This is for the Cleveland sports fans out there. Anyone else is welcome to read it, but they won’t really fully understand it. They can’t.
I know how you’re feeling. You want to buy in to the Cavs, full-bore and without reservation, and go into the game tonight with supreme confidence that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and the other members of the Wine and Gold can win and pull off the most improbable comeback ever and, for the first time in NBA history, bring a team back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA championship.
But something’s holding you back. We Cleveland sports fans don’t like to admit it, but it’s fear, and also guilt. Fear, because we feel like we’ve seen this story before, and when we open our hearts to one of the Cleveland teams, our hearts always get broken. I don’t need to recount all of those instances to you, because they’re engraved on our very souls. The saying is “once bitten, twice shy,” and we’ve experienced that a hundred times over, to the point where we’re cowering in the corner when our teams do well or hardening our hearts by predicting failure in advance, thinking that if we do so and failure does come it won’t hurt quite so much. That doesn’t work, by the way, because even under the hard, calculated public veneer there always lurks a delicate blossom of hope, fresh and unguarded, ready to be crushed anew.
Everyone — even non-Cleveland fans — can understand the fear component. What they don’t get is the weird sense of guilt. Every Cleveland sports fan I know personalizes the losses and believes, deep in the pit of their being, that they honestly are the cause of 52 years of misery. Maybe it’s because they watched the game on TV, or because they didn’t. Maybe it’s because they didn’t wear the right shirt, or because they didn’t go to church, or because they feel that they haven’t always been a good person. I guarantee that, as I write this, hundreds of Cleveland fans are doing nice things for their spouses and kids and friends and are hoping that their good deeds might cause the cosmic tumblers to click into place for the Cleveland sports team, just this once.
It’s the professional sports version of the Butterfly Effect. We know that we can jinx the Cavs because we have jinxed the Cleveland teams in the past, over and over again. We routinely get accused of jinxing by our friends and family. (I’m looking at you, UJ!) I’m probably jinxing things by writing this, or I would have jinxed things by not writing it.
So we live our lives by these curious rules that make us watch games from a particular chair or eat a particular snack or send text messages to particular friends, hoping that we don’t do or say anything that brings it all crashing down around our heads. We’re so bound up by our superstitions and fears and guilts that we can’t just enjoy it, ever.
I can’t change you, any more than I can change myself. It’s just how I am, and it’s how we all are. Because we’re all in this together, aren’t we? We Cleveland sports fans are linked together in ways that fans of successful franchises can’t possibly imagine.
So, I wanted to wish all of my fellow Cleveland fans well, and tell you that I’m all in.