In statistics, we often talk about probability values being calculated by looking at the relative frequency of certain outcomes from an experiment when compared with the number of trials of that experiment. I found myself thinking of this recently as I surfed the web trying to find a value for the number of NBA teams who went on to win a championship after having a record similar to that the Cavaliers currently have. Although I could not find such statistics, I still wrote the words “The Final” in cursive on the board on the last day of class, an allusion that my students, all of whom have been watching the playoffs, immediately recognized.
As I slowly gained consciousness after awaking from brain surgery almost immediately after moving to Cleveland in 1990, I heard the nurses around me discussing the lack of success of the local football team. The immediate conclusion for those nurses was that the current coach would soon be fired, since the team was not doing very well. As someone who was suddenly seeing herself as having health and cognitive issues to overcome, the fact that a coach would be fired so quickly because of a few lost games struck me as frightening. It took me a while to understand just how much my newly adopted city longed for another championship. The last one that it had experienced had been in the year when I was learning how to walk- the first time.
In the years since that initial introduction to the degree to which Cleveland, Ohio, wanted a championship of some kind, I have seen hopes for such a win grow and fade, often leaving people saying a phrase that became almost a theme song for the city; “wait until next year.” However, this year, with the return of our prodigal son, LeBron James, we are hoping that the mantra might become “this is the year.”
That was, until injuries began to plague the Cleveland Cavilers, one after another. First there was a dislocated shoulder for one star player. Then there was a broken knee cap for another star player. Soon, there was only one of the original three star players left, LeBron James. And he just did not seem to even entertain the idea that the team would not succeed at its goal of winning the National Championship for Basketball. Since my daughter loves basketball, our family gathered around the television to watch the games unfold. One of my daughter’s friends, gathering with us, noticed our decadently non-flat TV set, bought when my daughter was a baby, and said “your TV is cute.” Yes it was old, but it did a fine job of showing us what was happening.
And what was happening was that, despite a few glitches, the team was winning games. For the first time EVER, the Cleveland basketball team was winning games in the NBA Finals. The crowd gathered at the game was ecstatic and deafening loud, and for those who could not afford tickets to the actual games (tickets that are now going for tens of thousands of dollars,) there were many watching parties, both near the actual games and at various other places in the city.
When I was interviewing for jobs more than twenty five years ago, a Boston priest I knew heard that I was hoping to get a job in Cleveland. In typical East Coast snobbishness, he assured me that he would pray for me- that I NOT be offered the job. I quickly told him that I really wanted it, and would be thrilled to move to Cleveland. Looking back, I wish I could tell him that Cleveland offered some incredibly nice, hardworking neighbors, a reasonable cost of living, excellent hospitals just when I would need them, and a man and a daughter who were there, waiting for me (well, my daughter was not born for a few years, but when she was born, it was in Cleveland.) And so, with my fellow citizens of a proud Midwestern city, I join in cheering on the local basketball team, with hopes that soon I will be writing a column titled “This was the Year.”
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