Life & Love: When Basketball is More Than a Game

Comments 42
LeBron hugs Larry O'Brien trophy
Those bracelets he’s wearing say: “I Promise.” And in a highly unorthodox and unexpected way, he kept a promise made long ago. The implications are bigger than just basketball. (Image/Jose Carlos Fajardo-Bay Area News Group)

Six years ago, I sat in stunned silence on the edge of my living-room sofa with my hands covering the bottom-half of my face.

I couldn’t speak.

I was three years away from getting divorced, so I didn’t know that feeling was a diet version of what I’d experience every day for months a few years later and that it would hurt so much that death would sound more like relief than something to fear.

That feeling.

It’s the life-transforming anguish that sometimes connects readers here to the words on the screen. You’ve either been so afraid, so sad, so angry—so hurt—that you feel mentally and emotionally lost, and spiritually dead, or you haven’t. And when you have, you obtain the superpower of empathy—the life skill of being able to share a moment with someone on a deep and meaningful level because you can feel what another feels, creating powerful and important connections with others.

Six months had passed since I lost my job on Jan. 1, 2010 as part of a corporate downsizing during the worst macroeconomic conditions I’d ever seen.

I was failing my pretty wife. She was sitting on the other sofa with two of our friends who’d come to share the moment.

I was failing my two-year-old son. He was asleep upstairs.

Life was getting hard. But at least we had hope. There’s always hope. Right?

I was still a college student in my home state of Ohio when I first heard about the Akron kid who played basketball like Magic Johnson—an artistic and unselfish facilitator, but could score like Michael Jordan—a hardcourt assassin.

From Ohio?!

From Ohio. “The Chosen One,” Sports Illustrated annointed him a month or so later. A skinny fresh-faced kid unapologetically wearing Jordan’s #23 on his jersey.

He was five years younger than me, and according to the SI article, had Jordan’s private phone number in his cell phone.

The Birth of Hope

It must be hard for non-sports fans to understand. I think it might even be hard for people whose favorite teams win a lot.

That’s not how it has been for sports fans in Cleveland, Ohio. Not since the 1960s.

I’ve heard the narrative—literally—my entire life, watching my favorite football team fumble away championship opportunities as a child. I cried, and my mom got upset because “it’s only a game.”

It’s no secret to anyone paying attention: Cleveland teams don’t win.

Still, we dream.

Still, we hope.

It was almost exactly 13 years ago when a series of events which included a lot of losing basketball and fortunate bounces of ping-pong balls allowed the Cleveland Cavaliers to own the first pick in the 2003 NBA Draft where Akron high schooler LeBron James was the presumptive choice.

Northeast Ohio’s native son.

I sat in joyful silence on the edge of my living-room sofa a thousand miles south in my Florida apartment with my hands covering the bottom-half of my face when James became a Cavalier.

It felt like destiny.

The humble, but confident kid promised to “light Cleveland up like Las Vegas.”

This combination of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan was the chosen one. A force greater than some silly “curse.” This kid was going to save the downtrodden sports town.

This kid was going to win titles.

It was truly the birth of hope.

And Then the Death of Hope

Then it all went up in flames that night six years ago. The Decision.

Back in Ohio, but unemployed. Not enough alcohol. My little boy, who was supposed to grow up watching James and the Cavs win titles, was asleep upstairs.

My dreams of watching games, sharing moments, and celebrating with him—shattered.

It’s the same thing that happens to us when we divorce. We lose our partners. We lose our families. We lose our homes. But we lose something else you don’t hear many people talk about.

We lose our dreams.

We lose EVERYTHING. We lose yesterday AND tomorrow. Our past memories are poisoned and we realize our future plans are lies.

It’s devastating.

And yeah. It’s not up to the same level, but people who’ve never been divorced can’t tell the difference: You can feel that sitting on your living-room couch watching your favorite athlete tell the world on national television that he’s WILLINGLY dumping your favorite team, his hometown, and moving to the state you’d come back to Ohio from, to join another team.

