I’m going to risk angering some of my fellow Cleveland sports fans for the sake of being honest. You may not like what I have to say, but I think you’re probably going to have to admit that I’m right. Besides, as fans of the most Championship deprived sports city in America, you need to hear what I’m going to say.
First, let’s get it all out on the table. The Cavaliers are an objectively awful basketball team since you-know-who left town. They are consistently one of the worst teams in the NBA, even with Kyrie that hasn’t changed much. Kyrie has made them watchable, not really competetive. The Browns are as irrelevant a sports franchise as has ever existed. No Super Bowls, one playoff appearance since 1999. They are awful, they have never been considered a viable franchise by anyone outside of Cleveland (I’m considering the Super Bowl era as the cut off for what matters in NFL football), and all signs point toward that remaining a fact. The Indians have come the closest to being a real competitor, but they haven’t had that feel since the mid to late 90’s, very early 2000’s. Its been a decade since they were the perennial playoff/world series threat.
I decided to spell out to you the overarching failure of Cleveland sports so that I could bring you around to my overall point. We make more excuses, we ignore more hard facts than any other fan base in professional sports history. Cleveland fans are the most willfully blind when it comes to seeing just how awful our teams are, and the most complacent when it comes to holding them accountable. Ask yourself, what happens when they have a bad season (or week even) in New York, or Boston, or Los Angelos? The teams there get ripped apart by the media and fans, put under intense pressure to get it together, and long term they lose out on millions in revenue. Not in Cleveland. Even though the teams suck, the media in Cleveland are probably the largest collection of homers in any sports market. Grossi, Cabot, etc. They never question the team, never dig into the coaches or players based on their inferior performances. They always keep a positive spin on the disaster that our beloved Browns, Cavs and Indians are year after year. And so, the fans start to buy in to this crap that there might be hope, we might be better next year. We won’t, so long as there zero accountability in the press.
I’m not just going to rip the media however, because the fans are just a reflection of the homerific Cleveland sports media. How many of you are Brandon Weeden supporters? Hands up, homers. Take a listen or read from any of the reputable national sources about Weeden. What did you find out? Oh, no one outside of Cleveland thinks this kid has a chance at being a high level NFL starter? Most have already labeled his selection in the first round as another Browns draft day debacle. Its not a coincedence, and its not a conspiracy. Its not that the national media “doesn’t get Cleveland” or “don’t know our guys”. That’s bullcrap. They know our teams better than 99% of fans and Cleveland media do. There’s a reason everyone outside of Cleveland knew Lebron was leaving 9 months before Cleveland seemed to, there’s a reason no one else was going to touch Weeden in the first 4 rounds (at least), and there’s a reason why no one is picking the Browns to go 8-8 next season. Its because they can be objective, something the great Dawg Pound seems to find impossible.
So, to hopefully help us all with bringing accountability to our favorite sports franchises, try this exercise with me. Take away the names, take away the Cleveland affiliations. Let’s say I tell you I want to use one of our first round draft picks on a 27 year old Quarterback. He has a cannon arm, but poor mobility and below average accuracy. Most analysts have him going in the 3rd to 4th round. What do you say? If you said do it, you don’t know football, or you couldn’t stop trying to defend Weeden. Because the facts, when you strip away all the things that cloud your judgment with emotion, speak for themselves. And that, fellow Cleveland sports fans, is my point. First, we’ve got to gain some objectivity. If guys suck, its okay to say so. It doesn’t make you disloyal. Second, its okay to put pressure on the team, both in public forums and via the almighty dollar (team merchandise, ticket sales, television viewership, etc). It doesn’t make you a bad fan to blast the team on the radio, or on facebook/twitter. And it doesn’t make you a bad fan to not buy a jersey of a guy who will undoubtedly not play for us in a year or two, or to not go to or watch unwatchably bad performances. In fact, not keeping the team accountable kind of makes you a bad fan.
Moral of this rant, don’t be a homer.