If you haven't heard the news, the 50+ year Cleveland sports curse was lifted on Sunday when the Cavs won Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Around here, that's kind of a big deal. So big a deal that almost the entire city shut down today and 1.3 million Clevelanders made their way downtown for the Cavs Championship celebration!
My office is located in the barely-out-of-downtown neighborhood of Tremont, and we actually attempted to function normally for a while this morning, even agreeing to arrive early so we could conduct some business before heading down to the parade. We'd originally had a race scheduled for the afternoon, but decided to postpone to allow registered participants a chance to fully partake of the celebrations in the city. Everyone showed early for work (I was actually one of the last to arrive, as I hit some of the influx of traffic that jammed up some of the main highways) but it didn't take long for us to realize it was relatively futile: the level of energy EVERYWHERE in the city was just too high and too intoxicating! Most of the staff was already headed downtown by 9am, with the parade scheduled to start at 11.
I joined my coworker and some of her family on the trek from the office to Gateway, where the parade route would begin. Her husband was already set up at the end of the route, but we got a later start than the rest of the office and weren't sure we'd make it in time to see all of the parade. Instead we picked a prime-looking spot right in front of the Q where we'd see the very beginning of the procession, then make our way to the rally afterwards. Then, we waited.
And waited. And waited... Finally around 11:30 the parade was actually making its way around the corner and towards the eagerly awaiting sea of Clevelanders. The first thing I remember about the parade was SO MUCH CONFETTI! Other early highlights in the lineup included the Ohio State marching band (along with several coaches including Urban Meyer), the marching band and Irish dance squad from LeBron's high school, notable Cleveland sports figures (including Jim Brown, Bernie Kosar, and Earnest Byner), the Gladiators arena football team, the Lake Erie Monsters hockey team (fresh off their own championship), and even a recent MMA champion fighter who also happened to be from Cleveland. There was a famous Cleveland rapper somewhere along the line too, but I have no idea who he is...
Finally, we got to the Cavs players, who were split up along a number of vehicles. Most of the players were engaging the crowd as much as possible (and as much as they were allowed), but I believe early in the parade they stuck more to the vehicles than they did later, as I saw clips on TV of players actually walking into the crowd. It took the parade something like three hours to complete the one-mile route, due to a combination of so much fan interaction and fans blocking the street. I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but I ended up in pretty much the very front row, which gave me the ability to snag high-fives and handshakes from almost EVERY PLAYER. The only two who didn't even reach out (at least at my location) were Kevin Love and LeBron. Once it was clear the parade would go on for a while, many of the players got even more engaged, but I was pretty happy with my experience! Heck, I even got champagned-on by RJ, sooooo, no complaints here!
Following the parade, the city hosted a huge rally, with speakers from the team, management, and ownership. Because it was sweltering hot and the stage was on the other side of the city (and who knew how long it would take for that to finish), I headed back to the office/my car once the parade had fully passed by my location. With so many people still hanging out downtown, I was able to get back to the office to respond to some emails, then get all the way home before the rally started - so I just watched it on TV at home while rehydrating. I'm writing this as I cap of the evening watching the Indians game (they're in first place, don'tcha know) and playing Frisbee with the puppy, making it an all-around pretty awesome kind of day!
Now that Cleveland has finally brought home another pro sports championship. maybe we'll get on a roll with a few more. The aforementioned first place Tribe could easily be next! Of course, those Browns are probably still a lost cause, but two outta three ain't bad, as they say. As much as I've enjoyed some of the celebrations, I think I'll be happy to see the frenetic energy of the city die down a little. There's so much going on in my own life, having the additional craziness of a frenzied city has been a little overwhelming - but I fear there is only more to come with the RNC slated to take place in Cleveland in less than one month. Hopefully, the RNC will be as incident-bare as the Cavs saga has been (only a few major issues from the crowds, and no rioting/looting so far), but I'm guessing considering the Republican candidate, we won't be so lucky again! For now, let's rest on our laurels and recuperate a bit!
Has your city been overtaken by a massive celebration? Did you partake, or avoid? What is your favorite part of huge city-wide parties? Does a sports championship in your city make you feel like you, yourself, are a champion?