You’re not allowed to tell me that it didn’t matter, or that Cleveland fans reacted poorly, or that it’s pathetic that adults would let something like a basketball player switching teams affect them so much.

If you’ve never felt totally out of control and as if your heart would stop while fighting tears and trying to remember to breathe at some really inopportune time like a conference room meeting at work, or at a party with friends, then you’ve never felt the crippling power of anxiety.

If you’ve never invested your emotions in athletes on a TV screen or from overpriced seats at a stadium or arena, then I wouldn’t expect you to get it.

It mattered.

This wasn’t just some basketball player moving to another team.

It was rejection.

It was embarrassment.

It was betrayal.

Friends were losing all those nights together at the arena. Local businesses were losing all that income from excited fans. Families were losing all those nights together sitting around the TV sharing the moment. Together.

Fathers had dreams for their sons. Gone.

The Cleveland faithful had taken to calling us Believeland. A laughable name used recently as the title of a film documenting the sports culture in Cleveland—one rife with heartache and disappointment.



Hope had forsaken these lands.

Our Unfinished Stories

People like to say: “Everything happens for a reason!”

I don’t agree with that because I don’t believe little kids get cancer “for a reason.” But I totally agree with the spirit of the phrase, because I’ve seen it play out time and time again.

As the stories of our lives are written, things which were hard to go through and difficult to understand at the time often prove to be these important pieces of the story which had to occur in order for future good things to happen.

So, it’s not: “Everything happens for a reason!”

It’s: Someday, something is going to happen. Something big and important and beautiful. And when that moment arrives, it will become apparent that the ONLY way that could have happened was for life to work out exactly as it did.

I know I’m just some asshole-nobody, but I like to tell myself that maybe some of the words here can help the right person at the right time. Maybe someone can be a better husband and father and save his family because the right sentence resonated in the right way.

Maybe the ONLY way for me to evolve into a man capable of raising my son to be a good man, or loving a future partner as they’re supposed to be loved, or writing something that matters, was to experience the worst thing that ever happened to me.

Maybe easy is bullshit.

Maybe difficult is the only way.

Maybe that’s where redemption lives.

The Long and Winding Road

When James joined the Miami Heat, a bunch of things happened.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote a now-infamous letter assassinating James’ character. I haven’t read it in six years, but I remember Gilbert calling him “the self-declared former king.”

James teamed up with two NBA superstars and became the presumptive championship favorites every year. They went to the Finals all four years he was in Miami, winning the two in the middle.

The Cavaliers got terrible. Losing James created one of the largest freefalls from winning to losing the sports world had ever seen. But when you lose in the NBA, something else happens: You increase your chances of getting high draft picks to select the best players. Which happened.

The Cavs earned another first pick in the NBA Draft, which they used to select a 19-year-old Duke freshman named Kyrie Irving who only played 11 college games due to injury. They had the fourth pick too. They picked a guy from Texas named Tristan Thompson which excited approximately zero Cleveland fans.

Because LeBron grew up around here, and people know people, one of my closest friends told me a story that sounded plausible, if unlikely: LeBron James wants to come back to Cleveland.

Good things don’t really happen to Cleveland sports, so it was easy to dismiss as hopeful fantasy.

But then, another year went by and the whispers turned to internet rumors which turned to national stories: LeBron might come home.

I’d been divorced about a year. Things were mostly still shitty, but I was writing here and choosing hope.

And then it happened: LeBron James announced he was coming back to Ohio, rejoining the Cleveland Cavaliers, and committing himself to ending the 50-year stretch of misery that had become part of the very fabric of the region.

Redemption Song

LeBron James swallowed his pride to return to his homeland, forgiving all the hate and anger thrown his way four years earlier. He hoped fans would embrace him again.

We did, of course. He had us at “I’m coming home.”

He put his ego aside, agreeing to rejoin a team owned by a man who destroyed him in a venomous public letter that will live forever in Cleveland sports lore.

