I once read a book. It was a beautiful book, some would call it heinous. Some would call it childish, bitter. I would call it well-crafted. The author of this book has been there. He was at the 1964 NFL Championship game. He holds the ticket stub between his fingers and often lends it out to others to hold. He was there, that ticket stub serves as a reminder for those who weren’t.
Yesterday marked the 48th Anniversary of the last championship Cleveland has seen. The Browns won a remarkable game against the Baltimore Colts, 27-0. Since that point in 1964, Cleveland teams have been a disgrace to a once proud city, and once proud fans. Many, including Scott and I, believe that Cleveland has reached it’s lowest point ever.
The rant went like this:
“Watching ‘The Band That Wouldn’t Die’ to mark the 48th anniversary of Cleveland’s last title. I doubt that any living fan will see another. Two generations of loss have produced a fanbase that thinks Heckert and Jauron are savants, not utter mediocrities. Open your eyes. Think Weeden & Tristan will ever be more than ciphers, or that Kyrie isn’t already gone, or that Byron Scott gives a shit? Open your eyes. Why would Kyrie Irving, already beloved around the NBA, stay with a franchise that thinks losing will be its path to glory? He won’t. As for MLB, its economics don’t excuse the Dolans or Shapiro for their failure. ‘What If?’ What if you shoved your Thome statue up your ass? 17 unfollows so far. Good riddance. Better you should read about how Weeden & Tristan just need time to grow & CLE fans should be patient. How have ‘stability’ & ‘continuity’ worked for the Tribe? Front offices that judge & develop young talent deserve respect. These guys? Feh. I’d also like younger CLE fans to think harder about what they see, hear, & read. A rocket-armed QB is a must in the AFC North? Bullshit. The Tribe couldn’t locate cheap replacement-level talent at 1B, or RH bats, due to MLB economics? Bullshit. Nowhere else but Cleveland would fans hear a team president tell them NOT to come to the ballpark if they’re too focused on winning. Nowhere but Cleveland would towel-snappers like Chris Perez and Josh Cribbs publicly piss on the people who pay to see them play. I’ll end my 48th Anniversary party thus: The 3 Cleveland teams are an ongoing disgrace to their fans. The won-loss record speaks for itself.”
As sadistic and cynical as it sounds, Scott Raab is spot on.
Cleveland sports are at their low point. The Browns haven’t been competitive since 1999, the Cavaliers were royally screwed, and the Indians are run by a family that isn’t willing to open the checkbook. Things are bad in Cleveland right now. Where I disagree with Scott is that I believe things are turning around, and not in the short term. These changes are for the long term.
Consider this: the Browns have a rookie rusher who broke records held by Jim Brown, arguably the greatest football player ever. He broke these records while being held back by one of the dumbest coaches to roam an NFL sideline. The Cavaliers have the league’s “NEXT” player according to ESPN the Magazine, and the most recent NBA Rookie of the Year. The Indians just made their biggest free agent acquisition in team history in signing Nick Swisher.
The Browns were just sold to a man with a lot of money and a seemingly true and genuine interest in winning football games, unlike his aloof predecessor. The Cavaliers are owned by a man with as much passion as Cleveland has ever seen in terms of winning championships. The Indians have a manager who has won World Series championships, and broken curses in the process.
For once, I truly believe the pieces are in place for Cleveland sports teams to legitimately compete in the near future. The right people are leading the way.
As for Scott, his words ring true.
Kyrie, amidst the misery that is the 2012 Cleveland Cavaliers, at this point is a complete absence in his first shot at free agency. It’s almost as LeBron’s situation in Cleveland. LeBron’s departure, however, was much less justified than Kyrie’s will be. LeBron was competing for championships. Kyrie is competing with the dismal abilities of his teammates. Of course, no one expected the Cavaliers to be playoff-bound, but the atrocities exhibited on the boundless floors of the NBA this season from the Cavaliers are completely unacceptable.
The Browns are a complete an utter mess, a mess that Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner fully intend to clean up. Shurmur is a disgrace, Childress is literally useless (thanks to Shurmur), Jauron let Kirk Cousins look better than RGIII, and Josh Cribbs does nothing for the team, but continually runs his mouth as if he does. Trent Richardson, a feature back who should control the offense, is nothing but an after thought, averaging 16 carries per game. Brandon Weeden throws for a lot of yards, but continually gets his balls tipped and intercepted. Their best and most beloved player is a kicker.
The Indians have been a product of their owners, the Dolans. As transparent as Randy Lerner, the Dolan family has hid the checkbook from Chris Antonetti until they were finally threatened this offseason. While Antonetti has proved his worth as capable General Manager, the Dolans have to go if the Indians want to compete. Antonetti has, somehow, gotten a manager with a pedigree and a big time, Buckeye right fielder. If it were up to the Dolans, the Indians would change their name to the Cleveland Mediocrity.
As frustrating as it is, it’s all true. The Cleveland sports situation was unbelievably, as bad as it has been in the past, at it’s lowest point. Unfortunately, it takes a rant like Scott Raab’s to make people notice. I’ve been saying this for a while, that it has recently been the worst it’s ever been, but I haven’t the following to gain traction. Scott Raab does, and he’s exactly right.
Fortunately for you, the reader, I am more hopeful and optimistic than Mr. Raab. The night is the darkest before the sun comes up. You can see the outer linings of the sun beginning to rise up over the Cleveland horizon. Things are horrible right now. Every team sucks, and no one is close to competing. The media is fluffy, protecting the players and coaches rather than looking at their production, and the fans are more ornery than ever. The pieces are in place, however. The faces of the future of Cleveland are set. Trent Richardson, Kyrie Irving, Nick Swisher. Jimmy Haslam, Dan Gilbert, Terry Francona. These are going to be the guys leading Cleveland back into business. Mediocrity is no longer acceptable.
Growing pains will happen. It sucks to watch, it sucks to feel, it sucks to listen to. That’s what’s happening with the Cavs, and eventually it will happen with the Browns, and maybe even the Tribe.
Scott says repeatedly, open your eyes. Clearly the context in which he used it referred to the haze of mediocrity that Cleveland fans are engulfed in. I’m going to say it in a different way.
Open your eyes Cleveland, the storm is clearing up. It’s still raining, but the winds have stopped and we can see the clear skies ahead. Sure it may take a while to get there, but we have strong ships leading us towards promising land. We will get there. While more patience is not an option, we can’t dwell on the negative. The negativity is simply making everything worse. We have to have optimism. Not a blind optimism, as we have been accustomed to, but a warranted optimism that comes along with having good owners and good coaches. While we’re not fully there on that front, with Black Monday approaching, we will certainly be closer than we’ve been in a while.
I fully expect that next season will be a much better one on the banks of Lake Erie. No, the playoffs may not be on the slate for any of the 2013 teams, but an improvement will certainly be made. The Browns will have a capable head coach, the Cavs will have another lottery pick, the Indians Front Office will be holding the Dolans hostage, demanding more cash. Things will be looking up for Cleveland, and as the dark hole that was Cleveland’s sports picture was certainly real, the bright sky will be certainly evident.
Scott Raab made a lot of Cleveland sports fans angry with his rant. His bitterness may have “hurt” many Brownies, Wahoos, and Cavs alike. But he spoke the truth, as tough as it may have been to hear. Don’t be hurt by his words. Instead imagine “next year” on both of its levels. Cleveland will no longer be the butt of the jokes, the laughing stock of the leagues, the doormats of the divisions. Finally, Cleveland is going to be where it deserves, right on top of the sporting world.
Follow Scott Raab on Twitter @ScottRaab64
Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove