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Seeing Ohio in the World Series reminds me why I love my home state

I’m sitting in my living room with my mom and my sister anxiously biting my nails. I’m holding my breath because even though we’re ahead with only ten seconds left in the game, I’m from Cleveland. We know that losing is still a possibility.

I’m cautiously optimistic but I can’t allow myself to feel anything more than that. I’ve been disappointed too many times.

It’s June 19th, the night the Cavs won the NBA Finals. We’ll be telling our grandchildren, “Down 3-1, with Lebron James at the front, we clawed our way back to win for the first time EVER. You know kiddies, in Northeast Ohio, nothing is given everything is earned.”

For the first time in my entire life, I felt what it was like to collectively win something.

Now the Indians are in the World Series and it’s a huge freaking deal.

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I don’t really care about sports. I never spent Sunday afternoons watching football with my mom. I don’t feel nostalgic about going to baseball games.

So why, for the first time ever, am I writing about sports?

Because this is bigger than sports.

It’s about Ohio. My home.

It’s about every, single time I told someone I was from Ohio and they said, “I’m sorry.” It’s about every time someone called us “the mistake on the lake.” It’s about every time someone came to visit and I said, “See, it’s not so bad,” because I had a mentality of mediocrity. Because I believed they wouldn’t love Ohio the way I loved it. They wouldn’t see the colors of the leaves in the fall and appreciate a bonfire with friends. They wouldn’t want to go sledding or make snow angels because they’d be too cold. I worried that they would be too distracted by the weather to recognize some of the nicest, kindest people in the whole nation. People that pick you up at the airport at 4 am and bring coffee and doughnuts. People that have your back and love you when you’re impressive or not.

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I so desperately wanted visitors to love Ohio because I loved it. I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Akron, graduated from Kent State, and worked in Cleveland. My formative years were spent in NEO, which means that Ohio is a part of my identity. Although I currently live in New York City, I’m still an Ohioan. No matter where I live, I will always be an Ohioan in my heart. That’s the kind of hold Northeast Ohio has on you. When the timing is right, I’m certain I will move back there eventually.

I’m not delusional, Ohio isn’t perfect. I wanted to write this because Cleveland and I have a lot in common. Growing up I looked exactly like George Costanza. I was overweight and nerdy, no one paid me much attention unless they were making fun of me. I wasn’t cool like New York, I wasn’t sexy like Los Angeles, I wasn’t chill like San Francisco. I was just there in my yellow windbreaker. I was considered worse-than-average on the popularity scale. I had to prove to everyone, but mostly myself, that I had something to offer. That I had something to say. I had to believe that I was a person who deserved a seat at the table.

It sounds crazy to say but when the Cavs won, there was a shift in energy. We started to believe that we could be winners, that we too deserved a seat at the table. Sometimes you need to see it to believe it.

Now the Indians are in the World Series. The freaking World Series. I didn’t think I’d see it again in my lifetime. We’re playing the Cubs, and to be honest, I’m glad it’s them. They’re underdogs too. They probably would have been one of our only friends at the uncool kids table.

Whatever the outcome,  win or lose, I’m proud of you Cleveland. You’re a winner no matter what because when people said you weren’t good enough, you didn’t listen. When you got knocked down, you still got up, again and again. “There’s always next year,” you’d say hopefully.

Cleveland, THIS is your year. You showed up. You worked your ass off. And here you are, about to make history.

So from one fat kid in a yellow windbreaker to the state that raised her, I love you.

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