Cleveland is hurting now, but fans have reason to hope
By TAYLOR ROSEN
College Contributor Network
There's always next year -- four unbelievably bittersweet words said through the streets of Cleveland every single year. Those four words have a split meaning for the people in this city. For some Clevelanders, those words provide a sense of hope, and belief that probably shouldn't exist.
That belief is predicated around the thought of things turning around. The belief is whether it's the Cavaliers, Browns or Indians, eventually one of them has to catch a break, right?
The majority of Clevelander's have kept that faith and belief in their city and sports teams even after 51 years of false hope, misery and suffering. It will be those same fans calling in sports talk radio shows for the next couple of months debating whom the Browns should start at quarterback. It will be those same fans rooting on the Tribe and their inexperienced yet talented roster when the time to push for October baseball arrives.
On Tuesday night, the Golden State Warriors were just too much for the Cavaliers. Their depth, health and fortune were just too much for a depleted Cavs team running on fumes to handle. As many predicted, the Warriors finished off the Cavaliers on their home floor in six games, 105-97.
These two teams weren't evenly matched, they didn't travel the same road to get there, but the competition was still fierce and intense.
The Warriors might go down as the most fortunate team to ever win an NBA Championship. While the Cavaliers could be seen as the most unfortunate team to ever make the NBA Finals. The Warriors won 67 games, avoided the defending champs (Spurs), caught an injured backcourt in Memphis, and faced off against a Houston Rockets team, which had no business even being in the Western Conference Finals to begin with.
The Cavaliers overcame every bump in the road. Losing their all-star big man, Kevin Love in the first round to Boston. Hearing everyone count them out and give them no chance to defeat the Bulls but they did. Even with a hobbled Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers got it done. They didn't make excuses or think about their bad fortune. They just kept playing to the best of their abilities. Eventually, they ran into a deeper, healthier team that presented too many mismatches to handle. What we're left with is what could've been, had the Cavaliers been just a bit more fortunate.
For the other side of Cleveland, the ones who "just can't take this anymore," those same four words provide a sense of doom, false hope and frustration. The same four words uttered every year. Failure after failure, it eventually takes its toll on the human brain. But there shouldn't be a single soul labeling what this Cavaliers team accomplished this season as a failure. That would be completely and utterly inaccurate.
As the Cavs leader, LeBron James said numerous times throughout this series, "We're undermanned and outmatched, but we'll keep fighting until the end" and that's exactly what James' Cavaliers did.
The Cavaliers virtually started their bench, and still had the Warriors cornered and in search of adjustments and the needed grit to win an NBA championship. Considering the odds the Cavs were given to even make the NBA Finals after the injury bug plagued their playoff run, what they accomplished and gained from these playoffs shouldn't be understated or taken for granted. Sometimes, even when you're all in, you just run out of what it takes to get the job done, and that's exactly how it played out for the Cavs.
Even with James providing one of the most historical NBA Finals performances in the history of basketball, the Cavs didn't have enough in the tank to finish the job. But one thing they never even considered was giving up. That was never an option. They fought and scrapped until the very end. Relying on a herculean effort from their leader and bench players stepping into larger roles in effort to deliver the city its first sports title in 51 years, and they came up just two games short. The magnitude of that accomplishment just cannot be downplayed.
The truth is, this is just the start of James' homecoming tour in Cleveland. There's no telling how James' first year back in Cleveland would've ended had the team been fully healthy, but one thing they will take away from this playoff run is the experience of knowing exactly what it takes to hoist a Larry O'Brien Trophy. As a unit, the Cavaliers now possess the experience, which basically every guy playing big minutes in the Finals for the Cavaliers lacked, besides James.
Maybe that's why the scene in downtown Cleveland was still joyous even after Cavs fans had just witnessed their team come up short yet again. You heard words like "be proud," and "they gave it their all." For Clevelanders, those dreadful four words "there's always next year," are far too familiar, but this time around those words carry a much different meaning. Those four almost-painful-to-utter words actually provide Clevelanders with an additional level of optimism and belief they haven't felt or experienced in a very long time.
You might wonder why a city that has only known losing for the past 50 years continues to hold out optimism and belief, but I don't. This is Cleveland, they don't call it 'Believeland' for nothing. As Andy Baskin would say, get ready for ESPN to cue up Cleveland's misery in a two-minute highlight reel they've already tortured Cleveland fans with for decades, but Clevelanders aren't concerned with the past this time around.
It's all about the present and the future for Clevelanders these days, which is why that sense of optimism just won't fade away even after enduring the painful taste of defeat yet again. Win or lose, the fans of this city are truthfully 'all in' and that's why Clevelanders never give up hope.
Even Las Vegas is 'all in' to the optimism and belief so to speak. Vegas picked the Cavaliers as the favorite to win it all next season and gave them 9-4 odds to do so. You can kick this city when it's down, bring up the painful memories that's haunted Cleveland for decades, but one thing you can't take from its people is the belief in its professional sports teams.
Taylor Rosen is a junior at Kent State University. He spent time with The Stater covering Kent State football and basketball. Taylor is from Cleveland, and has Cleveland sports under a microscope. Follow him on Twitter: @TRosen12