What the CLE Really Means…

“Remember, the next time someone is not giving you a chance or counting you out, you can be the one to rewrite history. ~Greg Wasinski

*The following was written the morning after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Championship.*


Me: “Hi I’m Greg Wasinski, nice to meet you.”

Administrator: “Nice to meet you, I hear you’re from Cleveland.”

Me: (smiling proudly) “Yes I am.”

Administrator: “I’m sorry.”

The above interaction actually happened to me when I arrived at a location to do a presentation earlier in 2016. My blood began to boil and I felt my face get flushed, as I stifled every ounce of anger from the comment made. I felt disrespected by this person, who was apologizing for my roots like it was some joke. The conversation abruptly ended as I stated, “I’m not.” I walked away quickly to collect myself and not say the other, less than charitable things bubbling around inside my head.

See, I’m a kid from Garfield Heights, OH at the end of the day. A connecting suburb of Cleveland which had its share of hard knocks. Whether people stayed or left, they have experienced their share of bruises. Growing up, we had rival neighborhoods who butted up against each other, group fights would occur from time to time, a basketball teammate of mine was shot playing hoops on the playground and no one, I mean no one, was allowed to disrespect where we came from. I studied martial arts just in the hopes to not get beat up. We were the scrappers, the kids who fought for everything we were trying to earn, but no matter how things declined in the neighborhood, the city is still who we are; a style of passion and work ethic which is still with me today. I am from Cleveland and I am proud.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ~Maya Angelou

On June 19, 2016, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA basketball championship over the Golden State Warriors. They did it in historic fashion, rewriting a few of the record books in the process. The game was amazing, the players persevered, and their drive to be victorious prevailed. But, it’s just a game right? Not really. What does it mean when an entire city shuts down to watch the game, even those who have no interest in the sport? When tens of thousands flood the streets of downtown Cleveland to be part of something special? It means that while basketball is the instrument, it’s really about the city in the end. A sign of victory that we can accomplish everything if we persevere. Even Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, in his post-game interview reminded us that the “CLE” logo highlighted on the promotional t-shirts was to focus on the city and not just the team.

Side note: In 2006 I had the opportunity to spend time with Dan Gilbert when he was still settling in as owner. A colleague in business thought we should meet because our business philosophies were so similar. After a presentation he delivered at Windows on the River, we chatted for a time about the importance of treating our employees like family. A short time later I took my son to his first basketball game ever, Dan invited us to his suite and then generously shared his floor seats with us to watch the second half. I felt refreshed that despite his financial success, he was still like me. He gets it, a hard working guy from the Detroit area who is the right person to know the sport is more about the city than the game which yields the result. I root for Dan Gilbert all the time because he is the type of man who deserves success in all he does professionally but more importantly in his role as a family man.

Over the years, some have labeled the city of Cleveland “The Lovable Losers” (just Google The Drive, The Shot, The Fumble, or Indians Game 7 World Series 1997). For others, we were a punch line of a joke. And still to some, we are a product of our past with their constant reminders of our river that caught on fire over forty years ago. To you though, we should be a sign of never giving up. Realizing what we can accomplish even when the world counts you out. A chance for you to look deep into your own roots and remind yourself what lives and breathes in you. Scars? Let people see them, for they don’t define you. Failures? Good, it means you have the wisdom to appreciate the victory ahead. Passion? Use it as a positive fuel to light a fire toward your dreams, remembering the next time someone is not giving you a chance or counting you out, you can be the one to rewrite history.

“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.” ~LeBron James

There was no other way the Cavs should have won other than doing the improbable. Letting the media have their one last opportunity to try and hold us back again. This was everyone’s final chance to not show the underdog respect because in their eyes they looked at previous results rather than the heart that beats inside a Clevelander. There is a little CLE in all of us. A lovable, welcoming community who doesn’t always hide our pain so well, but we will feed you if you are hungry, welcome you in if you are alone, and make you part of the family if you want this to become your home.

Thank you LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, Richard Jefferson, J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova, Timofey Mozgov, Mo Williams, Dahntay Jones, Channing Frye, James Jones, Tyronn Lue and Dan Gilbert. Thank you not for just winning the game and the series, but because you did it remembering who you were doing it for, besides career accolades.

So next time, just maybe when someone asks me in a little less than respectful way, if I am from Cleveland, the “Bulldog” (our mascot from Garfield Heights High School) in me just might come out. My response: “You’re damn right I am, and more proud of that than you can know.” #allin216 #216Roots


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Greg Wasinski is a full-time inspirational speaker and author from Cleveland, OH. More information about him can be found at www.Wasinski.com