Because of the long and winding road full of unwritten stories, who could have known that the two players picked in the 2011 NBA Draft could have ONLY happened if James was not in Cleveland?

The Cleveland Cavaliers became instant title contenders.

In James’ first year home, the Cavs made it to the Finals. Two of our three best players were injured and couldn’t play. He makes a heroic stab at it, but the Cavs ultimately lose to the Golden State Warriors. Another bullet point on the Cleveland Never Wins Championships resume.

Enter 2016.

The Cavs are just okay. Clearly underachieving, but maybe this is just who they are. Not good enough.

The coach is fired halfway through the season. Meanwhile, the defending champion Warriors are having the best season in NBA history. The San Antonio Spurs (the only other franchise to beat the Cavs in the NBA Finals) is also having a historically great year. Either team looks poised to throttle the Cavs in a hypothetical Finals matchup.

Around the holidays, drink in hand at a birthday party, my friends and I laughed at the situation even though no one considered it funny.

“How CLEVELAND is this?! LeBron wins championships in Miami, comes back to Cleveland where everyone assumes we will finally win one, and then we run into the most dominant team in NBA history!”

Only. In. Cleveland.

People say that around here. People feel that around here.

But then things, just, happened.

The Cavaliers started playing better, dominated in the playoffs, and we found ourselves back in the NBA Finals with the team that knocked us out a year ago.

It was probably going to happen again, too, because this is Cleveland.

The Warriors won the first two games. We’re not good enough.

We won Game 3. Hope?

We lost Game 4 at home. Over. It’s never happened before. No one recovers from 3-1 in a best-of-seven series. All 32 teams who have tried—failed.

But then very non-Clevelandy things happened. One of the Warriors’ best players was forced to miss Game 5. LeBron and the kid we have only because LeBron left both scored 41 points.

We win.

Game 6 is back in Cleveland. LeBron goes for 41 again, because he’s not a normal person.

And then Game 7 was back in Golden State’s home arena, where they’d only lost four times during the entire season and playoffs to that point.

My Florida buddy texted me two days before the game. He was sitting in the room with me the night the Cavs drafted LeBron 13 years ago.

“Percent confidence for you that Cavs win Game 7?”

My brain said we had a shot. My heart damn sure wanted it. But this is Cleveland.

“49%,” I typed back.

I was on the phone with my dad before the game. He told me one of his friends had placed a bet on the Warriors.

I involuntarily said: “Good,” but I really meant “Screw that guy. I’m never talking to him again.”

I was invited to join friends at a big watch party in downtown Cleveland.

I declined. It was Father’s Day.

Just me and my son. A young boy who loves basketball, but is still too young to stay awake through a late-night game.

He fell asleep on the couch next to me, still too young to know that Cleveland never wins.

But in a weird way, this was it. This is what I dreamed about rocking that swaddled baby boy back when the world was still different. When it was better?

Was the world better before the worst thing that ever happened to me, happened?

Could the Cleveland Cavaliers contend for a championship if LeBron never leaves, allowing them to get Kyrie and Tristan?

With 4 minutes and 30 seconds to play, the game was tied 89-89.

I was sipping vodka for medical reasons for the first time since the first couple of months following my wife moving out.

I sat in tensed silence on the edge of my living-room sofa with my hands covering the bottom-half of my face.

No one could score.

And then with 1:55 left on the clock, I finally see how Cleveland will lose. A two-on-one fastbreak with the NBA’s MVP the past two seasons and the guy named NBA Finals MVP against us last year.

The Warriors will make a layup. The fans will go crazy. And that will ultimately prove the difference.

And then, in a split-second, LeBron James flew through the air like a human missile and blocked the would-be layup in the most amazing, powerful, unexpected, iconic, meaningful, magical basketball play I’ve ever seen.

Since a sleeping child was the only other person in the room, I never got to say: “HOLY SHIT. DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN?” so I’m saying it now.

