Pastor Nick Cleveland
My last name is Cleveland. And my name means something to me, just as your name means something to you. Proverbs 22:1 tells us a good name is worth more than riches. Grover Cleveland the 22nd and 24th President of the United States of America is my “too many ‘greats’ to count” uncle. Also, the great Moses Cleveland is part of our family heritage – the man the city of Cleveland, Ohio is named after. Until recently, that was our name’s connection to a winner.
I’ll never forget where I was on Sunday, June 19, 2016 – the night the Cavs broke the 52-year curse of Cleveland sports franchises and won the NBA World Championship! My family and I were at the beach and I watched game 7 with my 10-year-old son. Immediately after the Cavs won, the hotel was going nuts. As I walked to our balcony, I heard screaming and chanting, “Let’s Go Cavs” and the infamous Ohioan, “O-H…I-0,” that only those from Ohio seem to understand. It was euphoric!
I get that sports are not the most important thing in life. But for me, this was deeper than sports… it really was about being a part of something bigger, something special, something very personal and part of my heritage.
Growing up, I loved sports. I played basketball, football, baseball, and whatever I could every day in the neighborhood. Not only did I play, but I loved to watch too. And I cheered for Cleveland. This is partly because I lived 90 miles from East 9th Street but mostly because of my last name. And let’s be real, I’ve had to go through some real agony, but it’s also brought me lifelong memories. Moments after the Cavs won the championship, I remember thinking, “I don’t know what to do or how to feel!” And then the memories started flooding back (and probably did for so many other Cleveland fans weeping on TV and in front of their TVs):
I remember pretending to be Mark Price shooting free throws in the driveway, Kevin Mack barreling over imaginary linebackers in the yard, and every Indians batter by mocking their batting stance.
I remember jumping up and down in our living room, convinced Ernest Byner had crossed the goal line only to have my parents explain that he forgot the ball in the play forever called, “The Fumble.”
I remember staying up late with my mom (my dad worked early in the morning) watching the Browns play Monday Night Football and my mom being mad at the TV when the Browns didn’t make the play.
I remember thinking we won when Craig Ehlo received a great pass on a backdoor cut and made a layup with just seconds left. Moments later the name Michael Jordan took on a whole new meaning with, “The Shot.”
I remember listening to Tom Hamilton and Herb Score call Indians games on my Pepsi can shaped radio in my bedroom. I was allowed to stay up and listen even to west coast games as long as I got up on time the next day!
I remember being absolutely convinced the 1986 Browns were going to the Super Bowl and chanting “Super Bowl! Super Bowl!” in our family room when they pinned the Broncos at their own two-yard line with just minutes left. Soon after, I saw the birth of a comeback guru named John Elway tie it up in, “The Drive.”
I remember watching the 1997 World Series with my girlfriend, now my wife, and her family as Jose Mesa blew a save and the Marlin’s walked off with what I still believe was our trophy.
I remember sitting in my family room with my friend, Danny, watching LeBron James go public with his free agency in 2010 and take his talents to South Beach in what was agonizingly called, “The Decision.”
I remember going to Cavs games with my dad on snowy nights at the Richfield Coliseum, going to Indians games in the upper deck with my mom (who snuck in enough snacks to run the concession stands out of business), and watching my first Browns game from the upper deck in Old Municipal Stadium behind a pole that inconveniently divided the field in half.
I remember watching fans tear apart Municipal Stadium and throw rows of seats onto the field in the final home game after Art Model announced he was moving the team to Baltimore.
Cleveland sports have been a part of our lives. There are so many memories. But the one memory I never got to experience, celebrating a championship, happened this year! And because of it a whole new set of memories begins:
I’ll never forget listening to ESPN 850 WKNR for days awaiting the decision by Lebron and reading the story of his announcement that, “I’m coming home.”
I’ll never forget taking my boys to their 1st Cavs game and sitting in the very top row of the Q last year and seeing a last second shot and win by Lebron.
I’ll never forget being blessed with midcourt seats just rows from the floor this year to watch the Cavs, knowing now my kids will forever get to say they saw the World Champions from Cleveland play!
What’s in a name? Well, for the Cleveland’s cheering for Cleveland sports teams is a part of it. And now, CHAMPION is in the name! I couldn’t help but smile as I watched my son toss his hands up in victory as the buzzer sounded in game 7. I couldn’t help but chuckle a little as all these memories flooded through my mind and I heard Lebron yell into the microphone, “CLEVELAND, this is for you!