By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The long and painful history of Cleveland sports is well known to all. It’s a major reason why most of the country — aside from those who truly revel in sports schadenfreude — was happy for Cleveland sports fans when LeBron James and the Cavaliers broke the 52-year drought of pro sports championships in the city.READ MORE: Aron Baynes Looking To Make NBA Comeback After Mysterious Injury Nearly Left Him Paralyzed
And on Wednesday, the day of the city of Cleveland’s grand celebration for the champs, maybe it’s not the best time to literally rain on the parade.
But Cleveland leaves us with no choice.
Since the Cavaliers won the championship, something strange has happened in Cleveland. For some reason, everyone in Cleveland thinks they won. And that includes … the Browns?
It started when the owner of the infamous jersey bearing all of the illustrious names of the Browns’ starting quarterbacks since 1999 decided that the Cavs’ championship meant it was time to retire the jersey forever.
“It’s a new day in Cleveland,” the jersey owner told ESPN. “We want to be a part of that.”
Hmm. I understand the city is experiencing an incredible level of joy … but … let me just go ahead and check the depth chart here … and … yup … yup … oh boy … that’s Robert Griffin III. I’m also looking at Josh McCown … and … Cody Kessler.
I’m not quite sure how LeBron’s triple-double in Game 7 suddenly makes that situation any more palatable, and I’m not sure how back-to-back 41-point performances in Games 5 and 6 make the quarterback jersey factually incorrect or any less relevant.
But the jersey owner’s not alone.
No, now Earnest Byner, the man who authored “The Fumble” one year after “The Drive” and is a central figure in the torment of Cleveland sports fan, is largely being let off the hook for his critical mistake in January 1988.
“The curse is broken and The Fumble is just another dog-eared page in the saga of Cleveland sports,” longtime Cleveland reporter Mary Kay Cabot wrote in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Ehh. Let’s relax with that one. Just another dog-eared page is a funny way to describe fumbling away the game-tying touchdown on the 1-yard line with one minute left in the AFC Championship Game.
Granted, Byner himself told Cabot numerous times that he’s not letting himself off the hook. Also, a man need not be condemned for eternity for a mistake he made while playing a sport. But in no way on Planet Earth do LeBron’s alley-oops somehow erase decades of pain from being a Browns fan. You’ll recall that nobody led any Bill Buckner redemption tours after the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2001. Buckner wouldn’t get his moment until the Red Sox (you know, the team for which he actually played) won it all a few years later.
(Even better than the Browns’ piggy-backing on the Cavs was this, in the Plain Dealer piece on Byner: Cabot referenced the Lake Erie Monsters’ Calder Cup championship as something that matters. Apparently, they just swept the Hershey Bears to win the minor league hockey title. The Calder Cup! The Lake Erie Monsters! That’s where we’re at, apparently.)
We’ve also got this headline from ESPN: “Cavs’ championship could be freeing for the Browns.”
That story, written by Pat McManamon, included this line: “The right coach should be able to put it together the way Ty Lue did with the Cavs, and the Browns believe they have that guy in Hue Jackson. Lue’s guidance helped; the Browns believe Jackson’s will as well.”
We’re now not only praising Ty Lue but we’re transferring his “abilities” over to Hue Jackson? All because LeBron is LeBron and Kyrie Irving hit a 3?
There’s more: “The Cavs are champions, the Indians are competing to win their division and could be headed to a playoff spot, and the Browns are building a team for the future. That is the sense of optimism that the Cavs have imbued in the city. It is especially what James has imbued. … This drought-ending title could do much for the Browns — if they let the feelings seep in.”
Hold on, I’m going to have to read that again.
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Yup. The Browns are building a team for the future. The Browns are going places if they let these feelings seep in. And it’s all thanks to LeBron.
The Browns themselves are actively leeching onto the Cavs’ success, posting this story on ClevelandBrowns.com: “Browns rookies soak up Cavs title, get firsthand experience of Cleveland fans’ passion.”
Cornerback Joe Haden wrote a story for the MMQB, in which he said: “So the Curse is dead. The Cavaliers are champs. Now we’ve got to work like LeBron and the Cavs to get ours. This is motivation for our city, and motivation for our team. I am just so ready to go win a championship right now.”
A championship! The Browns! The Cleveland Browns!
Rookie quarterback Cody Kessler is on the same page as Haden.
“It gives us momentum and it gives us ‘they did it and now it’s our turn,”’ Kessler told Cabot in a separate story relating the Cavs’ victory to the Browns. “Now it’s our turn to come back in and work as hard as they did.”
That story ended with a note that the Browns have rearranged schedules for the rookies so that they can attend the championship parade.
“When it come times for a parade of their own,” Cabot wrote, “they’ll know exactly what to do.”
These were, as a reminder, the Cleveland Browns she was talking about.
Now would be a great time to be a traveling brake pad salesman for Callahan Auto Parts, because the folks in Ohio are in desperate needs of pumping the brakes.
Say what you will about curses and droughts, but the Cavaliers have been legitimate title contenders in all seven of the seasons in which LeBron James has played since he was 21 years old back in 2005-06. The Browns? The Browns haven’t been even a fringe Super Bowl contender since Bill Belichick was roaming the sidelines with a T-shirt sleeve on his head.
It’s all great, the feelings, the excitement, the celebration. Certainly, we in Boston can relate, after witnessing the Patriots pull off the upset of the century to beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, and then seeing the Red Sox break an 86-year drought following a historic comeback against the rival Yankees, and then seeing the Celtics and Bruins win titles to boot. In that sense, there’s reason to believe that winning can be contagious … but only if the right people are in charge of the teams in their respective sports.
But … the Warriors won last year’s title, and this year, the Oakland A’s stink and the Oakland Raiders are planning a move to Las Vegas. (The San Francisco Giants did win the World Series a year prior.)
The Miami Heat won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013; the Marlins have lost 56 percent of their games since 2012, and the Dolphins are 29-35.
The Dallas Mavericks won in 2011 for the first championship in franchise history, but the Cowboys are precisely 40-40 since then.
Victories are, unequivocally, non-transferable.
And as a reminder, the Browns went 3-13 last season. Team owner Jimmy Haslam … he’s potentially not great. Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta are two smart guys, but they’ve never run a football team before. So we’ll see how that plays out. Hue Jackson has coached exactly 16 games in the NFL. Surely they all can’t be worse than their predecessors, but succeeding in the NFL is magnificently difficult. Their success is far from being a guarantee.
And really, stories that say that Robert Griffin has a chance to bring “stability” to the Browns’ quarterback position only serve to raise expectations for fans who will surely be let down.
Wednesday is a day for Cleveland, and the people of Cleveland will no doubt soak it in. But it’s a day made possible by the Cavaliers, a basketball team that will have no tangible effect on the city’s football team. The Browns — and everybody placing grand expectations on the Browns — ought to stay sober. A franchise that owns an 87-185 record in its reincarnation since 1999 is not going to be saved by a few dunks by LeBron James.MORE NEWS: VIDEO: Slushy, Frozen Waves Roll Onto Cape Cod Beach