Then, more time ticked off. Still tied at 89.

And with 53 seconds left, Kyrie Irving—the guy who only plays for the Cavs BECAUSE LeBron left Cleveland for four years—makes my new favorite three-pointer, a highlight we’ll be seeing and talking about in Northeast Ohio forever.

A shot block by the kid from Akron. Redemption.

A heroic dagger from LeBron’s unlikely future running mate. Providence.

A memory for every father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, friend, neighbor, stranger near or far whose hearts were on the line. A moment.

The kind we usually only have when tragedy strikes. Those uniting Where Were You When…? moments are so rarely joyful for so many people.


Cleveland, Ohio.



Are you shitting me?

And now everything gets to be different. Because it happened. So now it CAN happen. Belief and hope won’t just be the harmless weapons of the delusional, but the justified tools of people who have been there before.

My little son woke up the next morning with no memory of the night before, despite my efforts to wake him.

“Who won, Dad?” were the first words out of his mouth. “Let me guess: The Warriors,” he continued, sadly.

“Here, kiddo. I have it recorded. Let’s watch the final two minutes.”

“Okay,” he said.

And then I hit the Play button and watched the miracle again.

This time, complete with celebratory hugs with my son. A dream I thought was lost, but wasn’t. Because we don’t always know what will happen next. Because we don’t always understand why yesterday happened. And because we have no idea what’s in store for us at the end of the long and winding road once this next chapter is written.

When do sports matter? Times like this.

When is something silly like basketball more than just a game? On Father’s Day. When curses are dispelled, and dreams come true, and hope returns.

Sometimes Life is a game.

And sometimes, a game is Life.

A moment.



42 thoughts on “Life & Love: When Basketball is More Than a Game”

    1. Thank you, Paul. Huge deal around here. I don’t think anyone’s come back down to Earth just yet.

      It’s hard to want to.

  1. “This time, complete with celebratory hugs with my son. A dream I thought was lost, but wasn’t. Because we don’t always know what will happen next. Because we don’t always understand why yesterday happened. And we have no idea what’s in store for us at the end of the long and winding road. At the end of the next chapter.”

    Really love so much about this post.
    Believeland 🙂

    1. “Our unfinished stories” is my favorite part. #1) because when your in the middle of a shit storm, it’s good to remember the story isn’t over. There will be a tomorrow, and you get to chose what to do with it. That is hope.
      #2) because sometime I do and sometimes I don’t buy complete sovereignty, until you get a glimpse and see the all the peices being put into place ( which usually is in hindsight and if your lucky, while in the moment.)
      #3) Yes,yes,yes- so much redemption in the hard work. In the tearing down and rebuilding.
      I believe this game has powerful significance for me, and likely for many other people. I will carry it with me for a while.
      Thanks for writing about it the way you do.

  2. A good writer can make someone tear up… You got me at “…and then I hit the play button and watched The Miracle again…this time, complete with celebratory hugs A dream I thought was lost, but wasn’t.”

  3. Pro sports has never has never been my thing, but I understand having longheld and cherished dreams. Congratulations.

  4. I was cheering for you!! I bet on the Cavs, because my friend lives there, and stayed up to watch the whole thing (which is a big deal if you’ve ever seen me on a Sunday), and they WON!! Congratulations friend!!!

  5. Excellent piece, Matt, and I’m not even a Cavs fan. No one can deny that magic happened, though, can they?

  6. Best ending ever (and the only reason I know who LeBron James is is because he was in Trainwreck, a movie that also has the best ending ever.) ?
    Happy Father’s Day. What a comeback.

  7. I’m so totally NOT a sports person. Like I don’t just “not get it” I actively dislike it most of the time. And yet I teard up reading this. A Moment, Providence, Redemption indeed.

  8. Can’t STAND LeBron. I’m a bay area Warriors fan. But you kinda made me feel better. LOL! I still can’t believe we lost….Curry never really showed up, Dray fell into LeBron’s trap, and Bogut hurt. SMH. We had a damn amazing run though.

