The Day Everything Changed for Cleveland Sports Fans

Some families cheer for the same sports teams, generation after generation, simply because “Dad did.” But in Cleveland, all “Dad did” for 52 years was watch losing teams orchestrate epic failures on the biggest stages. That all changed in 2016, on Father’s Day.

As Cleveland sports fans, we felt a rush of excitement when the Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Finals. As dads, sharing the historical moment with our children on Father’s Day made the memories from that night even sweeter. As Christians, we appreciate the opportunity sports give us to bond with our kids in unique and profound ways while also recognizing the need to keep our fascination with sports in its proper place.

Each story in "Father's Day Miracle" thoughtfully and honestly explores the themes of faith, fatherhood and fandom. The result is a book that celebrates fathers while acknowledging that none are perfect; that commemorates one of the most joyous moments in Cleveland history while examining why sports matter so much to so many people; and that praises the work that God has done in our lives simply because He loves us – fully, wonderfully and unconditionally.

About the Writers

Each of the 10 writers in the book has a very different story to tell.

Dru Joyce II

Dru Joyce II

As the head boys basketball coach at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Coach Dru recently wrapped up his team's most recent season with a state championship, the fourth of his celebrated career. Coach Dru writes about his sometimes difficult relationship with his father, the challenges he encountered while coaching his sons on the basketball court, and what it was like watching his former player, LeBron James, win a championship for his hometown team.

Dave Jamerson

Dave Jamerson

A former first-round pick of the Houston Rockets and inductee into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame, Dave Jamerson writes about his journey to faith during his first season in the NBA. Now the Lead Pastor of Renovate Church in Austin, Texas, Dave says his father's encouragement at a young age helped him excel at Ohio University before ultimately realizing his NBA dream in 1990.

Steve Doerschuk

Steve Doerschuk

As a lifelong Clevelander and the Cleveland Browns writer for the Canton Repository, Steve Doerschuk is all too familiar with the painful history of the city's sports teams. Steve's "Father's Day Miracle" story reflects back on his own family's history while reliving the street party he experienced with his wife and kids the night the Cavaliers won it all.

Other writers include: Gary Porter, Jamey Codding, Ron Rodak, Kevin Hewitt, Ryan Heckert, Joe Franz and Will Van Nostran.

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Enjoy these select excerpts from "Father's Day Miracle"

Come With Me

I had a great workout for the Rockets, and I really liked them and felt comfortable there. That team, with Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Vernon Maxwell, et al, would eventually win the NBA Championship in 1994 and 1995. My life could not have been better, but still I felt something was missing.

My first season, 1990-91, went well. We made the playoffs and Don Chaney, our coach, was named Coach of the Year.

I hung out a lot that year with another rookie, David Wood. I got to spend a lot of time with him, and I noticed that there was something very different about him. I was not handling the pressures very well of being a young NBA player with money, traveling from one city to the next. A friend of mine compared what I was going through to trying to crush a Coke can. If it’s full, it’s hard to crush; if it’s empty, it’s easy.

I was empty and very crushable.

David, on the other hand, was strong and settled and content. Even joyful. I wondered what was going on with him, and eventually the conversations and dialogue started.

What I found was that he had a relationship with Jesus Christ. I did not. I was not opposed to Christianity or religion; I just had never been around it enough to know what it all meant.

Come With Me

I had a great workout for the Rockets, and I really liked them and felt comfortable there. That team, with Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Vernon Maxwell, et al, would eventually win the NBA Championship in 1994 and 1995. My life could not have been better, but still I felt something was missing.

My first season, 1990-91, went well. We made the playoffs and Don Chaney, our coach, was named Coach of the Year.

I hung out a lot that year with another rookie, David Wood. I got to spend a lot of time with him, and I noticed that there was something very different about him. I was not handling the pressures very well of being a young NBA player with money, traveling from one city to the next. A friend of mine compared what I was going through to trying to crush a Coke can. If it’s full, it’s hard to crush; if it’s empty, it’s easy.

I was empty and very crushable.

David, on the other hand, was strong and settled and content. Even joyful. I wondered what was going on with him, and eventually the conversations and dialogue started.

What I found was that he had a relationship with Jesus Christ. I did not. I was not opposed to Christianity or religion; I just had never been around it enough to know what it all meant.

Walt, Dee, a Street Party

It was a Sunday…Father’s Day.

You may remember that night very well. Do you remember that day?

Whereas the temperature for an Indians World Series watch party plunged to about 40 on Oct. 30 in Progressive Field, it was too hot for charcoal on June 19. The temperature in Cleveland approached 90 degrees.

The anticipation for the game simmered all day. Our family started it at First Christian Church, which is where I met Joe Franz, a driving force behind this book. I was one of the dads who didn’t have to be asked where I was going to spend Father’s Day. It would lead to watching the Cavs playing in Oakland for the NBA title.

I looked forward to this perhaps even more than I savored the Indians’ World Series games in the 1990s. This was true even though we would be watching the Cavs on TV, whereas I had attended all 13 of the Tribe’s World Series games, home and away. It was part of my job with the Repository. It was pinch-me-so-I-know-it’s-real work, getting paid to see the team of my youth in the World Series.

However, I have learned there is nothing like sharing a special moment with one’s family, and no part of me wished I was in Oakland by myself to see the Cavs take on Golden State for Game 7. It was all about soaking it in with my wife, Sheila, the kids, and a few thousand of our closest friends.

A Sacred Responsibility

I saw him coming.

