My relationship with Dallas before June 12, 2011, was tenuous. I got tattooed there with Dennis Rodman during the summer of 1994 and stayed for a week, but I was shit-faced the whole time. I visited for a few days during baseball's winter meetings in 2000, when A-Rod signed with the Texas Rangers. I never saw much of the place then either, because I was busy profiling Rodriguez for Esquire. I did on occasion drive up IH-35 from Austin in the late 1970s, when I lived there for a few years, but my memories of Austin are hazy (although not unfond, except for the herpes). Of Dallas back then I recall absolutely nothing.
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Doesn't matter: I can now say, with both certainty and love, that Dallas is one of my very favorite places on the planet. I am a native Clevelander and a lifelong fan of those sad-sack teams, and the treachery of LeBron James chicken-fried my heart to the point where I wrote a book chronicling my disdain. It's called The Whore of Akron, and it's a perfect gift for any basketball fan also interested in the sex, drugs, and vulgarity of a misspent youth. The climax of the book, naturally, was Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals, on June 12, 2011.
It wasn't just that the Mavericks won the game. It was also the pleasure of sitting among thousands of Mavs fans, most of whom had -- like me -- bought their tickets on the Miami Heat's website, because not even the Heat's season-ticket holders gave enough of a shit about their team to go to the game instead of pocketing a few extra bucks. What a pleasure it was to be sitting among actual fans, fans who had gone decades without a championship and without giving up on their hopes and dreams and team. Mine wasn't the only section of American Airlines Arena filled with folks from Dallas; Mavs fans were everywhere, louder throughout the game than the home crowd. Passionate but not rude -- by Cleveland standards, anyway -- they felt like old friends.
I stayed to watch the post-game ceremony. I texted my son: Someday you and I will go to a game like this. I was all too aware of the pathos involved -- a bitter Cleveland fan in vengeful ecstasy because a team from some other city had done what no Cleveland team has done in almost 50 years, and had kicked LeBron's sorry ass in the process. But that pathos took nothing away from the beauty of watching other fathers and sons transported by the pure joy, the sense of communal triumph, that only sports can offer.
I can't be there with you on Christmas, to watch the rematch and witness the Mavericks' championship banner rise and hang over LeBron's ever-swelling head. But I'd still like to give you something for the holiday. Maybe a fruitcake? I'd be happy to order a few of the Large Deluxe jobs from the Collin Street Bakery for you to split before the game.