  9. It’s kinda bittersweet, isn’t it? The realization that if you hadn’t gone through the shit, you’d probably never have gotten to this better place.

    Shit happens and not necessarily “for a reason”. It’s what we do with it that really matters.

    1. Totally. For some, the shit that happens becomes excuses for why “they can’t…”

      For other’s it becomes a form of growth. Maybe not the growth we wanted, but at the same time we learn from it and use it to become better.

      1. Drew and Anitavan, It’s hard to get through life without injury or defeat. It CAN become a persistsant mind set and a self fulfilling prophecy…almost an expectation. That’s why this game (and it’s more than this single game) is important. It’s a really great analogy for the typical defeats and comebacks in life- and a reminder to keep trying.
        I may have gotten a little woo-woo with my last comment, but I guess I get that way. Apologies.
        Can I get the names of your blogs? I think I’d like to keep up with you guy’s thoughts.

        1. Hi Linbo,

          Agreed, “winning” and “losing” can become a mindset. Doesn’t mean someone always win’s or loses, but self-fulfilling prophecies are a major part of what happens in a lot of peoples lives.

          Looking at things like depression (major depressive episodes) and anxiety disorders, one of the characteristics of them is the broken thinking patterns/cognitive disorders that are generally very negative and very self defeating. Things like expecting bad outcomes, thinking the worst in situations, inferring criticism when it’s not really there, not thinking you are good enough etc. These things take on a life of their own, and become self perpetuating.

          A lot of cognitive behavior therapy is spent trying to fix these thinking patterns and rewire the brain. It’s hard to do, and the successes definitely need to be celebrated when they happen.

          As for other peoples blogs, if you click someones name in the comments section it should take you to their blog if they have one. Kind of a hidden feature I guess. But my blog is (the name made sense to me when I picked it)

          1. Thanks Drew:). I can appreciate what you write about, how mental illness (anxiety) affects your life. I had a crap-ton of losses (my father died , my sister ran away and I had little support at home from my mom) right as I entered adolescents. I had horrible depression and was given a pretty stigmatizing diagnosis (a personality disorder). I’m not saying I don’t have a personality disorder, but I have grown out of a lot of the symptoms..(lol).
            Anyway, it really altered my development and my life. I am, and should be more often, amazed that I am where I am. Life’s not perfect, but I have spent most of my life trying to prove they had my diagnosis wrong, so I have gotten a lot of practice at fighting against it (and trying to rewire my own brain). That is largely why I’m going into mental health professionally.
            I plan on following your blog. I appreciate your insight and your thoughts. It’s good to read and share with other people’s struggles (and victories!)
            Thanks again!

          2. P.S. Matt, – what is up with these icons? I’m some sort of masked Christmas tree bandit! This is not good for my self esteem… 🙂

          3. I’m really interested in mental illness and personality disorders, and I think one of the really difficult things about them is they all exist on a spectrum.

            We all have mental health. We all get depressed, and we all have anxiety. Emotional regulation is a normal thing, and we all do it slightly differently.

            At the same time, anxiety “disorders” are when the anxiety response is very out of line with the external stimuli, and it starts to adversely impact someones life. Depression is similar – major depressive episodes are different from just being down.

            Both of these are horribly misdiagnosed, and I think part of it comes down to the definition of “normal”. What is normal? What is a normal response to trauma, or grief?

            Personality disorder diagnoses are all about people having emotional responses to events that are seen as markedly abnormal.

            I find it fascinating how there is so much overlap in the symptoms of different mental illnesses (variations for sure, but a lot of overlap), and the broken thinking patterns/cognitive disorders are also very common.

            Personally I believe a lot of that is learned behavior, and can be unlearned – the rewiring of the brain you talk about.

            As a dad with young kids, this belief is really reinforced. Empathy truly seems to be learned – we can get better at it all the time. Appreciation seems to be learned as well.

