Fatherhood and The Cleveland Cavaliers
By Mark Ligas @ The Parking Spot
In February 2016, my wife and I had our first child. Like most first-time parents, I was being given advice daily. Two pieces of advice really resonated with me, and ironically, both were from coworkers here at The Parking Spot.
The first piece of advice came from someone on the HR team. She was the first person who shared the phrase, “the days are long, but the years are short,” with me.
The second piece of advice came from one of my colleagues based out of The Parking Spot in Kansas City. He told me that for the first 6 months of my kid’s life, she’s going to be so glued to my wife’s hip, that she’ll want absolutely nothing to do with me, and I’ll think to myself, “maybe I’m not cut out for being a father…?”
As the first few very, very, very long days ticked by and somehow turned to weeks, my coworkers’ advice rang true. Although the days WERE long, time was flying. And my kid definitely wanted to be around mommy, not daddy.
That all changed thanks to one man: LeBron James.
LeBron Makes Me a Better Dad
A native of Cleveland OH and a lifelong sports fan, I lived through all of the Cleveland sports heartbreaks: the Drive, the Fumble, the Move, the 1995 and 1997 World Series, the Decision…and I was fully prepared to pass this tradition of pain and suffering along to my daughter. Of course, with every new year brought hope. “This” was always our year.
In the spring of 2016, that hope came in the form of the Cavs making the NBA playoffs and chasing the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.
My daughter and I began watching every Cavs game that playoff run. Game after game, we sat side-by-side. I’d tell her all about my memories from being at or watching Cleveland sports events growing up…which, as I spoke, I realized were really stories more about me and family than about sports.
This, of course, were all one-way conversations. Nevertheless, I could feel us starting to bond. As my daughter and I grew closer and the Cavs kept winning, we soon found ourselves in the NBA Finals, but down 3-1. History taught us that this was not going to go well for Cleveland. And yet, I could tell something really was different about this year. On June 19, 2016, I was proven right. My daughter lived in a world where a Cleveland team won a major sports championship.
The Cavs’ championship parade was scheduled for June 21, 2016. My wife knew I needed to be there; “Go.”
Me and My 1.3 Million Friends at Midway Airport
So in an effort to minimize the time away from my wife and daughter, I booked the latest flight out on June 20th I could find, and the earliest flight back I could get after the parade, and I headed to Midway International Airport (MDW) in Chicago.
I recall slowly walking through security at Midway, excited for what was to come, but feeling guilty leaving my newborn at home for something that felt so selfish.
As I made it through TSA and headed to the very end of Concourse B for a flight that I had found out was just delayed (which didn’t help my guilt at all—I could have been home for a couple more hours helping my wife), I could hear a strange rumbling coming from down the concourse.
A plane? No, it sounded like voices. A security situation? No, it sounded…cheerful.
I was soon met by a familiar sight. A sight I had seen in the stands at the then Quicken Loans Arena (now Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse) throughout the Cavs playoff run: a sea of wine and gold.
It was the exuberant bliss of what felt like hundreds of Clevelanders, all heading home to meet the rest of the 1.3 million Clevelanders who were descending into Cleveland for what I would later only be able to describe as a religious experience.
A future plane full of strangers from all walks of life were gathering, hugging, crying, and yelping with joy.
Folks from different backgrounds, races, genders, and religions, were high fiving each other and sharing what their experience was like watching the Cavs come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors.
I bumped into someone I was surprised I recognized, a former elementary school classmate who I hadn’t seen in more than 20 years. He started introducing me around to “the gang.” Everyone was acting so familial, that I assumed they were all friends. I asked how they all had met, and they looked at me puzzled.
“We’re all from Cleveland.”
“No,” I pushed, “but like, where did you all first meet?”
Like me, they were all just a group of people who were heading back to Cleveland to celebrate a sports win. But it wasn’t really about the sports win. It was about their childhood…their family…their home.
Cavaliers Championship Parade
When the delayed flight finally landed in the wee hours of the morning, my fellow passengers and I went straight to downtown Cleveland, and we found our spots along the parade route. The parade exceeded expectations in every way possible.
Once that parade ended and I quickly drove back to the airport—exhausted, sunburnt, but happy—I found myself sitting on my plane on the runway at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, saying goodbye to Cleveland. It didn’t just feel like my quick overnight trip had ended…it felt like the journey that made up the first chapter in my life had concluded.
I was ready to officially turn the page on that chapter, and continue forward on my next journey. Amazingly, a much more adventurous journey than the one I just concluded that produced the Drive, the Fumble, the Move, the 1995 and 1997 World Series, and the Decision…
The journey of fatherhood.