You had to be there. No, really … you HAD to be there. This was our night — Joe Fan’s night. And Gus’ and Brandon’s and Derek’s and Theresa’s and Jasmine’s.
It was our party — not the Quicken Loans people, or Mister Dan Gilbert’s or the P.A. pimp who interrupts and orchestrates and admonishes us like some Wizard of Oz.
Tonight, when the Cavaliers play Detroit in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, The Q will retain part of the delicious frenzy that belonged to Thursday night’s insane soiree. Part, but not all.
When the party is too orchestrated and too organized and too corporate, some of the juice goes out of the evening. Especially when most of the people in the audience are well-heeled and hail from places like Beachwood and Orange and Solon and Chagrin Falls and Rocky River and North Olmsted — arriving with TiVos and cell phones and little alligator heads adorning soft cashmere sweaters by Polo.
But that’s tonight and bless you if you have sold your second car and bought a pair of tickets for The Game. Bless you again if you can fork over NBA Playoff Prices to get into The Q to attend the affair. Bless you yet again if you not only attend The Game, but drop another sawbuck or two on products they constantly push at The Q.
Blessed are those who have more SUVs, more cell phones, more TiVos, more disposable income for NBA games — especially the playoff variety.
Thursday night wasn’t like that. It wasn’t a night for the swells. Was a night for all the people who have been Cavs fans through the years but who don’t get to attend that many games because of the choking NBA prices. Some of us went all the way back to the days of Richfield. Many of us think Joe Tait is our uncle.
The evening began in the lower stands at Jacobs Field. The Indians were playing the Detroit Tigers, Sabathia twirling against Verlander. A nice matchup on a warm, muggy night that was humid with expectancy — not all of it inside Jacobs Field. A guy had tickets so we went.
Was a late-arriving crowd. By the third inning we guessed it was more than 30,000. We congratulated ourselves when the attendance went up on the scoreboard: 30,038.
Along about the fifth inning or so I could feel the magnate pulling me. Was a huge magnet and it was just beyond the Left Field Porch. Had a sign with the letter “Q” in it. After every half inning the magnet yanked me out of my seat and into the nearby concourse where a mounted TV was tuned to the TNT broadcast of the Cavs-Pistons game in Detroit. A replay showed “Z” with a gash on his forehead … another showed Varejao getting clotheslined by McDyess and LeBron rushing in to confront McDyess. Barkley was talking at the TNT anchor desk but I couldn’t hear the sound.
“It’s gonna be a war,” I said returning to my seat along the third base side.
“Un-huh,” Bill said. Joel mumbled something about not following the NBA.
Bill said he hoped like the dickens the Cavs make it to the NBA Finals, but no … he doesn’t watch the playoff games.
The Indians took a 7-5 lead into the eighth inning when Old Friend Jose Mesa, who has to be about 67 by now, took the mound for the Tigers. The Indians properly tattooed Joe Table to make it 11-5.
With the game in Sabathia’s hip pocket, we left. Joel went his way and Bill and I headed out. On the street, I grabbed his arm and said, “This way … we’re going over to The Q.”
Bill fussed. “Awww … let’s not.”
I insisted. “What else do you have to do … go home and have a cup of cocoa before bed?”
He came along reluctantly. Ahead of us people were pouring out of The Jake and going in through the big glass doors of The Q. We travel in packs, we with great ideas.
We went inside and the noise came through the entranceway tunnel and slapped us in the face. The party was in full swing. The chant “Let’s go Cavs” echoed through the building and scurried out into the downtown streets like it was looking for more party-crashers.
“Geeez …” Bill said, screaming over the noise.
The place was packed. Twelve, maybe 14,000 of us shoehorned in there. They had closed off the third tier, but the first and second tiers were sold out. Or would be sold out if you had to pay — except you didn’t. Not on this night. This night was a freebie. Just walk in off the street and join the fun.
We stood at the top of the first tier, the telescreen directly in front of us. Boobie Gibson, LeBron’s best new friend, nailed a three just as the third quarter ended. The place rocked with cries of “Boobie … Boobie … Boobie.” A late arriver had the thought that if Daniel “Boobie” Gibson ran for Mayor right now, this minute, he would beat the sphinx who’s currently holed up in City Hall.
You know how it went. You were either there inside the asylum that was The Q on this night or you saw it on TV. How LeBron James boldly went where he had never quite gone before — venturing not only into Michael Jordan Territory, but going a tad beyond. We were all witnesses: 29 of the team’s last 30 points. No one does that. No one. Not ever. Except LeBron did it.
How do you pick a favorite? That 3-pointer that tied the game? That drive to the basket that tied it again? That turnaround jumper from the right side that you only try if you’re screwing around playing a game of H-O-R-S-E?
It was so crazy loud inside there you couldn’t hear yourself think. The security guard to my left leaned in close and yelled, “This is better than a regular home game. Louder. More spontaneous.”
And it was. The cheers began in the stands, not over the P.A. system. This was us, rising up. Is our team. Not Corporate Dan’s and his Team of Full Entertainment henchmen. Just us. Hear us roar.
Behind us, up on the second deck, a new chant began, “Dee-troit sucks … Dee-troit sucks … Dee-troit sucks …”
Bill yelled in my ear, “Great idea. I wouldn’t miss this for the world!”
On the telescreen the Cavalier Girls danced and pranced to a hard rap number. Was a great rap song. An urban game, basketball. Urban music, rap. Like I said, you had to be there. We were all one and the same in this craziness. On this night we were all urban as all get-out.
My eyes swept the two levels and it registered on them that this was, indeed, a terrific blend of Cavalier fan: We were black, we were white, we were young, old and middle-aged. Just like back in the day. What it was not was your typical wine-and-brie-and-a-Perriere-on-the-side crowd that normally comprises Cavalier home games. Which also meant that we knew our basketball. No prompting needed.
Was mostly a young crowd, of course. As the camera crew swept its lens over the crowd to show on the screen, you’d swear every hot chick in Greater Cleveland was inside The Q. A cynic might say, “You mean all three of them were there at the same time?”
Hey. You gotta get out more. This ol’ town ain’t dead yet. We got the Indians, we got the Cavs, we got hot chicks, we got game, we got LeBron and mostly, we got Dee-troit right where we want them — at The Q and down 3-games-to-2.
How do you like them apples, Rasheed? And you, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince — you pair of aliens, you?
Welcome home, Cavs.
The other night we brought sexy back. Tonight we just plain have your back. But, man … if only you could have seen and heard us Thursday night. You would have wanted to bolt the doors and lock us all inside so that the same exact people would be sure to be on hand tonight at The Q.
Contact Doug Clarke at 329-7135 or email@example.com.