3:33 Sports Short #26 // Vanished Cathedral, Recollections from a Cavaliers Childhood by Doug Cornett

Filed under: 3:33 Sports Shorts, Blog |

The 3:33 Sports Shorts series is back! We're kicking off this week with a trio of posts about basketball. The first comes courtesy of the recently vindicated Doug Cornett, whose lifelong fandom of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers has just been rewarded with a championship! We've also got great work from Michael Nye on recovering from Achilles surgery after a basketball injury, and Michael Wasson on growing up playing basketball where hoops and courts are hard to come by.

It’s the early round of the NBA playoffs, 1992. I’m ten years old, settled into the belly of the Richfield Coliseum, the Palace on the Prairie, to watch our boys do battle.

Mark Price slices through the double-team and flips up a running one-hander among the trees in the lane. His signature move. Off the glass, good. Game tied. Bill Fitch, the opposing coach, loosens his tie and leers, pleads for a timeout. I stand with the swelling of the crowd, I think I am yelling but can’t hear my voice, only the collective throb of 20,000 northeastern Ohioans. We are intoxicated with hope, with pride for our undersized but overachieving second round point guard. Our team, our city, we’re all underdogs.

Hang on Sloopy” plays over the speakers, our favorite. We dance. I shake my hips, stomp my Sambas on the concrete floor, churn the butter. Suddenly, I’m enormous overhead, featured on the jumbotron dance cam. Hot energy courses through my limbs as I showcase every move I know, and once I’ve exhausted my repertoire, I get innovative, pushing my limbs in strange new ways. I’m poised boldly on the frontier of interpretive dance.

The drunk behind me, the one who’s been spilling popcorn on my shoulder and bragging to his neighbor all game about his glory days as a semi-pro baseball player, leans down and jostles me for the spotlight. His beer slips from his hand and waterfalls over my head. The crowd, still watching on the jumbotron, gasps, laughs, boos. The drunk is penitent. He slinks into the aisle and up the stairs, away.

Some of the bitter and soapy beer drips down onto my tongue. It doesn’t taste at all like I thought it would, like an even sweeter cream soda. I glance at the Miller Lite ads buzzing from every corner of the arena and think, Liars.

The drunk returns minutes later with an opera clown’s exaggerated grimace, presenting me with a Brad Daugherty poster. They were out of Mark Price, he says. I am ten years old and deeply embarrassed.

Three years later, the Coliseum is shut down when the Cavs move to a new arena downtown. The Coliseum is demolished in 1999, and within a few short years nature reclaims the site with thick grass and wildlife. Like some vanished cathedral, whose former worshipers have found a new home for their reverence, no trace remains of the Richfield Coliseum nor the Cavaliers’ valiant but ultimately futile lunges toward an NBA championship. There are, however, a number of wild bird species that can occasionally be spotted by the vigilant watcher. What more could you expect from an arena named after the world’s most famous testament to faded glory?

Doug Cornett earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Portland State University. He was awarded first prize in the 2016 William Van Dyke Short Story Contest from Ruminate Magazine, and his work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Permafrost Magazine, Propeller Magazine, Limehawk, and elsewhere.  He is a regular blogger for Ploughshares, and his fiction has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.