“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned.” (LeBron James)
Ohio always feels like home although I have not lived there since my parents moved from the Akron vicinity to Hollywood, Florida when I was twelve. A huge reason I retain such sentimental enthusiasm for the Buckeye state and Cleveland in particular relates to my lifelong connection to professional sports teams there. Driving east on I-90 from Chicago on our current road trip , we stopped for one night in Toledo and then spent Memorial Day weekend in Cleveland. My modest plan involved attending a couple Cleveland Indian games hopefully in sunny weather at the downtown ballpark. How exciting then that an improbable sports fantasy would ensue for me as I (1) engaged in a fascinating conversation with a renowned quarterback from my undergraduate alumnus, the University of South Florida, (2) experienced a glorious triumph of the hometown, Cavaliers team in my first N.B.A. playoff game, and (3) witnessed three, inspiring Indian wins, two of which occurred in dramatic, “come from behind “ fashion.
I wonder now why we stopped in Toledo on our relatively short day of driving after leaving Chicago. We could have easily made Cleveland that day yet we decided to book a Radisson Hotel room at the University of Toledo. As we first Waited at the elevator , Ruth and I struck up a brief conversation with a reserved, athletic looking man lingering nearby. He turned out to be Marquel Blackwell, arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of University of South Florida football, former New York Jet, and now running backs coach at the University of West Virginia. This brief encounter would lead to an engaging, two hour breakfast with him the following morning, revealing a humble man of high character who seems destined for continued football coaching glory.
When we arrived in Cleveland the next day, I knew that the Lebron James led Cavaliers would be playing the Boston Celtics in game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Championships. Yet only baseball seemed on my mind then. The going price for prime seats to attend this game on Stub Hub ranged into the $1,000s, yet a few seats could be purchased for less than $100.00 I soon got on the phone with my sports buddy, John, a former basketball coach, who urged me to buy a ticket immediately and enjoy the moment. Taking his advice, I would witness in person an electric, playoff atmosphere at the Quicken Loans Arena, culminating in a critical Cavs win Friday night. How cool to watch Lebron “take over the game to score 46 points as the team prevailed in spite of the injury loss of Kevin Love on this magical night.
Adjacent to the “House of Lebron Glory” lies “First Energy Field, home of my beloved Cleveland Indians. This year’s team seems to have great winning potential yet key injuries and questionable relief pitching have dampened my enthusiasm for their recent performance. I could only wonder how my luck could change this weekend with my team down 8-4 and 5-1 for two games I attended and holding a slim lead of 8-6 in late innings for the other. How satisfying then that my team would somehow prevail in front of near sellout crowds in each of these games with major contributions from rookie pitchers/hitters of unheralded status.
Call it fate or “Karma” if you will, but, I now envision more sports fantasies earned in typically “hard work” fashion my future. Lebron will stay in Cleveland and lead the Cavs to more NBA titles in the future. The Cleveland Browns will regain NFL respectability and finally find a winning quarterback to win the current broken hearts of their fans. Marquel Blackwell will become the next head coach of the University of South Florida’s undefeated football team. The “Tribe” will get playoff revenge over their nemesis, the New York Yankees, and soon bring the World Series baseball crown back to Cleveland