            I really believe that we aren’t defined by our emotional responses, and we can always change them. Maybe not radically, but we can learn, adapt, and modify so we can do things in healthier ways.

          4. Drew,
            My first HPA axis overload happened when I was about 3 years old. I only remember pieces of it, and the rest of it was filled in by my mom. We were washing the new monte carlo as a family, and I picked up a wire scrub brush instead of a towel and went to town scrubbing. I managed to scrub off a good area of paint before anyone noticed what I was doing. Opps! I was THREE!! My father had a conniption fit and I think there was some physical violence involved.
            An incident I do remember well was me mopping the kitchen floor as a surprise for my mom (likely because they were fighting because he wasn’t doing it). I was 5 and I made a horrible mess sloshing water around. My mom was gone and my dad was taking a nap and I just had an overwhelming panic attack that he would wake up and see the mess. I got it cleaned up before he woke up, and later refused to admit that I cleaned the kitchen. But, that just goes to show you with what happens with association and the anxiety response.
            I don’t remember many instances of such panic other than that.
            I may have always been slightly depressed, but I think for the most part the period after their divorce (I was about 6 or 7) up Jr. High (about 12) life was pretty good.
            I had friends, I did ok in school, I wasn’t pre-occupied with anything serious.
            Then in early 7th grade everything happened, and my mom being a mostly functional alcoholic (And still is today) wasn’t really a support. She did, and still does to this day blame my father and “his genetics” for anything that happened with me or my sister.
            When it was obvious I needed help (because I was not getting out of bed and I had gained an extraordinary amount of weight..and there was some outbursts of anger and self harming going on) we went to a psychologist. I was about 13.
            I think I was legitimately, clinically depressed. But, it wasn’t necessarily an organic NT deficiency. It was the process of grief with the addition of no coping skills. I was in the process of wiring my brain pretty badly.
            Because of the anger and self harming I was given the dx of a personality disorder. The response was mal-adaptive, for sure, but I don’t know if it was a response out of proportion with the actual situation.
            When you have a 13 year old who pretty much doesn’t give an F, an adult who will lie to protect herself, the 13 year old wont win.
            I may have responded to other things out of proportion to the actual situation- like perceiving someone didn’t like me, ect. I think that is likely true, but I wasn’t able to cope with these initial things, so I believe it is reasonable that I wouldn’t be able to cope with small things like that. I think it’s reasonable, but of course I don’t think it is the responsible way to approach life.
            Anyway- I’m writing all this to say that yes, I think I was physically depressed and emotionally just screwed up.
            Right before my 19th birthday my mom re-married, and she and her husband moved away, leaving me to figure it out.
            I am so grateful for that. Because I was finally able to live my life.
            I think this was the time that I got to exercise who I was or who I wanted to be at least, and to start re-wiring my brain.
            I worked at an I-Hop, about 7 miles from where I lived. I could take the bus to work, but the bus didn’t run at the time I got off, so I had to walk 7 miles home every night. (still smoking cigarettes as I walked home :P)
            I was getting exercise and improving my brain the whole way.
            I joined the Navy soon after, and I kept pursing goals- so here I am.
            But, and I don’t want to be offensive if youre not a Christian, I look back at where I was and the events that incrementally got me a little better, and a little better, and I cant help but see God’s protection and providence. I didn’t really accept the Christian faith until about 10 years after all this stuff, but part of the reason I did was because I really would never have been able to get myself out of the rut I was in.
            So, maybe miracles do happen, but we don’t always see them as they are happening.

        2. Drew, I’m with you. The more I learn about mental illness in general, the more I believe that the disordered cognitions and behaviours are learned behaviours; basically conditioned responses to emotional triggers. Lately I’ve been dipping my toe into mindfulness training and finding it both relevant and helpful!

      2. Fromscratchmom

        Lin, don’t forget about EMDR. 😉

        I’m almost thinking selfishly here. You should totally try it for its benefit to you, yes. But what I’m really seeing here is that beyond that you could become an EMDR counselor later. It’s not exactly for my own selfish benefit I guess, but it would make me very happy nonetheless!

