What are two things you will never see in Cleveland?
A victory parade and the sky.
Halftime at the Q, and Frisbee Dog has dropped two Frisbees in a row, now three, four, yes, five in a row. Tension builds. Blood rushes to the face of Frisbee-throwing Guy, and he looks for a surefire connection, something to build his partner's confidence, but even the old dog-climbs-up-and-takes-Frisbee-out-of-hands trick ends in shame. The Frisbee rattles in the dog's teeth and flutters away. Six misses in a row.
It isn't the show I'm interested in. It is Cleveland. It is us. We are nervous. For 24 blissful minutes, we had been sitting in Quicken Loans Arena watching perfection. We watched the Cavaliers dominate the Hawks in a playoff game, watched LeBron James rise to the stratosphere and take us with him. And now we're back in Cleveland, back in a building named after an online lending company, and we're watching Frisbee Dog, who can't catch Frisbees.
"This is so Cleveland," Zev says. Zev is Zev Weiss, the tallest kid in my elementary school class year after year, now the CEO of American Greetings, one of about 20 Fortune 1000 companies still in Cleveland. I have not seen Zev in almost 30 years, but as we watch the hapless trials of Frisbee Dog, time melts away, and we are back in seventh grade feeling the same old anxieties: Please catch a damned Frisbee. Please don't turn this whole night into a joke.
So Cleveland. My hometown. Again and again, I try to explain Cleveland to people. It isn't easy. They say, "Oh, yeah, Rust Belt city, lots of snow, factories, it's just like Pittsburgh." But it isn't. In January, I went to the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh, and the halftime act was the Kittanning Firemen's Band, whose members all wore clothes that didn't match one another's, and everyone loved it. That is Pittsburgh.
Cleveland's different. Here it is, halftime of a playoff game, and the Cavs have the best and coolest basketball player in the world (sorry, Kobe), they have this lovable and workmanlike team that grinds on defense and tears away rebounds and gobbles up loose balls. The Cavaliers really (don't say it), truly (knock on wood) have a chance (stop before someone gets hurt) to bring Cleveland its first major sports championship in 45 years ... and we are worried because there is a dog on the court dropping Frisbees.
"Hey, he caught one," Zev says. And sure enough, he did. Then Frisbee Dog catches a second, much to the appreciative and relieved cheers of the crowd. Then, not wanting to push things, Frisbee-throwing Guy makes his exit, bloodied but unbowed, embarrassed but not entirely disgraced, ready to throw Frisbees another day in a supermarket parking lot. A couple of minutes later King James is back on the floor, ready once again to lift us higher.
"Please," Zev says to me, "please, please do not put Cleveland on the cover of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED."
What's the difference between Cleveland and the U.S. penitentiary at Leavenworth?