I finally got a chance to watch Believeland last night, which originally aired prime time Saturday on ESPN. And while I wasn’t a huge fan of some of the people they interviewed for it (I’m looking at you, Windy), I thought it was well put together. It was probably super depressing for anyone who has lived through the heartbreak that is Cleveland sports, but, in all honestly I think it was mostly a learning experience for my generation.
As a 25-year-old female who was born and raised in Cleveland, I never rooted for any other teams. I never saw any relevance in any other teams besides the Browns, the Cavs, and the Tribe. I heard stories from my dad and my grandpa about the painful history in Cleveland sports, and I knew we hadn’t seen a championship since my dad was all but five years old, but it’s hard to put that disappointment in perspective when you haven’t experienced 90% of it first hand.
It’s important to note that I only started actively following Cleveland sports when I was a freshman in college, so around 2009-2010. I worked for my school’s football team so I started paying more attention to the Browns, and learning the differences between NCAA football and the NFL. I began to familiarize myself with players, stats, coaches, and all that–partly because I was around dudes like 75% of the time and that’s all they wanted to talk about, and partly because I found it all so interesting. I like learning new things because I’m a freak, but whatever.
When I look back at my own recollection of monumental moments in Cleveland sports history, there are two major ones that I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when it happened. You probably know where I’m going with this. First time being, where I was (Myrtle Beach) and what I was doing (sitting on the couch, trying to get everyone to hush while I listened) when The Decision aired, and where I was (at my old apartment sitting on my roommate’s massive sectional) and what I was doing (eating peanut butter, responding to a twitter message about it) as soon as the SI article was tweeted and LeBron announced he was coming home. The fact that those two moments are so ingrained in my memory, made Believeland a lot more meaningful to someone like me.
In my lifetime, the Indians have been to the World Series twice (and lost), the Cavs went to the finals twice (and lost), and the Browns were the quintessential “Maybe Next Year” team (just as they have always been). Last year when the Cavs made their playoff run, I knew there was no way we would win a championship. But something feels different about this year. Up until last night I had no doubt in my mind that 2016 was our year. No doubt in my mind that we were bringing a championship home. As it stands today, we are 9-0 in the playoffs–sweeping the first two teams–and damn, do we look good out there. This team is fun to watch. They look like they are actually having fun. That’s what’s different about this year… there is no longer these vibes of frustration and disappointment all over the court. I can’t explain it. I just have a feeling.
And then all of a sudden, last night I’m plucked off of my cloud; woken up from my dream state, and reminded that this is what always happens. It gets so close that we can actually see it, touch it, taste it, feel it… And then it’s ripped away from us, in the most painful way possible. The Commissioner’s Trophy was literally in our locker room and it had to be removed. The champagne was popped in the dugout. The drive, the fumble, the move. The shot, the decision, the return. It begs the question, what will this city do if it finally happens? And more importantly, what will we do if it doesn’t?