Growing up, Sunday’s were for Jesus and Cleveland Browns football. Summers were spent at The Jake, and the Cleveland Cavaliers ignited my love for the game of basketball. I was born with sport in my blood. I can thank my mom for that, a second generation Cleveland fan, whose mother was also a diehard fan.
My earliest memories involved watching the Indians with my mom and Grandma (Gram). The one thing I never quite understood why Gram was always cursing in Italian at the TV. She passed away in 1997 after the Tribe lost in the World Series. The three of us never got to experience the euphoria of a championship together, but I did learn my own fair share of swear words throughout the years.
As I got older, my mom was often quick to apologize for giving me the gift of Cleveland fandom. After all, she lived through “The Drive “and “The Fumble”. She watched her beloved football team leave town. We cried over the World Series loss together and hated LeBron after “The Decision”. I quickly learned life as a Cleveland fan would not be easy. With each disappointment, came another apology, as if she was personally letting me down.
Then a moment we never thought we’d witness happened.
In 2016, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers broke a championship drought with a historic NBA Finals run. We held onto each other as we watched the final minutes of Game 7 wind down. The infamous LeBron block, the clutch Kyrie three and the lockdown defense sealed the deal and made us champions. We embraced one another and cried happy tears. It was a moment I will never forget and I couldn’t imagine sharing it with anyone else.
Mom, I’m not sure you know how grateful I am we have this special bond. Through it all, you taught me what it means to be fiercely loyal and competitive. You instilled a passion for sports in me that shaped who I’ve become. You were always going above and beyond, especially when it came to my super fandom. Whether it was driving around at Christmas time to find the elusive Bernie Kosar Jersey, or skipping school to let me watch Kenny Lofton in action.
I’ll never forget the day you had to sit me down to tell me they no longer played for our team. I was heartbroken. Without missing a beat, you surprised me with a Dallas Cowboys jersey and an Atlanta Braves hat. More importantly, you provided a shoulder to cry on and picked up the pieces just like you would do throughout high school with my real boyfriends. I guess that’s the thing about rooting for subpar sports teams your whole life, it makes everything else feel a little easier.
Now as I watch my own children grow up, I get to share with them the same fandom you shared with me, and Gram shared with you. I’ve come to realize it’s bigger than any game, it’s tradition – one that I’m happy to pass down. I’m looking forward to all the moments we will share together. The wins, the losses and everything else between. Thank you, Mom, for the unconditional love and support, and most of all my love for Cleveland sports.