        You are a gem!

        1. Hi mom:),
          I probably will learn/ get certified in EMDR- Id like to, at least. I also need to be like Sy Sperling “I’m not only the EMDR counselor, I am also a client” …:)
          Thank you for your sweet words! Your pretty awesome yourself! 🙂

  10. Ok, I guess this stuff is important to people who live in Cleveland, Ohio, but it ain’t nothing compared to what we saw in the UK in May this year. In May 2016, Leicester City (a football club) won the Premier League! To understand what an achievement this is, you perhaps need to understand a little of the background. Leicester City had only just qualified to play in the Premier League at the beginning of the 2015/16 season after graduating from the lower division the season before. Leicester City had never won the League Championship in their entire existence – the closest they got was finishing runners-up in 1929. The odds on them winning the Premiership at the beginning of the 2015/16 season was 5000/1 against. Some Leicester fans who’d had the foresight to have a £100 bet became half millionaires after their team won the Premier League. It was the biggest upset and biggest surprise in football league history.

  11. Damn, your writing is exquisite!
    That was one of the best blogs I’ve read. The piece took me through a cavalcade of emotions, made points not considered, It almost had me jumping up cheering, but the best is the superb analogy of the game to your life. That’s what makes it so relatable. I keep reading, and analyzing your blogs, modeling it for my own. I can only dream.

  12. I’m not much for basketball, but this was moving. I admit I shed a couple of tears. The bond that sports brings to people is awesome. It’s great you were able to share it with your son. Sports has brought my father, sister, and I closer together. Although our teams may not win, its the bond of loving a team and following them on the struggle to win.

    Many blessings.

  13. My boys watched the first half with me, and then were off to bed. I watched the second half on my own, frantically texting a buddy during the last few minutes and actually screaming out loud when “the block” happened.

    I don’t have the same vested interest in the success of the cavs that you do (though I WAS pulling for them), but I still enjoyed telling my boys the result and watching a few highlights with them the next morning.

    Good times.

  14. I am not into sports, but this post resonated with everything in me. I think this speaks to the caliber of your writing. Your description of the anguish is always SO accurate. I’m in the middle of my divorce right now and every morning when that chest tightening pain hits me, I look around thinking: HOW is the world revolving as usual if half the people who are married, are going through this or have gone through this??? How are we just walking around like normal?!? We are DYING inside. I stifle everything so that I don’t unravel or become unhinged. People say let it out but they don’t really want to see that, I don’t even know if I want to see that- I think if I give in to the pain completely I will be lost to it. It has been the most draining, terrible experience of my life. I wish someone would hug me, I wish I could give someone a hug for their pain too, but we are all walking around, fake smiles and lattes in hand…pretending to be ok. It’s terrible. Maybe I’ll feel better this time next year. That’s what everyone says, but I feel like Cleveland felt before the win. A lot of bad things have happened and keep happening. HOPE feels cruel. Will something good come from all this pain? I don’t feel like it, but HOPE. This is great writing. Thank you. Yes, maybe it’s possible.

    1. TJOH,
      Hi! I saw your post, and wanted to respond. Matt has talked about what you are feeling right now- feeling that gut wrench, and then feeling like a loser when you lose it in front of friends.
      I just want to encourage to find someone- just one person is necessary- male or female, and just tell them exactly what you said here. Tell them you feel like you are going to lose it and need someone but are scared that no one wants that emotional crap. Just tell them what you are feeling, and if you lose it in the middle of telling them- then lose it.
      It really is ok. Some people wont know how to respond, it doesn’t mean that you are wrong in feeling what you are feeling or that you are wrong in expressing what you are feeling- it just means we as a society don’t know how to deal with grief well.
      Think of the last funeral you went to, and how uncomfortable it is to even talk to the person who just lost their loved one. Its not that the grief is inappropriate, its that we don’t deal well with it. BUT!! Most people are willing to stand by you and let you grieve, and just be present with you.
      Do call someone, ask someone for a hug. Hopefully someone you trust.
      I am really sorry you are hurting. I know it is devastating.

