(This piece plays on and pays its respects to Joan Didion's The White Album. All credit to her for the quotes and the interpolation of my intro.)
I am talking here about being a child of this current time. When I think about the NBA Finals now I think about an afternoon not of these Finals at all, an afternoon after my freshman year at college, the bright summer of Friday May, 22, 2009.
Walking through a street in the hazy sunlight with friends on our way to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Orlando Magic in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. At the time the level of light on the street seemed strange, as Instagram filters had not reached the masses yet. In my memory now the gold color gel over this afternoon seems apt in coloring that game with a sort of age. That age creeps up on sports fans' recollections of games that fall into the past as silent and forgettable as the confetti after triumphs.
You know what happened. LeBron James hit a crazy 3-pointer in Hedo Turkoglu's mug. The Cavs won the game. Mo Williams slouched to the floor and beat his hand on the hardwood. Williams' celebration became a bizarre inversion of Craig Ehlo's dejected slap from years and years ago. But that didn't win the series.
In that moment, failure seems impossible to the fan on the winning side. What I remember now in my groggy state from last night is my feelings on Saturday May, 30, 2009. The entire house looked on in absolute defeat as the Cavs left the floor saddened by a promising season cut short by the Magic. My stepfather told me , "We'll get them next year." The only response he got was his stepson, dripping with youth and frustration, stomping up the basement stairs in fury.
The immediate relatives never let me forget that night. They are right, we cannot forget when things don't go our way. Past experience builds the person that we become over time. Last night's Finals loss at the hands of the Golden State Warriors will be but another memory filed away in the Cleveland Sports Fan cache. But, we are fast approaching the day where these memories will all be superseded by the memory of the Cavs achieving the ultimate goal and winning a championship.
We had a glimpse of this reality in Game 2 and 3 of this year's Finals. Add those great memories to your personal cache along with the lowlights of this series. Remember the jubilation and the anguish for the next campaign.
ESPN decided to remind us in the first half of last night's game and throughout the series of the region's sports past via its infamous Cleveland Failure Montage. Cavs fans can take pride in the fact that we are fast approaching a time where that montage will be rendered moot. This is the moment it all flips. There's always a moment that allows the story to begin and breathe new life into old worn out narratives.
Joan Didion says that "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." She's right, the narratives produced by sports and other media give us respite from the trials of the larger world. One day it is going to swing the Cavaliers' way. As Didion also said of a paradigm shift she experienced, "the extent to which the narrative on which many of us grew up no longer applies." That's our new story and I'm sticking to it.