the first stop into the city. When we got to Tower City, everything was closed except for Starbucks. We bought a couple of breakfast sandwiches, which looking back would be one of the wisest purchases that we could have made.

While walking towards the Rally Zone, I noticed an SUV with a sunroof and a young man was hanging out the roof with a bottle of Patron. He was waving the bottle and his other arm to the music that was coming out of the vehicle. This was going to be one hell of a party, I thought as we worked our way down to Mall B.

The son and I couldn’t really tell where to go. There was a lot of calm chaos. Nobody knew where the opening to the grass area was, but a semblance of a line had developed. I am going to confess here, that we cut. We were cutters. I saw an area open and we just walked into it and acted like we had been there for hours. About an hour after standing there, three black ladies with a young child walked and cut in front of the son and I . This was when a white guy, that claimed him and his family had been there since 2:00 a.m., started on the folks that cut in front of us. He called them cutters and started riling up the folks behind him about the cutters.  I felt guilty, not for cutting and being unaccused, but for being white. I don’t know that that was what caused him to single out these black ladies, but in my mind it seemed reasonable of being possible. The ladies didn’t move and didn’t answer to any of the charges. It made no sense for them to move since nobody really knew where to go or what was going to happen. The son mentioned that the gates would probably be pushed over and it would be a free for all into the grassy area of Mall B. His prophecy came true about an hour after having mentioned it.

Around 9:30, all Hell broke loose. The gates fell and we were pushed towards the field. It was like being in a herd of cattle. We just went with the herd. The young and the old were in danger. When I made it to a spot on the field, a large man and his wife, who was in an Invacare chair was being overwhelmed. I have no idea how she got into the area in the chair, other than maybe they were let in before the gates fell. The large guy just started screaming and pushing folks to clear some area for his wife. I never saw him again, so I suspect he was able to get himself and his wife out of the chaos of the crowd. At this time, the son and I had separated during the rush. I grew concerned since cell phone service was dead and he had our water and snacks. I was stuck in this large mosh pit and felt lost. It wouldn’t be long until I saw the son and just started cutting my way to him. I didn’t wait for people to block or ask me anything. I used the method that Dr. Larry uses at concerts. You just go quick enough to where people are late to resist. You are past them by the time they desire to guard their spot. When I made it to the son, we were about ten rows back from the fence that kept the crowd behind the media area.

This was probably around 10:00 a.m. I was already exhausted. I was shifting from the left and right foot trying to ease the pain of standing in one spot for so long. It was growing hot, and some folks around us were drinking and smoking pot. The son and I had four bottles of water and a box of fruit snack gummies. We would have to ration our supplies. There was no leaving unless we were to give up our spot. There was a lot of tension in the air, but the great thing about it was that everybody was very tolerant of the situation. There was a large fellow in front of me, who after a couple of hours was getting ill. He told me that he was diabetic and had come with his young son and didn’t think to bring any rations. He would drop out around 2:00 p.m. Around that time, the crowd would chant for water. Water had grown into a precious resource. The cries for water were never answered. We could see that the folks behind the stage were being sprayed with water by fire hoses. I had wished that I had not seen that. It caused a bit of jealousy to rise in me. The rally at the end of the parade was scheduled to take place around 1:30. The players and coaches didn’t go on the stage till around 4:00 p.m. We had stood in the sun with thousands of other people for close to ten hours. We had moved up to the second row due to so many folks dropping out. By the time the players were on the stage, my whole body was feeling pain. Both feet ached and I could no longer switch weight to one foot or the other. They both were wasted, but I felt great that I had endured and persevered with my son. We had an aim together and we achieved it together and suffered through it like fathers and sons do. I can’t recollect ever being so pleased that an event had reached its end.

It was time to go home. Cell phone service had returned to our phones so things were looking good until we got close enough to see Tower City. The police had blocked all entrances to our easiest way home. Nobody seemed to know what was going on, but that we had to find an alternative way home. Both of us being spent as one can be started going eastward. I was texting a co-worker that had come downtown for the parade and discovered that he was walking westward toward a rapid station that he was familiar with. He wouldn’t be going into work, which left me with having to go to work by 9:00 p.m.  It was around 5:00 p.m. and we decided to take a rest on the curb of a building near 9th street. As we sat against the building there was about twenty young people come rushing around the corner on the sidewalk. They were claiming that they are shooting everybody.  I looked at the son and he said that maybe we should just get away from the Tower City area. I agreed.

As we walked down the sidewalk, some lady said that they had been a shooting at Tower City. I instantly became concerned over the youngest son. He had attended the parade with his buddies. I sent him a text and he reported that he was fine although he had gotten on the wrong rapid train. He was in Tower City when the shooting occurred, but that the authorities did a great job in containing it and keeping people from panicking. We would later discover that a fifteen-year-old male had shot a thirteen-year-old female in the leg while in the casino that is connected to Tower City.

We eventually came to the Wolstein Center and not long past it is a large bus station. All we had to do was find a bus that was going to the rapid station where we had parked. We found one and got on and it would be a good hour before we arrived at where our car was parked. I must give the utmost accolades to the engineering behind the seats installed on the bus that we rode. The seats are designed to melt into being one with the sitter. All the pain in my body melted into that seat. How much pleasure does one get from the relief of pain? How much pleasure does one get from the relief of following Cleveland teams all their life and then being able to experience finally winning the last game of a season? I can’t say for sure with fact, but to this one fan, it seems certainly more pleasing then it logically with reason should, but such is life it seems.

All Is Forgiven










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