Different century, same story for Cleveland fans
My first vivid, can-relive-it-as-if-it-happened-yesterday sports moment is “The Fumble.” I’m sitting on the floor in my parents’ living room, surrounded by numerous family members, as the Browns are driving down the field. I can see the ball flying out of Earnest Byner’s hands, the Broncos jumping on the loose football and the dejected look on my father’s face. Breaking the deafening silence in the room was my uncle, who shockingly said in a monotone voice: “You’ve got to hold onto the football, son. You’ve got to hold onto that ball.”
Every dejected/heartbroken/suicidal Cleveland sports blogger this side of the Cuyahoga has written about the “Cleveland sports curse.” In those posts, you’ll see such lowlights as “The Drive,” “The Curse of The Rock,” the Browns moving to Baltimore and Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Those stories are so 20th century. Cleveland sports fans have had plenty of reasons to look into the sky and scream “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!?” since December 31, 1999.
The Browns are so notoriously God-awful come NFL Draft time that the team’s picks deserve its own section. Since the 2000 NFL Draft, the Browns have drafted Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, William Green (Run, William, Run!), Jeff Faine, Kellen Winslow (more on this guy later), Braylon Edwards and Brady Quinn in the first round. Not a single one remains on the Browns. Not a single guy did much of anything to remember while with the Browns.
The first and only playoff game for the Browns since returning to Cleveland. Quarterback Kelly Holcomb (who?) threw for 429 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns were up 17-7 at the half and 24-7 in the third. The Browns had a 33-21 lead with just over three minutes left. XFL superstar Tommy Maddox took the opposing offense down the field quickly for a TD. Browns WR Dennis Northcutt pulls a Braylon Edwards, dropping a first-down pass that may have ended the game during Cleveland’s next possession. You can guess the rest. Browns lose 36-33. Cleveland sobs.
Oh yeah, the Browns were playing the team’s most hated rival, the Steelers. In Pittsburgh. I still have ‘Nam-like flashbacks about this game.
Winslow was supposed to be the start of a new Browns offense after being selected in the 2004 NFL Draft. For reasons I’ll never understand, Winslow was on the field to recover an onside kick during an early season Browns-Cowboys game. What happens? Winslow breaks his leg on the play, bye-bye 2004 NFL season, hello Metal Mulisha. During the following offseason, Winslow proved that he couldn’t ride a motorcycle in a parking lot, and tore his ACL. To his credit, Winslow did have a couple of productive seasons with the Browns. He was also a cancer in the locker room and never as good as he should have been.
Possibly the most gut-wrenching three games I’ve ever watched. Up 3-1 in the series with Game 5 at home and Indians’ ace C.C. Sabathia on the hill, Tribe fans were already picking up World Series tickets and buying ALCS championship memorabilia. “Not so fast,” a vengeful God told Cleveland. The Indians dropped Game 5 7-1 at home and were then humbled 12-2 in Boston in a Game 6 massacre. The 11-2 Game 7 score doesn’t tell the story of the game. For the sake of my liver, neither will I. I can still see Joel Skinner holding Kenny Lofton up at third base during the seventh inning. Changed the entire game and ended the series. Indians would have defeated the Colorado Rockies in three to win the World Series that year.
Break up the Indians. Literally
Following the 2007 collapse, the Indians became the first (and likely only) franchise in Major League Baseball history to trade away consecutive Cy Young Award winning pitchers, C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Both were traded to the National League. Sabathia now is with the Yankees while Lee’s now in Texas. That’s OK, though. At least the Tribe got 10 cents on the dollar when the team traded all-star catcher Victor Martinez to Boston.
LeBron James gives middle finger to Cleveland
I already ranted about LeBron taking an hour out of his life in order to go on national television and bury both the city of Cleveland and the Cavs 10 miles beneath the earth. Just watch these videos of Cleveland fans burning LeBron James jerseys, and this heartbreaking slide show. You’ll get the picture.
Say what you want about the city, but Cleveland sports fans certainly deserve better. Sadly, there’s little hope on the horizon. The Cavs will need several years to recover from losing arguably the best player in basketball. The Tribe are pathetic; might make the playoffs in 2015. The Browns enter the 2010 NFL regular season with Jake Delhomme as the team’s starting quarterback.
Cleveland, city of light. City of magic.
Zac Wassink is a lifelong Cleveland sports fan who grew up less than 90 minutes from the city. Born and raised an Indians and Browns fan, his hatred for the Pittsburgh Steelers grows with every day, and a piece of him dies every time Cleveland experiences yet another heartbreaking setback.