2016 was an incredible year for the city of Cleveland and its sports teams. The Browns didn’t go 0-16. The Monsters took home the Calder Cup (Cleveland’s first AHL Championship since 1964). Stipe Miocic, a native from Euclid, OH, brought home the UFC heavyweight championship after getting a knockout in the first round of UFC 198. And, of course, the Cleveland Indians took the Chicago Cubs to extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series.
Oh, and some fella named LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the city’s first major sports championship in 52 years in a stunning come-from-behind victory that was highlighted by the 73-win Golden State Warriors and unanimous MVP Stephen Curry blowing a 3-1 series lead. AND THAT WAS THE ONLY 3-1 LEAD THAT WAS BLOWN IN 2016, YOU HEAR ME? *sobs*
Yesterday, the city of Cleveland turned its eyes to the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel to celebrate the Seventeenth Annual Greater Cleveland Sports Awards, a gala/fundraiser meant to honor the achievements of Cleveland sports and athletes from the high school level all the way up through professional sports organizations. Not only is it a night of celebration and recognition, it’s also an opportunity to raise money via auctions and donations. Yesterday’s event saw many different sports personalities, both past and present, assemble to celebrate a city that is no longer the butt of sports jokes (well, there are still some jokes); here are the highlights:
- Jaylen Harris, a wide receiver from Cleveland Heights High School, earned the High School Athlete of the Year award. He’ll be headed to Ohio State in the fall.
- The John Carroll University football team, after advancing to the D-III semifinals this past season, took home the Collegiate Athlete of the Year Award.
- Charles Conwell Jr., a two-time USA Boxing champion and member of the 2016 Olympic team, won the Amateur Athlete of the Year award.
- Kendra Seitz, a young swimmer who underwent a heart transplant operation in 2009, won the Courage Award to go along with the gold, silver, and bronze medals she recently won at the Transplant Games of America.
Despite having one of the most memorable seasons/postseasons in franchise history, the Cleveland Indians really couldn’t compete with their neighbors in terms of the two largest awards of the evening:
As someone who isn’t really a Cavs fan, I submit that both the “Professional Athlete of the Year” and “Best Moment in Cleveland Sports” were correctly awarded. For the record, Francisco Lindor was nominated for Professional Athlete of the Year; I’m sure he’ll win it in a couple of years. For me personally, I may have put Rajai’s game tying home run in Game 7 as the best moment, but I understand why it was looked over for the moment where the championship drought was broken. Congratulations to Lebron & Co. on some well deserved accolades.
That being said, the representatives from the Cleveland Indians didn’t go home completely empty handed. Mike Hargrove, the former manager who also brought the Tribe to within one game of a championship, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Hargrove accepted the award surrounded by his former players Chad Ogea, Jim Thome, and Sandy Alomar. In addition, there were also some current members of the Tribe in attendance:
All in all, last night’s awards were different because the city of Cleveland was, for the first time in a half century, celebrating a champion. It was a celebration of the accomplishments in 2016 and an exciting look ahead to future successes in 2017 and beyond. For me personally, as someone who was born in and lived in Cleveland briefly only to move out west (or, as Matt Lyons likes to call me, “Mr. I'm-in-a-fake-timezone-that's-actually-three-hours-behind-the-real-one”), it was exciting to see so much..excitement surrounding the Cleveland sports teams and athletes.
And hey, at least the Browns didn’t lose anything last night.