I’ve been pretty spoiled in my life as a sports fan. There are people that live a lifetime and never get to witness their favorite team win a championship. I’ve been able to experience it nine times so far, and counting.
So here they are, the nine championships my teams have won, ranked in order of how much joy they brought me:
I regret this one. I let myself get too invested in the Cavs playoff run. At this point in my life, I don’t have the time or emotional depth to throw myself into two finals runs at the same time. If the Cavs would have lost, I’d have regretted this even more. Very happy the Penguins won and stoked to see Malkin and The Kid get more than one Cup together, but disappointed in myself for not enjoying it as much as I should have.
Despite growing up in Indiana, I was raised a Steelers fan because of my dad. The Steelers led me to discover and cheer for Barry Bonds and the Pirates, which led me to the other team in the Pittsburgh Trifecta. The Steelers, the team that made me love the city of Pittsburgh, wasn’t doing much, but the Pirates were great, and the Penguins won back to back championships. This roster made me love hockey. Jagr, Lemieux, Murphy, Mullen, & Ulf were amazing together, and Mario is the greatest player ever. I was too young to fully appreciate the titles at the time, but I still had a blast watching them.
Along with the Steelers, my dad raised me to be a Buckeyes fan, despite being right between Purdue, Indiana, and Notre Dame. There were a lot of great teams and players I got to see through the 90s and early 2000s, but the 2014 season was easily one of the most fun. We lost our starting QB for the season. Our backup came in and had a Heisman quality season, but got hurt before the Big 10 Championship Game that we needed to win to make the first ever playoffs. Then our third stringer went on a three game tear all the way to the National Championship and first ever winner in the playoff era. It was a hell of a ride.
5. 2005-06 Pittsburgh Steelers
For a large part of my life, the Steelers were MY TEAM. They trumped everything else. I enjoyed other sports, but none as much as watching the Steelers play. I got to see them play in a Super Bowl a decade before this, but it didn’t go so well. In between that one and this one, there were a lot of great seasons that ended in terrible disappointment. Until this season. This season was different. This one was special.
After going 15-1 the year before and losing in the playoffs, they struggled during the season. They needed to win the final few games of the season to sneak into the playoffs as the sixth seed. They did that. Then they beat the Bengals at home. Then they had to beat the juggernaut, unbeatable Colts, and did so in one of the most ridiculously insane games ever. Then it was the Broncos and the Seahawks, which were taken care of fairly easily.
This one was meant to be. I got cocky. In my head, there was no way this team would lose. It was Bettis’s last year, with the Super Bowl being played in his hometown of Detroit. It was too perfect. Bettis, Ward, and Polamalu are three of my favorite Steelers ever, and I had no doubt in my mind they would win. I should have appreciated it more, but I felt like it was set in stone.
4. 2002-03 Ohio State Buckeyes
The first Buckeyes Championship of my lifetime wasn’t just special as a lifelong Buckeye fan, but also had a hometown flavor. I’d been in Youngstown for five years at this point, and knew it was somewhere I’d be for a long long time. I adopted it as my new hometown. Jim Tressel was Youngstown’s son. He brought championships to Youngstown, and now he was bringing one to Columbus, along with a local kid from the area who dominated that game, Maurice Clarett. Sure, Clarett’s career/life became interesting after this season, but the strip fumble is one of the greatest individual plays I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. I HATE college overtime and will generally turn a game off when it gets to that point instead of watching it, but I couldn’t turn this off. I had to see a local kid win a title for a local coach for the team I’d loved my whole life.
3. 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins
This one was great. After the Cavs being upset in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Orlando Magic, I was able to dive headfirst into watching Crosby and Malkin win their first Cup. In a ridiculous, thrilling 7 game series that was in question up until the final buzzer sounded. Obviously, I’d have loved the Cavs in the Finals, and that Lebron/Kobe Finals that the world needed so bad, but the Pens were there to make up for it.
2. 2008-09 Pittsburgh Steelers
The one a few years earlier felt like it was destiny, so I didn’t appreciate it as much. This one felt like it required more work and a tougher road to get there. It also turned out to be the greatest football game I’ve ever watched in my life.
I was able to watch it with my buddy Matt and his family, who are pretty much the only people in the world not related to me that I enjoy watching the Steelers with.
I will never forget James Harrison’s interception return to end the half, as it’s easily my favorite football play of all time. It was a bunch of adults yelling while a child was trying to go to sleep. Matt took her into the other room to calm her down, and the look on his face upon coming back in the room and saying “He’s still going!?” I will never forget.
And of course the toe tap catch by Santonio Holmes in the final minute to take the lead.
Maybe the first one was more special, but this one was a hell of a lot more fun.
- 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers
This one tops all of them. I’m not an all-around Cleveland fan, just the Cavs. So I am not relieving a 50+ year championship drought. But the Cavs are my NBA team, and have been since moving to Ohio in 1998. So really, I haven’t suffered like the rest of the Cleveland fans. But, at this point in my life, the NBA is my sport of choice, and that makes the Cavs the team I’m most passionate about.
Living near Akron, I got to watch Lebron play a few games in high school. The boyfriend of a girl I worked with was obsessed and went on and on about how this kid was going to be something special, so I went along with him to a few games. Upon watching him play, I agreed. Then the Cavs got the chance to take him first overall, and it all felt right.
Of all the athletes in team sports that I’ve loved in my lifetime, I’ve never loved one as much as I do Lebron James. Next to Muhammad Ali, he is my favorite athlete of all time. He’s a somewhat local kid, who grew up to be the best ever and the perfect role model. He is everything you want out of a professional athlete. It hurt to see him leave Cleveland, but I still enjoyed seeing him win two titles in Miami, because no matter what, I’ll always love watching him play and love watching him win.
But for him to come home and not just win a title, but win it in the way they did, is special. I love this roster from top to bottom. It was a season with a lot of ups and downs, but it ended at the highest up imaginable.
Of them all, I appreciate this one the most. By far.