Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lit up like Vegas

On the day he was drafted, LeBron James promised he would "light Cleveland up like Las Vegas." On Friday, he delivers on that promise.

In what has the potential to be this city's greatest sporting event since the Browns' 1964 NFL Championship, LeBron and his Cavaliers can eliminate the Detroit Pistons from the playoffs tonight at The Q. Two weeks ago we really were just happy to be here. Now we are believers.

The Greatest Moment in Jacobs Field History already happened, more than 10 years ago. The Greatest Moment in Q History might happen Friday night.

Way back in 1995, when the Indians made the playoffs for the first time since before we began sending things into outer space, we witnessed The Greatest Moment in Jacobs Field History and this city's top sporting moment in the 40-plus years since the Browns' title. In the first game of the first playoff series the Indians had played in since 1954, Tony Pena hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th at 2:17 a.m. in front of a sellout crowd of 44,218 people, most of whom were still in the building. Two years and 12 hours before, there might not have been 44,218 people in all of downtown Cleveland.

The home run towers over two World Series appearances, the return of the Browns in 1999, all our named sporting disasters, everything since that 1964 championship. It delivered on a promise and promised its own run of greatness. It is and will always be the Greatest Moment in Jacobs Field History because of both the anticipation and the outcome, something we had waited more than 40 years for, and something that delivered like Santa on Christmas Eve. By the 1997 World Series, our expectations ran higher than the July temperature, taking some of the fun away and making us all more miserable when the Florida Marlins won. By the late 1990s and into the turn of the century, we became all the more bitter when the Indians could not turn in more once-in-a-generation performances.

But now -- NOW -- we have a moment to rival the anticipation of that Oct. 3, 1995 playoff game. And if for just one night God stops hating Cleveland sports, we will have a moment to rival the delivery as well. LeBron is the promise the Cavs made to the fans on May 22, 2003, when they won the draft lottery. The Cavs have a chance to provide The Q's seminal moment Friday, its Tony Pena moment, a night where they both deliver on a promise and promise more to come. Even though a victory over the Pistons won't be a championship or even a ticket TO the championship, it could very well become The Greatest Moment in Q History for what it represents: Rebirth. Revival. Resilience. Renewal.

Of course, the Pistons have been behind 3 games to 2 in three other playoff series three times over the past two seasons. They won all three series. So the rational part of Clevelanders is thinking this is all a setup, just another one of Lucy's promises to hold the football while we kick it, only to laugh at us for believing her once again.

But we're still going to light up the town. And whatever God has in store for us, like Job we're going to take it.


Jon said...

I'm 100% with you on the Tony Pena HR. Nobody talks about it, preferring to remember the Sandy Alomar HR off Mariano Rivera instead (which was more important to people outside of Cleveland who hate the Yankees for their own reasons). When your team doesn't have a single October highlight for the better part of four decades, a walk-off homer in extra innings of the first playoff game has to be #1.

Great article.

scott bakalar said...

Agree. I wasn't at the Jake, but did stay up to watch that game. Tony raising his arms and pumping around the bases will be a long time Cleveland Sports memory for me.

Go Cavs!!!!

ChocoCheeks said...

Ok I have to say I am touched, and maybe, just maybe Im willing to give in to the optimisim (?) and though I even have a "God hates Cleveland sports" sticker, I will let a part me wish, beg, pray, hope and dream for the Cavs!