Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Cliff Note: I originally wrote this last year at Christmas time. Since I post links to Facebook whenever I post, I thought I would repost as the message remains the same.
As many of you know, my younger brother, Richard, passed away in March, 2008. He had been wheelchair bound for the last 20 years of his life and I thought it was somewhat poetic justice that the day he went home to be with the Lord was March 4th, or march forth.
I was thinking about Ricky today as it's a week before Christmas. He was always one of the easiest people to shop for as he was happy with just about anything you get for him. A true personification of "it's the thought that counts."
One of Ricky's life long passions was sports. The reason he became a sports fan was because I became a sports fan. You see, when we were growing up, Ricky was my shadow and my best friend. As he spent the last years of his life in a nursing home, people were amazed with his knowledge of all things sports. And on any given fall Sunday, he probably expressed the emotions of Browns backers everywhere.
In 1975, I decided that for his Christmas present, we would go see the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs were playing their games at the Richfield Coliseum, and we all were about to be witnesses to a miracle, the Miracle of Richfield. That season, the Cavs were a broken foot away from the NBA championship, that being suffered by center, Jim Chones. Other members of the 1975-76 Cavs included Austin Carr, Bobby "Bingo" Smith, Canton's own Dick Snyder, and newest member, the ever popular Nate Thurmond.
December 21, 1975, the LA Lakers, with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Gail Goodrich, and Pat Riley on their roster, came to Richfield. The game was originally supposed to be nationally broadcast on CBS. However, sports editor, Sonny Hill decided that the Cavs' play prior to the trade to Chicago for Thurmond didn't warrant a national broadcast. One of the give aways for the game was a Cavaliers pennant to all in attendance. Before Hill made his decision, I decided to buy royal courtside tickets to the game, two rows behind the basket. The tickets set me back $12.50 apiece. Cliff note: Nowadays you couldn't get one ticket in the nosebleed section for 25 dollars. I thought at the time it would cool to be in a position to be able to be on TV nationwide. But the important thing was that I got Ricky a present he would love.
Despite the fact that the game was not going to be televised, there were over 19,000 in the attendance, all armed with white pennants. I was offered 1000 bucks to do harm to Abdul-Jabbar when I told this person where my seat was. Needless to say, I declined. Time to go to our seats.
Being Cavaliers fans and not too bashful, we let the good guys know our allegiance to them. Others around us let us know how much they paid to sit in their seats. Obviously these folks were not future dawg pound occupants. Cliff Note: Unless you are fans of the Cleveland Browns fan, you don't get the last comment.
Well, back to the reason we were there. The Cavs and Lakers put on a game and then some. For awhile it looked as though the Lakers were going back to California with a win. Anytime coach Bill Fitch needed some defense, he would call on the capable veteran, reserve center, Nate Thurmond. Every time the 6 foot 11 12 year veteran entered the game, the ever popular Thurmond would hear the adulation of the crowd along with the chant "DEFENSE...DEFENSE!"
And as it became crunch time, all 19,000 plus got into the game, even those who chastised me and Ricky earlier in the game. Along with the cheers, there were over 19,000 white pennants waving back and forth. The terrible towel had nothing on the Cavalier pennants that afternoon. And I was yelling myself hoarse. And the good guys were cheered on to a 99-98 win.
The real loser that day was CBS. The rest of this memorable season, whenever CBS was broadcasting from the Coliseum, Sonny Hill was greeted with the boos that are now reserved for LeBron James.
The biggest winner December 21, 1975 was Cliff Feightner. I have had a winning memory now going on 36 years. I gave Ricky a Christmas gift that has kept on giving back to my memory banks.