That was the one word that came out when I flung open the patio door on Sunday and screamed into the Illinois night.
It came after high fives and hugs with my husband and the jumping up and down with my daughter, the scream that, as it turns out, had been brewing inside me for years, rising to the surface once in a while, only to be squashed in a series of painful, painful iterations of defeat’s cruel agony on gridirons, courts, and diamonds.
During the game’s last quarter, the last half of which I watched on my knees, about a foot from the t.v. screen in our a living room, the scream converted its potential energy into a kinetic tremor I felt through my whole body.
I’m not sure why I was even kneeling on the floor, other than as a good Catholic girl from Cleveland’s West Side, my body’s instinct in times of stress is to seek prayer, to whatever saint I could think of to act as patron of Beliveland (Jude, and his desperate causes, seemed appropriate). Or perhaps, in getting that close to the t.v., I was trying to feel like I was in OraCLE Arena. Or maybe, some deep self-preservation mechanism knew that from kneeling, it was but a quick drop to the fetal position, should the MiraCLE not occur.
But it did. The Cavs won.
In the rush of emotion after every, single second was off the clock, watching from a place the length of the Indiana and half of the Ohio turnpike away (roads I’d traveled West on only hours before), I needed to share in that moment by letting whoever could hear me know I was from Cleveland, and Cleveland had won.
After that, I had absolutely no idea what to do.
But my daughter, who’d spent a good part of the day devastated the she had to say goodbye to her cousin, Grace, for 18 whole days before our next summer trip to Cleveland, did. She ran to the fridge, opened it, pulled out two juice pouches, handed one to me, and offered a cheers to Cleveland (Note: the emoji pillow is because, after my scream, she suggested I could’ve just used the pillow to show my feelings, rather than frightening the neighbors).
From there it was all Facebook and Twitter and texts all around, a virtual joy-sharing that makes me want to thank Al Gore for his internet invention. I’ve spent the last 24 hours enjoying (vicariously) what victory begets you in Cleveland, like free ice cream at Mitchell’s and pierogis Sokowloski’s University Inn. I’ve watched that Nike commercial from 2014 about 20 times, and a certain video from Cleveland.com even more. Like someone who is so empty of food or drink they keep drinking or eating way beyond the point of fullness to cram in all of the goodness, I just can’t seem to help myself.
Jaunty with victory, I brought donuts into the office today. As it turns out, there are those who I work with who have such an intense dislike of LeBron James they declined to partake of celebratory donuts. Let that one sink in and rattle around for a bit. How can a Chicagoan dislike LeBron more than you like donuts?
I suppose these anti-LeBronist’s have their rationale, but I don’t pretend to understand it, and I do hereby officially require they stop citing “what he did to Cleveland” as one of their reasons for this dislike. Do you know what he did to Cleveland? He, who was welcomed home as the father welcomed the prodigal son, through an epically poetic demonstration of athleticism and sheer force of human will, won for Cleveland a championship.
And, if you’ve decided he’s a selfish jerk, tell me about the time you promised to pay college tuition over 1,000 students, at a price tag north of $41 million.
Since moving to Chicago in 2001, I have watched Chicagoans celebrate a White Sox World Series and three of Lord Stanley’s Cups for the Hawks. I’ve enjoyed the madness of it all, but in the way that one looks wistfully through the window to watch a party to which they weren’t invited.
On Sunday, I finally got my invite into the party, and, I’m not going to lie, it was really fun. Sure, it was a celebration for a team of professionals who make bajillions of dollars for playing a game. It’s not like they cured cancer (although, given the Cavs partnership with the Cleveland Clinic, they might have their hands in that, too).
And, I know, Cubs fans, other teams have waited longer, but Cleveland’s championshiplessness was (yes, I do enjoy using the past-tense there) failure, across-the-board and utter. Plus, how often do people scoff, their faces full of mocking, when you tell them you are from Chicago? Or Boston? Or other current or former long-suffering sports towns.
Being from Cleveland means that you know when you tell people where you are from, there is a high likelihood that a joke is about to be made about the river catching on fire or other mistakes on the Lake Erie shores. When this happens, you shake your head, realizing the jokester is neither very funny nor very aware of current events. That river thing, it happened almost 50 years ago and the Cuyahoga is part of a national park.
Still, it bugs you, because the only kind of burning river associated with your city anyone should talk about is the delicious kind made by Great Lakes Brewery, and you know also that your hometown is built of bridges and grit and, like the kid who the popular kids made fun of in high school and comes to the class reunion with perfect life, Cleveland has spent years knowing who it is and building its future.
And now, the future has a sweet title, and that title is World Champs.