In 2015, I pitched the idea to my Dad to take a trip to Cleveland for "old time's sake." Our family is from Northeast Ohio but the Cleveland connection comes through my dad's side of the family. My Dad is responsible for where many of my sports allegiances began.
Growing up my Dad helped cultivate my fandom with the Cleveland Indians and the Cleveland Browns.
Last September the decision was made to make a weekend out of Cleveland sports. We caught the Cleveland Indians in the middle of their playoff push, and the next day we checked out the Browns home opener against the Ravens.
One trip did elude me as I had never been to a Cleveland Cavaliers game. After the Cavs captured the NBA championship and came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors there was no better time than now to see the team in action.
A close friend of mine told me that she would be making a trip to Cleveland and I offered to meetup with her. At that point I had not seen her in roughly two years. I began brainstorming activities that we could do in Cleveland. Since the trip would be taking place in March, I was striking out on ideas as the weather could vary depending on the conditions. Obviously outside activities were probably discouraged. They have a saying in Ohio, "If you don't like the weather, wait until the end of this sentence." People in Ohio like to make fun of the weather constantly since they can experience all four seasons in a week.
I proposed the idea of attending a Cavaliers game and it was off to the races. I could only hope that the cruel Cleveland weather would cooperate with me.
As luck would have it, the weather didn't cooperate. My trip was set to take place during the last great winter storm of 2017 in which Cleveland was expecting up to a foot of snow. I was not to be deterred as I was focused on arriving at my destination safely. Plus, I really wanted to see my friend, and I was really excited to see LeBron.
With my suitcase packed and incredible apprehension I set course for Cleveland. I was gifted with decent weather. The only gripe I could make would be that it was exceptionally cold outside. Absolutely bone chilling, but nothing my car heater couldn't handle.
My entertainment for the drive consisted of podcasts. They ruled the day for me on my trip to Cleveland. I didn't realize how much I loved podcasts. Of course, I supported the home-team Massive Report podcast, but then I made my way to Katie Nolan's podcast and Lance Armstrong's as well (both highly recommended).
The weather quickly declined when I arrived in Cleveland. Being so closely situated to Lake Erie makes Cleveland susceptible to lake-effect snow and tons of blowing and drifting. I struck up an immediate conversation with the receptionist in my hotel asking her what I was going to be getting into.
"To give you an idea, I ended up staying in the hotel last night" she said. She wasn't lying as I learned later that evening. I decided to do a quick practice run downtown and plot the easiest way to arrive at our destination.
There is one thing people need to understand about Cleveland. EVERYONE is talking about the game and what they are expecting the outcome to be. It doesn't matter if it's the Indians, Cavs, or Browns the fans speak with a tremendous amount of passion. There was no better example than when I made my way into the Cavs team shop.
I was greeted by enthusiastic employees and people who had made the journey from clear across the state to be there. Many people told me that they were looking forward to seeing LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin play. Several admitted that like me it was their first time ever at an NBA game.
One thing I will say about the Cavaliers organization, they have a tremendous understanding of their customers. I was able to park in a parking garage that provided a seamless and hassle free entrance into Quicken Loans Arena via a sky terrace that was heated. It definitely made a wintry day in March more tolerable.
Upon arrival into "The Q" you can expect to be greeted with the hustle and bustle of Cleveland sports life. It truly is a "Cleveland against the World" mantra in the city. My friend thought it was a bit aggressive, but it really is true that people live and die with Cleveland sports franchises.
For example, when I was at the Browns games the fans know full well that the team isn't expected to do much. They just want them to be entertaining. So when the Browns jumped out to a quick 20-0 lead against the Ravens a chant of "Super Bowl" erupted in my section and I was the responsible party. If you team is going to be bad you might as well have fun with it.
There are a tremendous amount of amenities available at Quicken Loans Arena. One of my favorite items was a craft beer called Brew Kettle. This was one of the most delectable beers I've ever had the privilege of experiencing. It was at the recommendation of my friend that we try it. The food is quite standard, but they have unique Cleveland fare at a few of the kiosks.
From the lot attendants, concession workers, and even the ushers everyone is super friendly and welcoming. Cleveland sports is really like a family. Everyone gets together, roots for the home team, and then heads home. I definitely got the sense that if your local your likely to run into a lot of the same faces.
Quicken Loans Arena provides a spacious atmosphere to take in a game. It's a big room with a lots of space and you don't feel like you are on top of fellow fans whatsoever. Many of the other arenas I have been in like PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC and the Covelli Center in Youngstown, Ohio can feel cramped, but "The Q" feels very spacious.
Cleveland fans are a special breed. They have been some of the most tormented fans in sports, but that doesn't get their spirits down. They are incredibly welcoming and passionate. Obviously, they have a great product to root for, but they support their teams no matter how bad things get. There are good times ahead for Cleveland. I don't seem them being jokes for much longer.
Have you been to Cleveland?
What did you like?