I was 5 or 6. Wearing my Bernie Kosar jersey (with helmet!)
We were playing the Broncos. I don't remember much of the game. I do remember that we had gotten my sisters' Barbie horses and hung them on the ceiling fan. Probably so moral question marks there, but we were going to beat the Broncos, political correctness be damned.
So we lost. In heartbreaking fashion. Again the next year. In ways that cause people to make documentaries and deem a city and sports franchises cursed.
And that was how my dad and I forged a bond. He took me to an Indians game against the Mariners in 95. We beat them and advanced to the World Series to get smashed by a ridiculous Braves team. Then in 1997, we lose the 2-1 lead in the 9th inning of game 7 of the World Series and the best team in Cleveland in my lifetime came up short. And my dad and I talked sports virtually every day on our lunch break when I worked with him in the summers. That bond translated into him showing me how to throw a curve ball, coaching my little league teams, teaching me the ins and outs of basketball, going with me at 9 in the evening to the gym to work on my shot in high school.
I remember him coming up to me before the first game of my junior year of high school basketball. He found me in the hallway right before we were going to run on the floor for warm ups. He told me, "Make this your coming out party." I was so pumped. I went out and missed my first 8 shots. We lost. NBA career was decisively put on hold at that point.
But my dad taught me sports and it was through the lens of the Browns, the Cavs and the Indians.
And 11 years ago in June, he had a massive heart attack. I spent 10 minutes performing CPR to try and keep him alive. He died.
And now I have two kiddos. And Chaia is to the age where I can start to tell her about what my dad told me about. She knows the Cavs need 4 wins to be champions and that they have 3. I let her go to Buffalo Wildwings for game 1 with me and we got slaughtered and I couldn't decide if it was a terrible or terribly perfect introduction to Cleveland sports fandom.
And we fell behind 3-1 in the series and there was this odd feeling in me (I even posted it on Facebook) that either we would have the most monumental turnaround in NBA history and have the most amazing story of curse reversal for Cleveland sports...or we would lose game 5 by 30 points. In my mind there was no other option.
And we started winning.
And now it's Father's Day, and I know it's merely a dumb sport and there are so many more important things in life than if Tristan Thompson can get a double double and defend adequately when they screen and roll him into mismatches or whether JR Smith can get it going offensively or if LeBron can continue to play at the insane level he has played at in the last 2 games.
I miss my dad. And the thought of the Cavs taking a crack at history tonight makes me excited and nostalgic and sad all at the same time. I'm invested in the game because if we win it will bring some sense of closure and satisfaction to a bond that my dad and I had that was taken away too soon. If we lose, it will give Chaia her first taste of the bitterness of Cleveland fandom.
I had my plans all laid out to go watch the game in Cleveland and then had a change of heart Saturday night. It's Father's Day and I want to be with my family. And share this thing with Chaia.
So enjoy the moment Cleveland. Savor it Ohio.
I need to go find a couple mouthguards to hang from my ceiling fan.