There are just under two minutes to go in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Andre Iguodala and Steph Curry are racing down the floor on a fast break that threatens to break the 87-87 tie. J.R. Smith stands on a lonely island in front of the streaking Warriors teammates. A short pass from Iguodala to Curry followed by a quick bounce pass back to Iguodala has Smith all turned around. The bucket looks inevitable, unless you happen to notice #23 streaking in from behind the play on a mission to make history.

I saw LeBron James coming that night because I saw him make incredible plays like that chase-down block dozens of times when I coached him, my son Dru Joyce III and their teammates at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio. Sure, many of those plays over the years happened during games, but I wish I had recorded some of our practices from those early days because they could get incredibly intense.

Anyone who knows anything about LeBron James the pro shouldn’t be surprised to know that his will to win was just as strong when I coached him in high school, but my oldest son, Dru, may be the only person I know who is even more competitive than Bron. So when these two best of friends faced off in my scrimmages, it wasn’t uncommon for actual fights to break out, with each side doing everything they could to win. And more often than not, Bron would make some kind of memorable play for his team with the game on the line. A play just like “The Block” on Iguodala that helped the Cavaliers complete their improbable comeback on their way to the franchise’s first championship.

Watching Bron celebrate on the floor with his teammates that night gave me a special kind of joy, knowing how important this championship was to him, how badly he wanted to bring a title to the people in northeast Ohio. You could see the pressure being lifted as the tears streamed unapologetically down his face that night.

Why Dads Matter

Through the personal stories shared in this book, we’ve seen examples of fathers who were purposeful about building up their kids and stoking the early flames of their faith. In the process, those fathers rejected passivity and prepared their children for the trials of life that await us all. However, some of these stories also revealed the pain that far too many carry into adulthood because their dads weren’t present, weren’t engaged, weren’t providing the guidance they needed at the time they needed it most.

We believe these stories paint a beautiful and eclectic mosaic of the eternal significance of fatherhood, but sometimes numbers and analysis can illuminate even deeper truths. With an assist from the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), we have collected some sobering trends and statistics about the ways fatherlessness affects our families. Our prayer is that the stories in “Father’s Day Miracle,” combined with the research below, will remind us all that our kids need us to be the leaders in our households that God created us to be by embracing our purpose and being intentional with the fleeting time we have as parents.

All information taken from NFI’s “Father Facts 7” publication. To learn more about the National Fatherhood Initiative, visit fatherhood.org.

In America, 23.6% of children (17.4 million) lived in father-absent homes in 2014. (US Census Bureau)

In Ohio, 26.4% of homes with children under 18 are single-mother homes. In Cleveland, that number is 58.1%.

Individuals from father absent homes were found to be 279% more likely to carry guns and deal drugs than peers living with their fathers. (Crime & Delinquency)

Father absence makes underage boys more likely to drink alcohol; father absence makes girls more likely to have early intercourse. (Various Studies)

A study of 263 13- to 18-year-old adolescent women seeking psychological services found that the adolescents from father-absent homes were 3.5 times more likely to experience pregnancy than were adolescents from father-present homes. Moreover, the rate of pregnancy among adolescents from father-absent homes was 17.4% compared to a four (4) percent rate in the general adolescent population. (Journal of Urban Health)

Ninety (90) percent of resident fathers shared a meal and spoke with their children about their children’s day almost daily, 63% helped their children with homework, and 54% took their children to or from activities throughout a given week. In comparison, 31% of non-resident fathers spoke with their children about their children’s day several times a week, 16% have shared a meal with their children several times a week, 10% helped with homework, and 11% took a child to or from activities. (Pew Research Center)

19% of youth in stepfamilies and 16% with single parents were exposed to some form of maltreatment in 2013. Only 7% of those living with both biological parents were exposed. (Social Science and Medicine)

In a national survey of 1,533 American mothers aged 18 and older, ninety-three (93) percent agreed that there is a father absence crisis in the United States today, with 67% “strongly agreeing.” (NFI)

In a separate survey of 701 American fathers aged 18 and older, ninety-one (91) percent of fathers agreed there is a father-absence crisis in the country (NFI)

7 out of 10 people surveyed believe physical absence of fathers is the most significant family or social problem currently facing America. (NFI)

By age five, nearly two-fifths of children with nonresident parents had no regular contact with their fathers for the past two years. (The Future of Children)

Endorsements

What people are saying about "Father's Day Miracle"

Greg Nettle, President of Stadia; Co-Author of “Small Matters: How Churches and Parents Can Raise Up World-Changing Children”

Greg Nettle, President of Stadia; Co-Author of “Small Matters: How Churches and Parents Can Raise Up World-Changing Children”

The book had me at “Cleveland sports fans.” Any book that combines fatherhood with the love of sports will be a great read, but what sets “Father’s Day Miracle” apart is its ability to help me be a better father, to go far beyond sports to what really matters: impacting the lives of my children.

Pastor Jerry Birch, Team Chaplain, Cleveland Cavaliers

The miracle of fatherhood is the only thing that tops the “Father’s Day Miracle.” These intimate accounts of the challenges and rewards of being a father are guaranteed to stir up a fresh sense of commitment to raising spiritually and emotionally healthy children.

Pastor Jerry Birch, Team Chaplain, Cleveland Cavaliers
Ray Jeske, Host, “The Ray Jeske Show,” ESPN 990

Ray Jeske, Host, “The Ray Jeske Show,” ESPN 990

If victory has a thousand fathers, then no wonder LeBron and his Father’s Day Miracle have a million of them, literally. After reading through this series of stories, I knew I had to own this book, read this book, and share this book. Your story is also hidden within these pages. CLEVELAND, this is for you!