In some ways, I was probably the son my dad never had. Sports ruled my life outside of school. My mom and my grandma were the artistic ones, but there was not much room in my life for art besides using my imagination with My Little Ponies and Care bears.
We watched Game 7 in Targy’s Tavern, a dive bar, in the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle. The broadcast glimpsed to downtown Cleveland and one guy screamed, “Yeahhhh! Those are real Americans right there!” The entire bar busted up laughing and during the game and afterwards, his comment made me think about why Cleveland is so goddamn tough, resilient and special.
A lot of it is because history was made in Cleveland. Hardwork and coming from nothing teach us a lot in life. We 80 babies had such a better life than our parents. But, like any parent, they want to give their kids a better life than we had. Those tough lessons of scarcity that we learned from our parents are some of the best lessons in life.
My great Grandmother immigrated to the United States in 1951. As a Ukrainian married to a Polish man from Krakow, they were transported from their village in the Ukraine and sent to various labor camps throughout WWII Europe. Austria to Budapest, they spent their last seven years in Berchtesgaden, Germany working in labor camps.
Australia or the United States? Where would they go? Apparently, my great grandfather wanted Australia, but my (we call) Baba wanted the USA. From Ellis Island to Chicago, they landed in the bustling town of Cleveland. They moved to the US with four kids and a suitcase.
Sure, there were lots of people who already lived in Cleveland and people who established this city, but there is something special about Cleveland, the Midwest, Ohio and its history.
My dad born in 1951 watched his dad work hard every single day to provide a life for the family. My mom born in 1960 said that were times in her childhood where they were so poor that they lived off Mac and Cheese and hot dogs. On some nights, they went to bed without any dinner.
Why does this matter? It matters because Clevelanders worked to survive, making pennies on the dollar just to provide food for the family. There is truth that when you come from nothing you are taught the hard lessons in life. These people were never entitled and pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to survive.
Those immigrants and Americans who served in WWII saw the horror in mankind. They realized that nothing else mattered besides family, survival and rebuilding our communities. And Cleveland inherited much of that Eastern European work ethic and tough blood.
Every culture had it’s own community. Little Italy, the Slovaks, The Poles – although separate, each community bonded together and lots of that bonding occurred with sports. As any Clevelander knows, downtown seemed to be at its peak of depression in the 90’s.
Sports are like movies. It’s the moment when your mind can escape all the bullshit of life and ignite your spirit with something that is more than just pure entertainment. Cleveland was the butt of every joke and people knocked it down.
I visited my great grandmother often and she always claimed how proud she was to be American and thankful for Cleveland. She always preached hard work, to get a job and make money. As a teen, I thought, “Why did you have to leave Chicago. It’s so cool there.”
After many moves abroad, it took me along time to really appreciate my upbringing, childhood and Cleveland. But the spirit of the city and my roots never left me.
While living in Hannover, Germany, every German dickhead from Berlin, Hamburg or Munich said, “Why are you living in Hannover? It’s so boring and I heard it sucks there with nothing to do.”
There is a saying in German, “nichts als doofer als Hannover.” This means there is nothing more stupid than Hannover. What the hell? I couldn’t see it. I could only see the beautiful parts of the city, which were WAY better than Berlin and run-down Hamburg.
I had a soft spot for Hannover, like I did with my hometown. The only negative part is that Hannoverians are cold people unlike Cleveland where that friendly Midwestern attitude can strike a conversation anywhere (normally about sports). Upon my return home from Hannover, I felt relieved just to bullshit with the guy at the soup kitchen in Tower City about how working on an organic farm in Washington was this pipeline dream he never pursued.
Like Cleveland, Hannover was an underdog. It may have sucked in the 90’s like Cleveland, but not anymore. The average northern German made 1,800 euros per month. Like Clevelanders, they are average waged earners, working hard for a modest paycheck.
I don’t need to revisit Cleveland history as we all know what uck Fart Modell did to the Browns, our horrible snowstorms, loss of our industries, our river catching fire and our contaminated lake. But the one thing we all cling to is sports.
Cleveland has been raped of its soul (city, homes and jobs) so many times that the will to move forward past all the bullshit creates hardworking, tough, resilient and enduring people. It’s like a medieval Scottish warrior fighting for its freedom from England. Clevelanders are warriors.
As a sport management student at BGSU, we talked over and over again about the miraculous stories about kids from ghettos who had nothing and became amazing and impeccable athletes. And Lebron’s story is no different.
Part of that family-orientated Midwest mentality understands the sense of community. It is a sense of community and even Lebron gives back to the underprivileged kids from Akron. But Clevelanders have hearts and hospitable personalities that one can truly appreciate once a person leaves and experiences life elsewhere. Down to earth, humorous and amiable are just a few of the qualities.
I am so glad that the underdog Cavs beat the Warriors on their homecourt. Why? Not only is the victory sweeter, but its time for the west coast to learn a few lessons of the hard knock life.
Now, people out go through hardships, but the west coast does not know or understand suffering like Clevelanders. Besides sun and palm trees, the west coast blossomed while the rest of the country suffered from the market crash.
As Clevelanders lost their jobs and sold their homes for $30k cash, tech people grew the west coast into a money-mongrelling, cut throat society. When I tell people that you can buy a house in CLE under $50k they grab their hearts and laugh as a two-bedroom apartment is worth half a million dollars.
But, the west coast is beginning to suffer. Their suffering though is different. They suffer from over-abundance. These people think they are so important and wrapped up into a consumerist lifestyle, depressed about how their startup company semi-failed outside of their normal six-figure job.
Teenagers drive BMW’s. Starting wages are six figures. Downtowns are bustling with tourists. The west coast has not felt the deep wounds and heartaches like Cleveland and its history. But, it’s coming around. As we see in Seattle, empires like Amazon rape the city of its culture, pushing out average-waged locals and passive-progressive attitudes/government that let heroin run on the streets and the public bus.
I don’t know about you, but I am proud to be from a city that has been through some tough shit and never lost its civic pride. If you want to understand what I mean, read what Ayesha "said" about the Cavs winning (it is not true but sounds like the typical west coast attitude).
So, if you live in Cleveland and think other places are better, remember this, nothing creates a true warrior like a person rising from the depths of their struggle and conquering their battles.
And, if anyone knows what that feels like, ask Lebron.
I don't know about you, but this win brings back so many childhood memories on how our parents, aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas never lost hope in Cleveland sports. I can remember to this day watching my dad scream at the TV during the Browns game while his head popped with veins.On commercial breaks, my dad and his brother or other friends would call each other and bitch about fumble, the drive or the kick. I always said, "Geez dad. You know they can't hear you right?" The amount of love, heart and energy invested to this city as loyal as an old dog.
There are no such things as mistakes. Never Give Up Cleveland. Like Queen said, "We are the Champions." And if anyone gives you shit, tell them to fuck off with that potty mouth like well, most Clevelanders talk like.