Thursday, July 08, 2010

God Hates Sports in Cleveland

What's funny is that I had no intention on doing an entire post on the sports misery that is Cleveland, Ohio, a town I've never been to, nor really paid much mind to.  But as I watched The LeBron Circus begin on ESPN, a network I both love for its sports and columnists and loathe for its shameless self-promotion and "look at me!" spirit, I started looking online for Cleveland info... and wow, it sucks to be a Browns, Indians and, after tonight, a Cavs fan.

Sitting here watching "The Decision", a special on ESPN about where LeBron James is going to play next year.  Part of me is thinking "holy crap, are you serious? an entire show about him deciding where to get overpaid a ridiculous amount of money?" and part of me is thinking "holy crap, are you serious?  an entire show about him deciding where to get overpaid a ridiculous amount of money?"

Quickly, LeBron is one of two best players in the NBA (the other being Kobe).  He's been the face of Cleveland sports for 7 years, a town that hasn't won any sort of sports championship since the 60s, a town that has been so beaten down time after time in one scenario after the other.

Look no further than this clip:

When your town's sports failures have their own nicknames, nay, a list of nicknames, its bad news. 

First, the Cleveland Cavaliers...
"The Shot" -- In May 1989, fifth game of the opening round of the NBA playoffs, Michael Jordan pumps a long basket over the Cavalier's Craig Ehlo.  The shot goes in, the buzzer sounds, the Cavs go home, and thus a "Clutch" legend is born.

"The Sweep" -- The 2007 NBA Finals featured Cleveland in the finals for the first time in their history, and LeBron James first championship appearance.  And they got slaughtered by the Spurs 4-0.

"The Choke" -- The 2009 NBA Playoffs.  The Cavs won 66 games, and were upended in the Eastern Conference Finals by my Orlando Magic, 4 games to 2.  The Cavs were a far superior team, but didn't have the team chemistry the Magic had, and it showed when they got beat down.

"The Forfeit" -- The 2010 NBA Playoffs, second round, the 61-game winning Cavs went up against the Celtics, a team that essentially backed their way into the postseason, then proceeded to beat the Cavs 4-2.  Game Six of the series was LeBron's "mailing it in" game, and to me, kinda told the world that he had no intentions of coming back to Cleveland.  He was indifferent, he wasn't that good in the game, and it proved that if LeBron doesn't have a good game, the Cavs suffer... meaning, the Cavs didn't surround Bron with good role players.  And this is another reason LeBron left, because you one guy cannot win a title.  (This has also been called "The LeBromination", though I think I like "The Forfeit" better just for the sheer "We gave up, we don't give a rip about our fans or winning jack" that it presents)

Then, the Cleveland Browns...
"Red Right 88" -- More obscure than many, the Browns trailed the Radiers by 2 in the 1981 AFC Playoffs, but were driving and were setting up for a game winning field goal.  The play was called "red right 88", meaning the quarterback was told to throw the ball away if he saw anything less than "wide open".   QB Brian Sipe forced a pass to Ozzie Newsome, but was intercepted by the Raiders, who went on to beat San Diego in the AFC Championship, and then the Eagles in Super Bowl XV.

"The Drive" -- I loved this one.  In the 1987 AFC Championship, my beloved Broncos, led by John Elway, drove 98 yards to score and tie the game 20-20.  Denver won in overtime by a field goal. 

"The Fumble" -- I loved this one too.  In the 1988 AFC Championship, my beloved Broncos couldn't stop the Cleveland Browns, and the Browns Earnest Byner seemed on his way to a touchdown to tie the game, when he was stripped of the ball by the Broncos Jeremiah Castille at the 3 yard line.  Broncos recovered, gave up an intentional safety, then went on to win 38-33.  Two years in a row, the Browns were smacked down minutes away from the Super Bowl.  Its worthy of note that the Elway led Broncos got drubbed in both Super Bowls, first to the NYGiants then to the Redskins.

The Broncos wouldn't win a Super Bowl until they took two in a row in 1997 (defeating the Packers) and 1998 (defeating the Falcons).  The Browns have never been, and haven't won a football related championship since 1964, when the Browns won the AFL Title.

"The Move" -- Perhaps the biggest knife in the heart of Browns fans.  In 1995, team owner Art Modell up and moved the team to Baltimore, itself a city in which their beloved team was snatched away because of a greedy owner (when the Colts moved to Indy in 1983).   Cleveland was awarded an NFL franchise in 1999, and since then, has had two winning seasons and one playoff appearance.. 

And finally, the Cleveland Indians...
"The Catch" -- Oh, the misery of the city dates way back.  The Indians last won a World Series in 1948, so in 1954, "The Catch" wasn't percieved as a beginning to disappointment.  Game 1 of the 54 Series, the NY Giants and Indians were tied 2-2 in the eighth.  The Indians Vic Wertz hits a monster shot to the wall, but with Willie Mays quite simply being Willie Mays, he ran the ball down, made an on-the-run over the shoulder catch, then fired the ball back to the infield to get another guy out.  The Giants won the game, and swept the Series.