      1. Linbo, THANK YOU. Even just having you, a stranger, validate the devastation helps. I’m from another country and I don’t have many friends but I’ve decided to find the time to see a therapist. Really, really appreciate your kind words.

  15. Drew,
    I didn’t address a few things that you said because I was distracted by telling you my story!
    You asked what is normal? What is a normal response to trauma or grief?

    Yes, this really depends on the person, how they communicate, what they are able to deal with.
    But, because we now know that the brain works the way that it does, grief can trigger a true clinical depression. The new diagnostic manual finally addresses this as “a thing”.
    There is a lot of overlap in symptoms with anxiety,depression and even some of the more serious disorders (I say that, but I think what I mean- even if it’s horrible to admit, is the more STIGMATIZED disorders) like bipolar and schizophrenia. I’m learning a lot of the mechanisms that go on with that right now, and there is so much overlap in some of them that there is speculation that they’re all on the same spectrum. That can scare some people, but for me it is really helping me to let go some of my own fears and stigmatizing thoughts about mental illness.
    Last thought- re wiring can happen, absolutely. Taking the “faulty” stigma away can help.

  16. Fromscratchmom

    Matt, this was still an interesting read even for a person as non-sports-oriented as me. But what it really made me think of was your more common topics…that perhaps there are more analogies between sports fan type guys (and girls) and marriage to be found that might help the sporty and the non-sporty get to understand each other better.

    Some sports-oriented-world stuff doesn’t usually work well for the non-sporty. People say, for example that sports in school is character building. And while there may be some basic obvious ways that could or should be true, it seems the benefits also must be pretty strictly limited and many non-sporty people just dismiss it thinking if that were true the that team in high school should have had the best people on it…or at least people who weren’t the worst. So those types of differences in perspective seem worth deeper analysis and broader perspective. Why are there teams in the news and in people’s experience that nearly got disbanded or nearly the whole team expelled from school for rape or molestation or selling drugs or some other bizarre and tragic controversy? Why are so many more just famous within the school or town for being a bunch of foul drunken idiots? Where and how do teams work and actually end up with great people with great integrity sometimes? How can the values and benefits of sports participation be pursued under difficult circumstances? Individualized? Does sports ever include real empathy? In what ways?

    Just some wanderings of my mind. My sports exposure growing up was a probably atypical. But like every other little kid In my neighborhood I did know about about Ali being both inspiring to many and and repellent to many, the Dolphins and the Cowboys and “THE THRILL OF VICTORY. THE AGONY OF DEFEAT.” And my own empathy question makes me think of a few great and/or intriguing things I’ve heard about Bill Belichick. So even the extremely non-sporty have exposure.

  17. This was one of the best series ever, he made history.Due to the fact that he wanted to prove everyone wrong, he wanted to bring cavaliers their first championship! It was awesome..

  18. As a die hard warriors fan, this was a great article man. You showed alot of emotion and balls by writing this. I felt like a cleveland fan reading this. LeBron willed his team to do the impossible. I’m really shocked at how Kyrie outplayed Steph Curry as well. One reason why LeBron left Miami is because he couldn’t do what he wanted to off the court. Pat Riley has a pretty tight ship when it comes to locker room ethics. Rich Paul and LeBron’s boys were asked numerous of times to leave the vicinity. Pat Riley is old Skool and he doesn’t play. LeBron being the best player in the league is not having that at all. You saw how Riley did Wade this offseason. I also know that Savanah James hated Miami as well and she didn’t want to raise their children there. All in all I hope Golden State and Cleveland can continue their rivalry. If you can please check us out @

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Matt Fray

Get my latest writing!

Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter as I continue an on-going exploration of love and relationships.