I’m a few years away from celebrating a half century here on God’s green Earth. All of them have been in Cleveland, Ohio. Yep, born and raised. Proud to be from here. So were Bob Hope, Drew Carey and Michael Stanley. I’ve got a great job and a great family. We’ve got one of the best orchestras in the world playing at Severance Hall. Concerts on the lawn at Blossom in the Summer are tradition. We get all four seasons here, even though the old joke is we only get Winter and construction season.
We also have teams from each of the big three sports leagues that play in town. I’ve been a die hard sports fan since as long as I can remember. And I have never, EVER missed a Browns game, in person or on TV, since 1980 during the Kardiac Kids era. I was a season ticket holder with the Browns and the Indians. I made it to my share of Cavs games, even though that is the worst sports bargain when it comes to tickets of the three major sports.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Browns were on a list of eight teams that had never been to a SuperBowl. That included cities like New Orleans, Seattle, Phoenix (Arizona), and Carolina. That list is now down to four. As I sit here writing this during Super Bowl XLVIII week (seriously, when are we gonna dump the Roman numerals?) I get to look forward to a game featuring Seattle versus Denver. Yes, Seattle gets their second trip since 2006. And Denver – oh, we know them all too well – goes again after five trips dating back to the classic Kosar/Elway games in the late 80s that always had us on the losing side at game’s end.
In Cleveland, our games are known around the world by names like The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot. Heck, we even had The Decision. And that wasn’t even a game! We’ve got our own names for Jose Mesa, but I like to keep things clean on the blog.
The fans are beyond frustrated. Will we ever get a chance to have our proverbial day in the sun? You would figure that the Law of Averages would have given us a ticker tape parade in one of those sports by now, wouldn’t you? I mean New Orleans got theirs. Detroit’s had basketball and baseball titles. Green Bay got one another one a few year’s ago. Even Cincinnati has some World Series titles thanks to the Reds. What have we done to deserve this? Who did we tick off? What do we have to do to make it right? Do we have to trade for Rocky Colavito again?
For years, a popular topic on sports radio shows that could guarantee callers on a slow day was “which team is closest to winning a championship?”. The sad thing nowadays is that the answer to the question is typically “whichever team is the least dysfunctional”. And that’s hard to figure out anymore.
Let’s start with the Indians. I think most rational fans would acknowledge that the Front Office is a pretty good group that just has not been given the tools they need to put a consistent winner on the field. The Dolans seem content to make their profit, not let spending exceed revenue and then deny it to the media. Sure, sure, Forbes is wrong about the Indians profitability but right about every other sports team out there. OK, whatever. The end result is that the Indians “dumpster dive” to field a roster. That means they sign washed-up journeymen, guys coming off an injury or some really young guys “with a high ceiling” that they can get cheap. If I had a dollar for every time I heard the term “high ceiling”, I might be in position to retire early by now. All of this translates to having a team payroll less than what the Yankees pay just one of their top players. Even a skipper like 2013 AL Manager of the Year Terry Francona can only do so much with that. Don’t expect the Indians to contend for a World Series title any time soon, let alone an AL Central crown.
Hey, the Cuyahoga River hasn’t burned in decades now!
Moving on to the Cavs, just ask yourself what the team has done to acquire talent and build a winner. No, you don’t get to count the two gift #1 overall picks in 2003 (Lebron) and 2011 (Kyrie) that ANY sports fan could have picked. GM Danny Ferry was unable to put any talent next to Lebron in seven years. And current GM Chris Grant is destined to be the next former GM following the horrific decision to select Anthony Bennett #1 overall in 2013. No, not the singer. I’m talking about the guy that finally scored in double digits for the first time last night.
Head Coach Mike Brown will likely own the distinction of being the head coach that couldn’t win with Lebron, Kobe or Kyrie. Yikes. Don’t put that on your LinkedIn profile. This franchise needs to be blown up. Time to start over with a new GM, a new head coach and new players. There’s NO ONE that I wouldn’t have on the trading block. And that includes Kyrie Irving. Look at our record since he’s been here. It might make you sick.
Last, but not least, the Browns. How could it go so wrong so quickly for a new owner that had everyone in town excited? We’ll remember Tax Day 2013 as the day everything changed. That’s when the FBI raided the corporate offices of Pilot Flying J in Knoxville, Tennessee. That’s the company that he owns that made him enough money to buy an NFL team. There’s a good chance he will get serious jail time with the news yesterday of three more of his top execs agreeing to plead guilty. We’re about to find out what details they have on their boss.
But it doesn’t start and end with Haslam. No, Team President Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi round out this triumvirate that was referred to as the Three Stooges in a press conference to announce the firing of their head coach only eleven months after they hired him. National media call the situation here “toxic” (hey, the Cuyahoga River hasn’t burned in decades now!) and prominent head coaching candidates ran away from the job opening as quickly as they could. So they settled on something like their eighth choice, a defensive guy that coached for a year in Buffalo, and a few before that in New York and Baltimore. His previous head coaching experience? Oh, that was those tough six years in High School. I kid you not. So the answer to the up-and-coming, offensive oriented, proven winner that the Browns set out to find was a defensive coach that hasn’t been a head coach in college or the NFL.
The man I am referring to is Mike Pettine. Right now he is busy bringing as many of his coaching friends from Buffalo onto his staff here. Maybe some old high school buddies, too. Nothing would shock me at this point. Who knows how his career here will turn out. Maybe he’s the guy that will lead us to a SuperBowl. But based on the sad history of sports franchises in the last 50 years here, I’m not bettin’ on Pettine. Or the other two teams either.
But I can’t wait another fifty years.