This reflection was originally posted on June 19, 2016, shortly after the Cleveland Cavaliers clinched the first championship for the city of Cleveland in nearly 52 years.
I watched Game 2 of the Finals, a 110-77 shellacking, on a Greyhound bus. I insisted on using mobile data to stream every minute of that game. My phone’s battery protested, and I pulled out a crappy convenience-store cube to plug into an outlet on the bus after halftime. However, the outlet was loose, and I had to hold the cube in the outlet with my hand.
The person sitting next to me was asleep. Their leg was crossed over in a way that I had to reach under it and hold the cube in the outlet with the tips of my fingers. After about ten minutes of holding the cube in the outlet, my fingers started to turn sore. However, my charge was holding steady at 4%, so I soldiered on. About an hour in, the Warriors pushed the lead to thirty, and I seriously considered packing it in. I was incredibly fatigued and the scrubs had been playing for several minutes already.
I refused. Though I paid with it with lingering wrist soreness for the next several days, I would not look away. It will not compare to the pain that Lebron will probably feel in his wrist tomorrow morning.
My team’s struggles were my own.
In the summer of 1976, thirty-seven car bombs were detonated in Cuyahoga County as the Cleveland mob collapsed upon itself. The city was only seven years removed from the fourteenth and final instance of the Cuyahoga River catching on fire, a disaster on a national scale that led to the passage of the Clean Water Act.
The national profile of Cleveland as the Mistake by the Lake persisted through the “Cleveland Rocks” hardheadedness in the ‘90s, while we sent mayors to prison and worked through a 0-for-22 district benchmark report card. The script did not truly start to flip until the cultural touchpoint for Cleveland became a tongue-in-cheek idolization of Cleveland on a show about New York City, a bit still grounded in patent disbelief that the city can amount to anything of national relevance.
This city is imperfect, but it and all its warts raised me to understand inequity, privilege, and justice.
My city’s struggles are my own.
We are a country founded by privileged white men who decided that it would be fair to assign fractional personhood to other people, a country that still had widespread poll taxes the last time Cleveland won a championship, and still has hundreds of active school desegregation cases in the South.
I am a similarly privileged man who must recognize his privilege and do my duty to foster justice.
My country’s struggles are my own.
Dare to believe that we can change the narrative. That we can flip the script.
That we can do anything.