Whoa. Did Cleveland just host the sixth-largest sports celebration in recorded history?
It sure did, according to a Wikipedia list of “largest peaceful gatherings” in the world.
Not good enough? You say you want to be No. 1 in the world?
OK: The 1 million people who filled the streets Wednesday to cheer the 2016 NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers is the largest crowd to ever unite behind a basketball team.
The online encyclopedia is written collaboratively by the volunteers who use it so there is always room for error. (Indeed, as of Thursday, the volunteers had yet to revise Cleveland’s crowd number down from the hyperbolic 1.3 million estimate being tossed about earlier in the day.)
Still, the list — specifically for single-day, single-location events — seems pretty inclusive. There are recorded crowd estimates for religious pilgrimages, papal visits, royal coronations, presidential inaugurations, funerals, anti-war demonstrations and music festivals on almost every continent.
The sports event ranking highest on the list happened Oct. 30, 2004, when an estimated 3 million people attended a parade in Boston to celebrate the Red Sox’s World Series victory. As with Cleveland, the excessive joy can be linked to the end of a drought: It had been 86 years since the Red Sox had won the championship, ending the infamous Curse of the Bambino.
In Cleveland’s case, the NBA title — brought home by the team led by Akronite LeBron James — is the first national championship in 52 years for a city that has repeatedly watched its Cavs, Browns and Indians fall short.
Next in the sports category are three parades with an estimated 2 million people in attendance: 2013 in Chicago for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks; 1974 in Philadelphia for the Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers; and 2010 in Madrid, Spain, after the national football team won the FIFA World Cup.
In 2005, about 1.75 million people attended a parade in Chicago for the 2005 World Series champ White Sox.
So that puts Cleveland at No. 6. While the region’s party was still underway, some Wikipedia volunteer added it to the list.
There are no other sports gatherings noted. The list requires participation of at least 1 million.
And if you’ll settle for No. 2, there’s another way of looking at Northeast Ohio’s historic turnout. Consider the U.S. Census “metropolitan statistical area” population of Cleveland (2,077,240) compared to Boston (4,732,161), Philadelphia (5,772,947), Chicago (9,554,598) and the official “Madrid Metropolitan Area” population (6,321,398.)
Boston is still tops in terms of attendance per capita, with its Red Sox crowd equal to almost two-thirds of the region’s population.
But Cleveland would easily be next, with a crowd equal to 48 percent of its population. The other celebrations fall below the 35 percent mark.
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.