Unbelievably, our favourite professional basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, won the 2016 NBA Championship defeating the Oakland Warriors in a gritty 7th final game in Oakland 93-89, coming back from an almost impossible 3-1 game deficit to capture the trophy AWAY from home. When the last buzzer sounded, LeBron James, aka The King, sank to his knees on the floor and wept. Along with some of his teammates and coach. Wept with joy. With relief. With thanks.
The Cleveland Championship is the victorious culmination for 31 year old James who was the number 1 draft choice by the Cavs in 2003 when, at the age of 18, he signed for $100 million.
Up to this point, Cleveland was starving. The last major sports championship for the City was won by the Cleveland Browns football team 52 years ago. Worse, northeast Ohio currently suffers from an economic downturn with its related misery: poverty, crime, poor self-image, increased welfare.
And then came the miraculous NBA win against all odds. A spontaneous outpouring of delirious joy, mixed with disbelief, erupted with this spectacular coup by the Cavs. Caught slightly off guard, the City quickly rallied to plan a victory parade. The Cavs coach received a telephone call from President Barack Obama inviting the team to the White House.
The young athlete’s prowess intrigued us and we followed his career as he eventually made his mark in the professional basketball world.
Now here we stand at 7 a.m. on a beautiful June morning behind a barricade outside the Cavs Quicken Loans Arena with other early bird fans. The parade will begin in about four hours but the word is a million or more fans are expected to honour their heroes. So if you want to see anything---or anyone--- stake out your spot early.
During that long wait, we bond with our crazy basketball neighbour fans, a cross-section of society. A stressed young man in front of us jumps and jostles impatiently. He casually plays with his car keys as he holds them over the barrier. Below his jangling keys lies a sewer on the road waiting with open jaws like a monster. In one awful moment he accidentally drops his keys. How quickly they slide and disappear between the sewer grates. Horrors! Those around him---including us---gasp in dismay. We are witnesses to your worst ‘lost key’ nightmare.
Desperately he calls to the Security guard on duty. Guard ambles over. He is busy with other security measures. The fan explains what happened. Can they open the grate? Guard shakes his head. Not here. Not now. Distraught fan wants to move from behind the barrier. Can I look down and see if I can see them? Guard agrees. They both look. No keys appear in the murky water below.
And still the people come. In some places the crowd is 50 deep. People are climbing in, out, on and around the parking garage across the street. They are hanging from lamp posts. They are everywhere.
Overhead the blue sky is dotted with the circling Goodyear blimp and private planes hauling congratulatory banners. Television cameras record every activity. Cav team volunteers appear early on the parade route throwing out tee shirts, beads, photos, rubber wrist bands, team souvenirs to waiting fans; the crowd, screaming, surges forward, eager to catch a piece of memorabilia.
This is one massive love-in. A collective moment of passion. No violence. Only love. Only love. Only love.
Epilogue: the distressed young man who lost his keys called his father for help: when the celebrations ended he was last man standing. And the three kids who couldn’t see the parade behind tall adults? Adoring fans steered them to the front.