Bron. LBJ. The Akron Hammer. King James. Is Lebron the Babe Ruth of our generation with all these nicknames? Now, I always want to be more Like Mike, but I can at least appreciate greatness, even if “The Decision” made me cringe and his general demeanor doesn’t help. I’d had the opportunity to see him play while I was in college during his first stint with Cleveland (when the Celts had The Original Big Three), but Joel hadn’t yet, so I knew when planning the “Midwest Winter” trip that I had to try to make it happen. Originally I’d tried to figure out how we could knock out the Browns and the Cavs, but the schedule didn’t work great in the time frame I was looking at and also it’s the Browns. Who play outside. Lose-lose. There were other, better games in other cities, so despite the fact that our stop in Cleveland would be too short to see much besides the game, I added their clash against the Hawks in. I’m glad I did! We got to see Lebron in what will almost certainly be his last season in a Cavs jersey (in case you live under a rock, he's moved on to warmer pastures in LA and Dan Gilbert is a moron, so he'll never be back), and while we’ll definitely have to go back to Cleveland for longer (and preferably when it’s warmer), we had a nice sweet stop.
Not being a particularly big Lebron fan and knowing that the Hawks are not good, I didn’t want to spend much on these tickets. If Kyrie was still in Cleveland, it might have been a different story, but he wasn’t, so I opted to spend just $75 on the two tickets combined. Which, amazingly, ended up working out great. But more on that later. We were in the second bowl diagonally up from one of the baskets and the Cavs bench. We got what we paid for, but it definitely could have been worse and we still enjoyed the game and watching Lebron dominate. He only scored 25 points, but he tied a career high in assists and was facilitating the whole game. The Hawks had a bit of a run at the end of the game that made the score closer than the game actually was, because they predictably got worked.
Joel and I like to go to games early- I get anxious at the thought of being late and missing parts of the game, and we like to scout out the arena/stadium and see what it’s all about. Plus, most professional stadiums have free giveaways and entertainment before games, so it’s always a chance to add to our man cave collection for free! I often say that Joel is the luckiest guy in the world when it comes to raffles and such, and that luck came to play in Cleveland. While we were at a stand that was handing out pop socks, some media girls approached Joel (who was rocking an awesome old school Cavs jersey) to see if he wanted to participate in one of the games that people get to play on the court during timeouts! During the first media timeout in the third quarter, Joel was going to get to go on the floor, choose one of three hidden signs that said “Lay-up,” “Free Throw,” or “Three-Pointer” and then shoot whichever shot showed for a chance to win a prize. He was so nervous the entire first half thinking about going down and kept saying he hoped he got “Three-Pointer” because it would be less embarrassing if he missed. When he went down, I decided to try to get down with him, and they not only let me, but found me a court level spot to watch from. While Joel stood waiting, I got to watch like a person who budgeted a heck of a lot more than $75 for the game.
When his time came, Joel found out what the prize was: a basketball signed by the entire Cavs team. Now he wanted to win. He insists that all of the signs had to have said “Three-Pointer” because he saw one that did and chose another, but still got the most difficult shot as his task. He gave it a great chance but was a little long. He was pretty bummed we didn’t get the basketball, but our consolation prize was pretty neat. I asked one of the ushers if he would take our picture on the edge of the court before we headed up to our seats, and he kindly obliged. I was so excited that I smiled like a goober in all the pictures and you can barely see my eyes, but still awesome. Joel wasn’t as impressed with the consolation prize, but not many people can say they’ve been on a court while Lebron’s been on it too, so I think he’s still a winner!
We’d originally tried for a well-reviewed sports bar near the arena and the field where the Indians play, but found out once we were there that they have limited hours during the winter. It was FREEZING cold and super windy, so we just wanted to find somewhere close and stumbled upon the Winking Lizard Tavern. The name feels like a euphemism I can’t quite put my finger on, and it somewhat reminded me of a chain restaurant. However, the people who worked there definitely made it worth the stop. Our waiter was great and didn’t mind when we picked his brain about sports in Cleveland. We were shocked to learn that the favorite team of the city is actually the Browns. The way he described it, they’ve been bad so the fans are in hibernation, but the moment they turn it around, their following will swallow the following of even the best Indians or Cavs teams. He asked about our trip and all the games we were seeing, and while we were eating, he went and told his manager, who came to talk to us with free shirts! Gotta love that Midwest charm!
The following morning before we left for our next city, we stopped at a little donut shop called Brewnuts. I’m not a big donut person in general. It’s not like they don’t taste good, but just not good enough to me to justify the calories. I’d rather spend them on ice cream. But it had popped up during my research of places to stop, and it would be quick so we could get on the road. The donut was definitely worth the stop and tided me over for most of our drive to Indianapolis!
I’ve mentioned before, but sometimes on these long trips, we like to do something normal and low-key to recover. With it being so cold, we decided to stay warm in a movie theater and go to “Wonder,” which we’d heard great things about. It was just what we needed, even though I bawled like a baby when the (SPOILER ALERT) dog dies. Clearly I was missing our pups. The movie was absolutely heart warming though and gave us a relaxing afternoon.
Our AirBnB was in a little apartment downtown. Similar to Pittsburgh, we were in a private room with the owner living there also, but our whole experience was easy. We came, dropped our stuff off, went off to see the city, came home after the game, and left early the next morning.
We opted to use the arena parking garage. This is atypical for us, and it’s usually the most expensive option, but we were not trying to be outside anymore than we had to. Thankfully, however, it wasn’t too crazy, and we were able to cut down our outside walk time a ton!
Quicken Loans itself is a lot smaller than both Joel and I had imagined. We probably should have guessed it would be the case with Cleveland being a small market, but we’d imagined more with Lebron being there. However, it was clean, and they clearly have a passionate following. Overall, Cleveland showed us a good time with great people, and I’ll brag about standing on an NBA floor during a game for a long time!
Just a couple of sports fans touring the world, one stadium at a time.