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Summer Postcards 2016

Don’t Stop Believeland

By Trevor J. Levin

Like most Clevelanders, I’ve spent the last two days in disbelief. I have spent my entire life seriously thinking that I would probably be in my 50s or 60s before I could see the day a Cleveland sports team broke the curse. And it happened in such a beautiful fashion: Our disgraced hometown hero returned to redeem himself and his city with superhuman strength, speed, cleverness, and charisma after falling behind by a supposedly insurmountable margin. It is the stuff of fantasy, especially in Cleveland.

As one of ABC’s announcers said shortly after the buzzer, unless you've lived in Cleveland, it's hard to understand the magnitude of this moment. This city has been through the worst of institutional failure, outsourcing, poverty, and misery—earning, by some metrics, the title of the most economically distressed city in America.

And we’ve gone 52 years without a championship parade. To a non-Clevelander, it might sound shallow to mention that statistic alongside such serious problems, but the disappointments were heartbreakingly symbolic. The curse (or, for the unsuperstitious, the stunningly unfortunate drought) became deeply ingrained in our civic identity. The 52 years were full of seemingly divinely-ordained near misses, building in every fan a distrust of good news, and managerial ineptitude that gave rise to the nickname “The Mistake on the Lake” for the old Municipal Stadium—and eventually to the entire town.

But resilience was born from the misery. The city adopted the unofficial motto, “There’s always next year,” and, recently, the catchphrase “Believeland.” Believeland is, at once, a nickname, an imperative verb, and a prayer: That someday, despite every crushing disappointment, we’d get that championship, a hope more Messianic than practical. But the spirit of Believeland isn’t just about the Cavaliers, Indians, and Browns, and it won’t fade now. It’s a heartfelt optimism that, no matter how bleak the present of our Rust Belt depression may be, things will start looking up again on the shores of Lake Erie. We will overcome the horrors of police violence, we will improve our struggling schools, we will find something to fill the cavernous void left by the probably permanent disappearance of manufacturing jobs.

There are no easy solutions, and it will, of course, take more than a few individuals with remarkable gifts and an overwhelming will to win. But, right now, Believeland believes. The Cavs came back from three games to one, the first team in Finals history to do so. Maybe, as that ABC announcer said, it had to be something like that, where the world had completely counted us out, for us to overcome the odds break the curse.

In some ways, Cleveland finds itself in totally unfamiliar territory; we’re still finding the vocabulary for celebration. But this championship is really just more evidence of what we already know: that no comeback is impossible, that the underdog can win with resilience and grit, and that we should never abandon hope, even in our darkest hours.

Thank you, LeBron James. Thank you, Cavaliers.

Trevor J. Levin '19, a Crimson editor, lives in Mather House.

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Summer Postcards 2016