A Celebration 52 Years in the Making
Special to Boiled Sports
From Tim, BS co-founder and emeritus
The morning of the parade arrived and the city was expecting 800,000 people (they were only off by 500,000). I had talked to people that were getting downtown at 4:30 AM for an event the rally that was supposed to start at 1:30 PM. Other people were getting there at 3:00 AM for the parade that kicked off at 11:00. I was heading for a spot at the post-parade rally and my alarm was personally set for 5:30 AM, which later appeared to be at least 2 hours too late. We headed for a suburb to catch the train downtown. We were at the second stop for the train and 11 consecutive trains came by completely full. So we headed towards a bus that was off, empty, and driverless. Someone found the driver nearby and ten minutes later, the bus was filled to capacity and on its way. [Hmmmm…. Did they maybe just deputize someone as a “driver”? –J]
We made it to about 25 blocks from the parade at 7:30 AM and hit traffic. We decided to get out and walk the rest of the way, since we had no idea how much traffic there would be. Along the way we passed $50 parking and other sold out parking garages. We made it to the main street for the parade at 8:20 AM and the crowd was already 15 people deep. We tried to hit a Subway for a drink and were promptly greeted by someone locking up because they were sold out of food. The sheer amount of people was incredible enough that I was taking pictures and videos of the crowd. With the sidewalks impassable, we were walking down in the street, trying to get to a spot near the rally where we could also see the parade. It quickly became apparent that it was going to be one or the other. There were people in trees. People standing on street lights. People sitting on top of bus shelters. There were people everywhere. Thinking that I would see the parade for maybe 15 minutes (or so I thought at that time) or see the rally for a hour, we chose the rally and gave up on the parade. We entered Mall B (the rally was in Mall A, B, and C downtown) and tried to make our way toward the stage. Forward movement stopped once we hit about 100 yards from the stage, so there we stood at 9:00 AM, waiting for the rally to start at 1:30 PM. The crowd was festive and happy. They were showing replays of the last 5 minutes of game 7 on the big screens next to the stage. People were going crazy and imploring the TV like they had no idea what was going to happen. First the block - crowd goes crazy. Then the three - crowd goes crazy. Then the D by Kevin Love on Curry and the clock winds down and the crowd goes crazy again. David Griffin later called it "the block, the three, and the D" which I like, but I've also heard people call it The Shot, co-opting the Jordan shot over Ehlo for the good guys. It remains to be seen which terms stick.
Anyway, the crowd is swelling (I'd estimate 200,000 people in the Mall area) as we get closer to the schedule parade start of 11 AM. Race, gender, sexual orientation, etc fade away and it really seems harmonious. People are hanging out with others that they'd likely never hang with on a normal day. It was nice to see. Parade time hits and they show the first cars start to move. Then, just as suddenly, they're showing players walking around high-fiving fans. Later I'd find out that it was because there were too many people in the street and the cars couldn't get through. The parade was scheduled to last 2 hours and would actually take 5 and a half hours. They were showing video of a sea of people essentially swallowing the cars as they went .01 MPH down the street. Cops were literally shuffling along sideways next to the cars in order to clear any space in the crowd in an attempt to move forward. Over in the Mall, it was getting hot. There were plenty of porta-potties but the trip there and back through the crowd took a solid hour. Vendors were sold out of everything. People were buying hot dog buns because there were no hot dogs to go in them. Anyone who had found water at a vendor was getting offered more money for what they had just purchased. A NFL football was being fired randomly into the crowd (which was a terrible idea as plenty of people weren't really expecting to get hit with a football fired blindly into a crowd.) Beach balls and other safe inflatables were being passed around in the glitzy front of the crowd. Snipers were on the roofs of surrounding buildings. Fans were on top of surrounding buildings - note that the buildings didn't have anything that would prevent you from falling off, which I was worried might happen. As the heat sunk in, the lack of water and food hit and the enthusiasm of the crowd was slowly being sapped. The scheduled tip off of the program at 1:30 PM came and went. It didn't end up starting until 4:30 PM, meaning we stood in 4 square feet of space for 8 hours. It was worth it. The sunburn has faded. The memories won't.
When the program finally did start, all of the players got to address the crowd, with the last being LeBron James who gave a little speech about each of his teammates. He dropped a few profanities, which was surprising, and they were covered live on every TV station in Cleveland, which likely led to some FCC fines. Along the way the crowd asked Richard Jefferson for one more year, which he agreed to - most likely to appease the crowd. Once it was all over, deafening fireworks went off and kept going off. Then it was every man for himself apparently as the crowd dispersed and all tried to get out of there. It actually was much easier getting out than it was getting in. It's likely because those that had watched the parade had left, which meant it was mostly just the rally crowd that needed to leave. I left in the morning at 6:00 AM and got back at 8:30 PM, but for that price I have a story to share forever about what an actual major championship would look like to Cleveland. The city didn't burn down, as I jokingly had said it would. People got along and just had a good time. A massive amount of people in a small space all managed to together celebrate a championship that was 52 years in the making.
Tim is an original member of Boiled Sports and his first post at the site was about the life of a Cleveland sports fan. Find him on Twitter at @TVanfossen and ask him how the Browns will be this season.