Tucked up on the shores of Lake Erie is the city of Cleveland, Ohio. A long time manufacturing town that has seen its share of rough times. From losing jobs to losing sports teams, Cleveland is well familiar with heartache. It is a blue collar town with a strong love for sports, and a relentless loyalty to teams who have seemingly always let them down.
We waited for so long for a sports team to give us life and hope. While the losing streak had presence well before I was born, I can recall the sadness of the Tribe losing in the 1997 World Series, crying when the Browns were moving to Baltimore (then inevitably won 2 Super Bowls), and wanting to destroy all my LeBron gear after “The Decision.” Yet through thick and thin, we were there for the teams and the players that seemed to never show up for us.
In 2014, LeBron announced he was returning to Cleveland. I always compared this moment to taking an ex back. “We had such a good thing and I loved you so much but I really hated the way you broke up with me. I guess we can give this another shot.” It hurt but it was exciting. Reading the letter about him returning gave me goosebumps and an unbelievable hope he would really make it happen. This city needed it, I needed it, we all needed it.
Unfortunately, we had to feel the burn once again when the Cavs made it to the Finals in 2015 only to fall in Game 6 to the Warriors. There we were again, so close, let down, but feeling so much more proud! Next year, right? That’s the motto in Cleveland. There’s always next year!
Well, next year came and we had healthy players and some great additions to the team. The level of energy and excitement in the city was nothing I had ever experienced! The season was fun. We wanted it so bad but as fans we were cautiously optimistic. We had grown a wall around our heart from the years of disappointment. There was just something different this year that felt like it just may happen, and then it did!
I witnessed many of the games outside the Q in the Watch Parties with hundreds of others. The vibe was good. The sense of unity was great. Then we won! We actually won! 52 years of waiting for a championship and it happened! Everyone thought people would riot in the streets and burn the city, like they had done previously in San Francisco and Boston. That didn’t happen though. Fans rushed the streets celebrating, high fiving strangers, dancing on cars, but no riots or violence. We were all too happy and too united in this long-term drought of winning.
Soon after came the plans for the parade. I took to the streets to photograph the people. I had no idea I would be one in a million that day. I had no idea how epic that parade would be. One million people in the streets of Cleveland celebrating. Young and old of all races peacefully came together to show support for our team and our city. I captured images of the young kids who had no clue how monumental this day was to the older folks who probably were still wiping tears from their eyes. There was nothing but joy, love and happiness this day in Cleveland. People forgot about their life problems, or the racial tension, or the political divides that were happening all around us. But that day… we came together as one… one million. I have always been proud to say I was from Cleveland but especially after witnessing the community and fans in June of 2016.
– Christina Sadowski