My roommate and I, both females in our mid twenties have been dubbed Cleveland Cavaliers “superfans” by many of our friends especially this past season. It was no surprise to anyone that we flew to Orlando on a whim to watch the Cavs vs the Magic in game 6 this past Saturday. We went into it expecting being greatly outnumbered by many intense fans, but we had no idea what was in store for us.
Before arriving at Amway Arena (we got there about 45 minutes before game time) we decided in the taxi that we would take the “high road” approach toward the fans. Obviously, in any sporting event, especially the playoffs, you’d expect the hometown fans to be intense; we figured it’d be safest for the two of us to just take the comments in strides, wish the opposing fans good luck, and refrain from making any cocky or rude remarks in return.
We hadn’t even been there 30 seconds, and a group of men started yelling in our faces and booing us as we walked towards the Magic Fanfest area. At this point, we thought it was funny.. and just wished them good luck. A little further my roommate and I were greeted with a group of young men who attempted to spit on us, tear up the posters I was holding and eventually grabbed my jersey and was pulling on it. I had to actually yell at them to “quit touching me”. Again I repeat, we were just WALKING outside, not saying a word.
As we finally get shuffled into the arena before the game like a herd of cattle, the woman taking tickets decides to scold my roommate because her ticket is folded saying “I don’t have time for this… do you see how many people are waiting in this line”. We didn’t realize this would be foreshadowing for how we would be treated by ALL workers inside the arena. We decide to get beer before we make it back to our seats, and instead of being asked what we wanted the people behind the counter laugh at us, and say they can’t serve us. After about 3 minutes (this isn’t exaggeration) of laughing at us, they finally ask what we want… we say “Miller Lite”… they then make fun of us saying “of course you want Miller Lite, you’re from Ohio”. Great service so far, right?
Finally we make it to our seats, and proudly raise the posters we made during the pre game warm ups. An elderly woman (I’d say she’s about 80 years old) who is sitting 6 rows behind me starts screaming at me and telling me to sit down because she can’t see. There is absolutely NO WAY possible I was obstructing her view. But being the polite person I am, I just sat down, no need to draw any more attention to us. So the game starts and my roommate and I are the types of fans to cheer…a lot. Every time we said anything, every man or woman in the vicinity of us stared or yelled directly at us. One guy who had been giving us a really hard time actually ID d us saying “if you’re actually from Cleveland I will respect you”. We literally had to take our ID’s out for some guy from Orlando just to be left alone for 10 minutes. Again I repeat we did and said NOTHING negative, at this point we knew better!
We decided to chance running to the bathroom, which ended up being not as bad as expected, and upon our return someone in the rows behind us spilled their entire drink under our feet. We had asked someone in the arena to help us mop it up, but of course nothing happened. The mess was only cleaned once a Magic fan so politely asked for me. (Another example of fantastic service at the Amway Arena). As the second half went underway, my roommate and I did what we have done all season, remained positive even when we could see the game slipping through our fingers. Anytime anyone would even score a basket we cheered as normal and the fans continually screamed in our faces. As the game neared about the 2:30 mark and shouts of “MVP” for Dwight Howard were being chanted, one of the classiest fans in the stands decided to take his keys and shake them 2 inches from our faces. This being the only time I actually broke down and said anything screaming to the guy to leave me alone. The only reason he left us alone eventually is because an older gentlemen (fellow Magic fan) said we didn’t do anything to him, and asked to leave us alone.
As we hit the 1 minute mark my roommate and I decided to sneak out of the arena and try and figure out how we were ever going to find our cab driver. On our way out fans were booing and yelling at us, meanwhile all we did was wish them good luck in the finals. (at this point I’m choking back tears of frustration with the fans and disappointment in my team.. we couldn’t get out of there fast enough!) We rush to the Marriott nearby thinking we could find our cab driver there; unfortunately he said he couldn’t get us for another 35 minutes. At this point, I am actually questioning our safety and concerned about where we can hang out for 35 minutes. As we say something to the girls working the desk at the Marriott they tell us, “why don’t you just take off your jerseys”. Well excuse me, but I thought I had the right to like my own team without being completely harassed. So at this point, like lost puppies we walk the sidewalks trying to figure out where to find our driver, can’t find him so we wait in a corridor of the entrance of the hotel. We aren’t speaking or even looking at anyone else, meanwhile the absolute hatred kept coming our way. Finally our driver is on the way, and at some point walking in the sidewalks the security and police directing traffic ended up even laughing at us and making rude remarks. Pretty incredible.
Our cab driver finally comes to save us (I now refer to him as my savior) and decides that we need to stop at a gas station to get beer so we can go to our hotel and drink (since obviously we can’t be in public). At the 7/11 we were at the woman behind the counter starts screaming at us across the room “you catch that game? SUPERMAN! You see that mvp SUPERMAN blahblah blah”screaming at us while we are trying to pay for the things we were purchasing. Again we just responded with yep, good luck in the finals. All we were doing was buying a 12 pack of beer, and we couldn’t even skate by that without being harassed.
I am sure there are more accounts of complete harassment and inhumane treatment we received that I’m not even mentioning in this statement. After reflecting on all of it, I can say I have personally never been treated more poorly just for wearing a jersey. I have been to countless Browns games where fans for both teams completely taunt eachother, but for fans who aren’t saying or doing anything negative to be treated so poorly that they are actually scared is absolutely absurd. After my two days in Orlando it is safe to say that I will NEVER cheer on a team that houses such poor sports and horrible fans. I usually would cheer on our conference, last year I even mustered up the strength to cheer on the Celtics as they advanced to the finals. You can be certain that’s not the case this year.
The only bonus in all of it was meeting Daniel Gibson in the airport on our flight back to Cleveland. In talking to him, he genuinely apologized for the team’s loss, appreciated that we came all the way to cheer them on, as well as apologized for the horrible treatment we received from Orlando’s fans. I can only hope that I never see the day Cleveland fans treat any opposing team the way we were treated in Orlando.