Share this article

print logo

It's all happening on a wild Tuesday in Believeland

BELIEVELAND -- The lament was always these things never happen here. Now it seems like everything is happening here.

The dateline you see in the preceding paragraph was the title of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary that was released in May about woes at title time in Cleveland, Ohio. Things like The Shot (Cavaliers 1989), The Drive (Browns 1987), The Fumble (Browns 1988) and The Blown Save (Indians 1997) are embedded as deep into the landscape here as Wide Right and No Goal are to Buffalo.

Not anymore. The Cavaliers became the first team in the history of the NBA Finals to wipe out a 3-1 deficit and won the city's first title since the 1964 Browns by beating the Golden State Warriors in June. Tuesday night in Quicken Loans Arena, their banner was raised and their championship rings were handed out prior to their season opener against the New York Knicks

Just across Gateway Plaza from the place they call "The Q" is left field at Progressive Field. A scant hour later, the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs opened Game One of the World Series, with the Tribe trying to win its first title since 1948.

The dreams here have never been bigger.

Roared the headline across the front page of Tuesday's Cleveland Plain Dealer: "ARE YOU READY TO BELIEVE AGAIN? Tonight, we celebrate one title -- and take aim at another"

"I don't think there will be anyplace in the sports world better than on a Tuesday night in Cleveland," Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis said in the hours leading to the first World Series game here since 1997. "A lot of people have waited a long time to hear the words this is going to be the No. 1 place for sports. What a special day for a city to do that. It means your teams are at the top of their games and your fans are doing well too."

Estimates were that upwards of a million fans poured into downtown for the Cavaliers' victory parade as Cleveland finally brought its title drought. That was on a hot June morning. Longtime Cleveland observers say know an Indians win would lend itself to the November chill for a parade -- but no less of a party.

"What they did for the city was great," said outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall. "I remember driving downtown to the park the day of the parade and like a million people celebrating the Cavaliers. It was amazing, what it meant for the community. It was uplifting for the city to have a winner. It could have pushed over into us. We're looking forward to breaking our own ground."

"I think a Tribe World Series win would set this city off too," Kipnis said. "It's a good sports town. It's always been. It's been a fantastic place for my career. These fans are very loyal to their teams."

Manager Terry Francona, team president Chris Antonetti and other front office members watched the Indians parade from the upper deck balcony of the ballpark, clearly envisioning doing something like the Cavs did. But now they're faced with being the "other team" in the World Series, sort of like the Cavs were against Golden State. The Cubs have a nationwide following thirsting for the end of their 108-year championship drought.

"I actually think they deserve it," Francona said. "They've won 103 games and the Cubs are the Cubs. I get it. I played there. People liked me when I was the 26th man on a 25-man team. That's just the way the Cubs are. I get it. If you go into our clubhouse, you'll see 25 guys, coaches, trainers, our front office that are perfectly contest with where we are and how we got here.

"And if we can win, this city will go bananas."

LeBron James and his teammates have been cheering like crazy for the Indians from a ballpark suite. Before a division series game against the Red Sox, James had the crowd roaring with a pregame pep talk on the field -- while wearing a 1970s blue Indians throwback jersey.

LeBron James and Cavs teammates pump up the crowd prior to Game Two of the division series (Getty Images).

LeBron James and Cavs teammates pump up the crowd prior to Game Two of the division series (Getty Images).

James, of course, is an devout Yankees fan but the native of nearby Akron has had no torn allegiances this year with the Bronx Bombers in a transition year while the Indians have been thriving.

"It's entertaining to see those guys," Indians Game One starter Corey Kluber said of James & Co. "I know at the last game, they looked like they were having a good time up there. It was an unbelivable run they went on in the spring. It definitely sent a vibe through the city. You could just feel the energy through that run after they won. It's been great for the city of Cleveland that they won a championship and hopefully we can bring them another one."

Things actually started to shift eight days before the Cavs won the final three games of the NBA Finals over Golden State. Cleveland won its first hockey title since the 1964 Barons when the then-Lake Erie Monsters took the American Hockey League's Calder Cup in a game played in front of more than 19,000 fans at the Q, a playoff record for the 80-year-old minor league.

How powerful is the pull of Believeland now? The Monsters, the farm team of the Columbus Blue Jackets, rebranded themselves the Cleveland Monsters for this season. And although that brought a good feeling to the Q, no one in Cleveland was going to say the city's drought was over after a minor-league title was won.

The Cavs' championship unleashed decades of pent-up emotion. Just like the Indians hope to soothe baseball fans who have been waiting since 1948 for another title.

"We saw what the city looks like in a championship run. The best thing is we saw that and could say, 'We want that', " Kipnis said. "We saw everybody in Cavs colors and we said we wanted them in Tribe colors. We enjoy having LeBron here. He loves this city. there's no question who he's working for. There's no Yankees cap. Yankees aren't in it. It's us and the Cubs, an easier choice for him. He's done a great job rallying support."

"Believeland" had to go to another edit and ESPN aired a special version to include the Cavs' title victory. In another week or so, the Indians and their fans hope the folks at the network might be looking at version three.


There are no comments - be the first to comment