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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cleveland, Ohio: Professional Sports' Ground Zero?

The Drive.  The Fumble. Game Seven of the 1997 World Series. The Decision.  And, now, The Streak.

When it comes to professional sports, no city in America may be more cursed than Cleveland, Ohio.  The last time this city laid claim to a national championship in any sport, be it football, basketball, or baseball, was in 1964, when Jim Brown helped lead the Browns to their last NFL Championship.  To my knowledge, no other major city in America has had a drought that long.  Even cities such as Minneapolis-St. Paul has celebrated a Twins World Series in the last 30 years, their last being in 1991.  To many outsiders Cleveland is looked upon as the laughing stock of all pro sports, where many professional athletes past their prime go to ride off into the provebial sunset. If Cleveland sports were to resemble a person, it might be Rodney Dangerfield. Yet, all joking aside, is Cleveland the 'Ground Zero' of professional sports?  Has it hit rock bottom?  Will the city ever boast another champion?

The issue of whether Cleveland is the punchline of all pro sports cities is nothing new.  In fact, as each year passes, the debate of which pro sports city is most downtrodden usually begins and ends with the 'Mistake by the Lake.'  Yet recent struggles by the Browns, Cavs, and Indians have not helped Cleveland's cause. I can't imagine what it must be like to be a sports fan and live in that city.  Being a Browns fan, I have taken my share of verbal taunts from other fans, but when people try to shove my nose in the fact that Cleveland is such a lost cause I simply shrug my shoulders.  After all, I am from Columbus, and, while the Blue Jackets haven't been on a roll lately, this town is more known for Ohio State football anyway.  I can't imagine what must be going through the heads of fans who shelled out for Cavs season tickets and are currently witnessing the biggest one season letdown in all of professional sports.

That the Browns(or Clowns, as they have been referred to), Cavs, and Indians are all losing is not the issue, however.  Whether any of the three franchises can rise above their current misfortunes to bring home a professional championship is.  The Indians seem to be in a perpetual rebuild mode, where they trade away every good player they have for a minor league prospect once the veteran has reached a particular salary threshold.  Soon not only will the Tribe be the youngest team in Major League Baseball, it will also be the only franchise where every player on the roster has to show proof he is of legal age to work the in the U.S.

The Browns continue to look for a return to their glory days, all the while looking more like the inept expansion franchise the NFL granted Cleveland over 10 years ago.  The Browns have brought in front office names such as Carmen Policy, Dwight Clark, Phil Savage, yet the results have been modest at best: only two seasons above .500 and one playoff berth(a wild card loss).  Owner Randy Lerner hopes his most recent front office hire,  Mike Holmgren, will bring some of the magic he had in Green Bay and Seattle with him.   Fans just hope the Browns can make it back to the playoffs sometime in the next decade.

Then there are the Cleveland Cavaliers, the NBA's newest punching bag.  The Cavs thought they had a championship locked up on that fateful day in 2003 when they drafted a kid out of Akron named Lebron James.  Almost eight years, the Cavs, now minus Lebron, are the worst team(26 straight losses ties the Tampa Bay Bucs for longest losing streak in professional sports) in the league and have nary a championship to show for it.  Even the Los Angeles Clippers couldn't have had worse luck.  A few will say the Cavs' new savior will come along in OSU freshman sensation Jared Sullinger.  Yet it has been pointed out that Sullinger is not as dynamic a playmaker as Lebron, and he has already made it public he plans to stay in school for his sophomore year.  In any event, it will no doubt take a lot of work for the Cavs to go from what appears to be a 10-12 win season back to 50+ wins(if possible at all).

So, is Cleveland the laughing stock of pro sports?  Of course they are, and I say this knowing full well that should the NFL have a season in 2011 I will be back on the edge of my seat rooting for the Browns.  Yet you cannot deny the facts, and the fact is almost 50 years with no championships is a really long time.  The US  has been through nine presidents and three wars during that timeframe.  That is more than 11/2 times my age.  And you could probably see Cavs games for a dollar...wait, you can see Cavs games for a dollar now, too.  Seriously.  Need I say more?

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