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Conor McLennan: Cleveland’s win gives Buffalo fans new hope

Just as Pierce Brosnan, Benicio del Toro, Jim Carrey, Dave Matthews and countless others claim dual citizenship, I claim dual city-ship – having lived my first 28 years in Buffalo and the past 10 in Cleveland. I’ve come to love both cities, but as a sports fan – what a nightmare! The combined heartache of these two cities is unparalleled.

So let me tell you about June 19. My wife and I – both proud native Buffalonians – watched the Cleveland Cavaliers’ improbable attempt at a Game 7 victory against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Having recently viewed ESPN’s “Believeland,” we watched the game with the pain of Cleveland’s past losses, epic collapses and incredible heartbreak fresh on our minds.

Even with only 10 seconds left in the game and the Cavs up by 4, I imagined it. A foul on a 3-point shot, the Warriors forcing overtime and then yet another crushing Cleveland loss.

I didn’t think that would happen. I certainly didn’t want it to. But I easily imagined such a possibility. Only Buffalonians and Clevelanders truly understand it.

Throughout the game, I had some running internal dialogue. “You’ve had a great weekend – a great Father’s Day. Your wife and children love you. That Great Lakes Brewery T-shirt you got for Father’s Day is awesome. It doesn’t matter if the Cavs lose.”

I didn’t believe that last part, but what else could I tell myself? I had to prepare. Other Buffalonians watching the game felt it, too. During the game I received text messages from friends and family in Buffalo – messages such as, “I’m nervous” and “This is tough to take.”

I didn’t sit the entire second half, and when Kyrie Irving hit that 3-pointer, I think my head hit the living room ceiling. When the buzzer sounded and the Cavs somehow still had the lead – the win – I may or may not have shed some tears. That’s my personal business. Let’s just say I was happier than I can describe.

Leading up to the big game, Tim Graham of The Buffalo News wrote, “I can assure you we [Buffalo and Cleveland] are the same.” This incredible similarity is exactly why I’m sharing my experience. Buffalo fans should enjoy this astonishing Cavs victory because, among other reasons, it gives new hope.

Incidentally, many Buffalonians are, inexplicably, Yankees fans. I invite them to root for the team down the street (Interstate 90). Join us as we hope that the Cavs ending the curse means the red-hot, first-place Indians are next. This Cavs victory marks my first experience as a fan of a championship team. Every sports fan should know this feeling. I already can’t wait to feel it when the Bills win a Super Bowl.

That night, as our daughters – the native Clevelanders of the house – were sleeping upstairs, my wife and I were jumping up and down, screaming like crazy. And then we popped the champagne.

When you’re done reading this, I invite you to try the following: Close your eyes and imagine being in my house in Cleveland Heights the moments after the Cavs sealed the deal. Outside an open window, you hear screams of joy, car horns and fireworks. Then imagine it’s your window. In Buffalo. And the celebration is for the Bills (or Sabres) winning it all.

Keep that imagery in mind, my friends, because Buffalo is next!