World champions. National champions. State champions. No matter what level, people play for one thing: the ring. However, it’s not the physical ring they’re competing for, but what it represents.
Cities can become so invested in their teams to the point that the identity of a team becomes almost synonymous with the identity of the city. Ask people around the nation what they think of when they think of Columbus, Ohio, and they’re likely to say something about Ohio State. Ask people about Dallas: it’s the Cowboys. New York: the Yankees.
Cleveland is the same way. But, if you mention Cleveland to people across the nation, they’ll think of the classic downfalls of the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers. That was until the Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Finals, ending the city’s sports curse.
This title went beyond the ring, especially for LeBron James. While James won two NBA Championships as member of the Miami Heat, according to nba.com, this one was different. Growing up in Northeast Ohio, James was a Cleveland fan.
When he returned to the Cavaliers in 2014, he discussed being a kid in Northeast Ohio and how he has realized that it was a place that was bigger than basketball for him. According to FOX Sports, James has donated over $41 million to send over 1,100 kids to the University of Akron. This is just another way he gives back to the community that raised him. He understood what ending the 52-year drought would mean for the city.
It is estimated that 1.3 million people attended the Cavaliers championship parade in Cleveland following their Game 7 win, according to ESPN. People from Cleveland finally had their championship, and they couldn’t have been more proud that the hometown kid was able to bring it home, and bring new hope to their city.
On the other hand, the Buffalo Bills of the NFL, had their opportunity to bring the Super Bowl title to their city, a city that had become known for their extreme weather and historically bad football. However, they were unable to seal the deal...four times. According to ESPN, from 1990-1993 the Bills went to four straight Super Bowls and lost each one. Because of this Buffalo, too much of the nation kept the image of a face of failure.
This is hard to believe, considering over that span they were the winningest team in the NFL. Also, they’re the only team to ever make it to four straight Super Bowls. It just goes to show what that ring symbolizes. Statistically one of the best football teams of all time will go down in history as losers, a reputation that has followed both ‘the Bills’ and their city, simply because of four games out of the 77 that they played in that span.
It just goes to show that people and cities identify with being a champion. Regardless of how
good a team is, that ring becomes representative of the success. Whether it’s rede ning the identity
of the city, from classic downfalls to world champions, or not quite seizing the opportunity to change a city, like the Bills of the 90s, the ring represents more than winning a game.