"1995" -- The Indians by all accounts were favored to defeat the Atlanta Braves, who were in the Series for the third time in five years.  The World Series was cancelled the year before due to the strike, so this Fall Classic was huge for baseball, for the Braves and especially for the Indians, who made their first Series in 41 years.  It was a hard fought series, as five of the six games were one run contests, and Game 6, when the Braves clinched the championship, was a 1-0 combined one-hitter.

"The Single" -- Once again the Indians, in the World Series for the 2nd time in 3 seasons, were favored, this time over the fairly new franchise Florida Marlins.  Favored or not, they went to a Game 7, when in the 11th inning, Edgar Renteria hit a single off of Indians closer Jose Mesa.  The single skipped off of the glove of Charlie Nagy, up the middle and allowed the Marlins to score--and win the series.

"The Collapse" -- That's just a brutal nickname to begin with.  And its worse when you realize that in the 2007 American League Championship, the Indians were up 3 games to 1 over the Red Sox, when they were outscored 30-5 over the last three games.  The Red Sox went on to win the 2007 World Series. 

Even in the movie "Major League", when the Indians make the post season by beating Clu Hayward and the hated Yankees, we find out in "Major League 2" that the Indians didn't make the series.  They can't even win in fiction.

And tonight, Cleveland basketball prepares to die.  Its over.  LeBron James has announced he is joining DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat, putting together a "Big Three" that will be considered an utter failure if they don't win 60+ games and a championship.  This year.  Not next year, not in two years, but starting in October. 

And if they don't win, the legacy of LeBron James will be questioned, and though no one can question how good he is, people will question his team player abilities.  He's past the point when Michael Jordan won his first title, and the same for Kobe, and with 7 to 8 quality seasons left, barring injury, matching MJ's 6 titles, or even Kobe's 5, is almost unthinkable.  Shaq's or Tim Duncan's 4 titles might be a stretch, depending on how the Wade/Bosh/James trifecta perform together. 

To sum up LeBron, and the ridiculousness it is to put on a American Idol type show for him to simply say "Miami", I turn to one of my favorite authors and columnists, The Sports Guy... he writes:

I can't wait to watch for the same reasons I couldn't turn away from O.J.'s Bronco chase or the Artest melee: it's Car Wreck Television. If LeBron picks anyone other than the Cavaliers, it will be the cruelest television moment since David Chase ended "The Sopranos" by making everyone think they lost power. Cleveland fans will never forgive LeBron, nor should they. He knows better than anyone what kind of sports anguish they have suffered over the years. Losing LeBron on a contrived one-hour show would be worse than Byner's fumble, Jose Mesa, the Game 5 meltdown against Boston, The Drive, The Shot and everything else. At least those stomach-punch moments weren't preordained, unless you believe God hates Cleveland (entirely possible, by the way, just ask d$ on one of my favorite sites, "Clouds in My Coffee"... okay, I added everything beyond "by the way"). This stomach-punch moment? Calculated. By a local kid they loved, defended and revered.

It would be unforgivable. Repeat: unforgivable. I don't have a dog in this race -- as a Celtics fan, I wanted to see him go anywhere but Chicago -- but LeBron doing this show after what happened in the 2010 playoffs actually turned me against him. No small feat. I was one of his biggest defenders. Not anymore.

I mean … what the hell kind of sporting event is this? It's like college signing day crossed with JFK's assassination. LeBron's team wanted to keep people talking and promote his website, and really, that's what happened. The man nearly exploded Twitter and melted ESPN. He transcended free agency, the World Cup, everything. He will draw a massive television audience tonight; he's the only professional athlete who could have pulled that off.

What a week for LeBron's brand. I just hope he remembers to wipe the blood off the knife after he pulls it from Cleveland's back.  (From "Countdown to the LeBronocalypse")

As it stands, the Indians are 33-52 at the All Star Break, and 14 games from Central Division leader Detroit.  The Browns had a decent draft, but are coming off a season in which they were dark horses to win the division, ending up with 5 wins total. We've already discussed the Cavaliers.  I'm sure its a nice town and all, and I'm guessing that Philly fans have their own list of curses, but at least they have the Phillies. 

Info courtesy of Wikipedia and an awesome, yet mildly depressing site called "God Hates Cleveland Sports"


  1. I was glad to see this post, only because I didn't watch the show (couldn't, but wouldn't if I were able to). I think this whole King James thing is ridiculous, but as you said, he's got an uphill fight to get anywhere close to MJ. I heard that all proceeds from the commercials run during the show went to charity, which was the only thing that made me feel remotely better about the show on ESPN. Guess we'll see what the season brings.
    BTW, loved the clip from God Hates Cleveland Sports, but it is sad for them.
    I've been to Cleveland, though not for a sporting event. :)

  2. Meant to include this earlier, but since you didn't mention the letter from the Cavs owner and his font choice, I thought I would.

  3. Ok, last one (hopefully). This from CNET's Technically Incorrect was one of my fave.


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