(*Author’s note: A sports journalist is supposed to have an unbiased opinion about the sport and team they cover. However, I felt for this specific article the need to explain my fandom to show the importance of the banner raising.)
The Cleveland fan life didn’t choose me, I chose the Cleveland fan life.
I grew up in a town outside of Chicago nestled in-between Cicero and LaGrange , where we played in the streets until the lights came on. We blocked shots like Eddie Belfour, rebounded like Dennis Rodman, hit home runs like Frank Thomas, stole bases like Ryne Sandberg, scored touchdowns like Gayle Sayers and Walter “Sweetness” Payton, and wanted to be like Michael Jordan. Every game was color commentated like Harry Carey and the legendary Johnny “Red” Kerr.
I was surrounded by a history of excellence and lived in a city full of greatness.
My parents, on the other hand, grew up in Ohio. They shed tears and bled for teams from Cincinnati to Cleveland to Toledo. They were all in for Ohio sports. The first time I saw my dad cry was when I was almost four years old. I watched as my dad’s heart broke after the Jordan jumper over Craig Ehlo. The Shot, as it was so horrifically named, was added to a long list of events caused by the Cleveland Curse.
Yet, the curse couldn’t keep me from becoming a fan of Cleveland Sports.
A year before we moved to Ohio my parents noticed I was dabbling in the art of Cleveland sports. I had jumped on the Sandy Alomar train and could be found spouting off stats about any one of the Cleveland Cavaliers at a moment’s notice. My parents grew concerned. They sat me down and had a serious discussion about what being a Cleveland Sports fan meant. My parents tried to be good parents and save me from years of pain and torture. I was told I had a choice in the matter. I didn’t have to become a fan of Cleveland sports. I could like any team, in any city, with the exception of the New York Yankees.
After our chat about making my own decisions when it comes to sports, I decided to do a little investigative work. I called family members who lived in Ohio to interview them about why they are fans of such a cursed team. Giving my mom a near heart attack I walked into a Browns backer bar to ask fans the same question.
No one could really explain why they were fans. It was a feeling in their bones and a yearning in their hearts.
What I discovered about Cleveland fans was something Bill Zito touched on during the banner raising ceremony.
He described Cleveland fans as “awesome”, “inspiring”, “unbelievable”, and “perfect”.
Zito is correct.
Cleveland fans have this amazing unwavering hope that things will be better. If not hours from now or even tomorrow, they know there is always next year.
The thing about Cleveland is this attitude of hope and belief extends beyond the playing field. They apply this hope, this never give up attitude, to their everyday lives.
Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by a group of people who believed dreams could come true and all the bad things were leading to something even better?
So, I made my choice. I would become a Cleveland sports fan.
The moment I made my decision to be a fan of Cleveland sports, I was greeted with a few punches to the gut. Between the 1995 World Series and the Browns being moved to Baltimore, I was up to my eyeballs in curses. What made it even worse for me was the amount of hockey teams that moved in and out of the city on a moment’s notice.
Yet, I still hung on because I knew the best was yet to come.
Tears filled my eyes as the 2016 Calder Cup Champions banner rose to the top of the arena. All the pain of the curse was lifted from my heart. The years of soul-crushing defeat washed away and I could breathe again. I even forgave every hockey team that left the city because it led to this moment.
A moment that doesn’t feel real.
A week later it still doesn’t feel real. Yet, every time I look into the rafters at Quicken Loans Arena, I’ll know it’s real.
It’s a banner that will be there forever. That’s the part of the group that will be together forever to be remembered as that team that won a championship here. We are trying to do it again here with this team.
-Ryan Craig – Captain of the Cleveland Monsters
The 2016 Calder Cup Championship banner is much more than a banner. It signifies the true power of perseverance, patience, hard work, and most importantly, love.
Even Monsters players understood the weight which was lifted off the shoulders of Cleveland fans during the Summer of Champions. To them, it wasn’t just winning a Calder Cup. It was helping lift a curse that plagued a city longer than the 31 years I have been on this earth.
It was amazing. It was an amazing feeling last year and it brought back some goosebumps watching that banner go up in the roof. So, of course it was a really good feeling.
- Anton Forsberg – Cleveland Monsters’ Goaltender
Every time I listen to Tony Brown’s final call of the game, watch the youtube clips, or see the 2016 Calder Cup Championship banner hanging from the rafters I will get chills and goosebumps will cover my body.