In anticipation of the third NBA Finals meeting (in a row!) between the Warriors and Cavs, we thought this might be a timely one to resurface from last year’s series. 

Don’t look now but Loserville–the “mistake on the lake” that is Cleveland Ohio–is about to improbably get their NBA championship. The stars are aligning around the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s really pretty incredible. We had anointed the Golden State Warriors repeat NBA champions back in February, while they were on their way to the best NBA regular season of all-time. Stephen Curry had supplanted Lebron as the best player on the planet….and Lebron had begun to hint that this might be his last season in Cleveland. The Cleveland sports fan–the lover more jilted than any other for the past 5o+ years–looked to be left shafted again. She knew she would love again, she knows no other countenance. But damn, this one hurt. She had Lebron!, but the window is closing.

Now, however, the Warriors are limping to the finals. Odds are, they’re going to lose their conference title to the surging Oklahoma City Thunder. They’re likely going to go down in infamy with the 2007 New England Patriots–a team who had the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history, only to lose in the Super Bowl. To put it in perspective, this Warrior team had a better regular season than any of Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Yet with Steph Curry and others banged up, the door is open for a new champion to emerge.

The Cavs will take care of business against the Raptors this weekend and head to the NBA Championship Series as clear favorites. If the city doesn’t end it’s run of pro sports futility in June, it will survive. On the other hand, if they seal the deal, they won’t be our lovable losers anymore. They’ll have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame AND an NBA Championship. They’ll be “cool”. They’ll share the spotlight for a change with Pittsburgh, their biggest rival just south of town.

As a long time Ohioan (back in the day) I’ll miss not having my lovable losers anymore. Cleveland is on the verge of going from endearing and eminently rootable, to just like everyone else. I’m sad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pulling for the Cavs, even though seeing OKC get a championship of their own would be fun.

charlie-sheen-lfBottom line, when we get what we want, when our curses are reversed, and when the person who rejected us finally loves us back, that space where our deepest longings reside gets rattled. Our well-toned yearning muscles begin to atrophy. We settle. We become content to bask in the glory of past victories. While the coming pains won’t be quite as crippling, the coming joys unfortunately won’t bring the same euphoria. When we win after losing for so long, we die a little.

So, I’m happy for Cleveland, but I find myself already hoping to find another lovable loser to pull for. I suppose that I need to hear the sound of creation groaning, somehow. When all momentarily becomes well, and we get our year(s) of jubilee, we rightly rejoice. However, that’s not what makes us alive. That part is fleeting. It’s that deep longing, that daring to love something that might not love us back that gives life.

If there’s a play in the coming weeks like the one below, and the Cavs stub their toe, I will remain a Cleveland unrequited lover.

Postscript May 26, 2017 – Howie Espenshied:  It is indeed wonderful when our favorite teams love us back.  However, every time they reward our loyalty with a championship, we expect more, and we enjoy it less. It is our nature. This third consecutive finals match up has both fan bases on edge and vying for “one-upmanship”. Here’s hoping the fans can have fun and enjoy what should be a great series, and if the Cavs pull off the upset, it will be one for the ages!