Shawn Rants: On Cleveland Homers


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.

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How a harsh critic of LeBron James came to terms with his possible Cleveland Cavaliers return: Bill Livingston | cleveland.com


How a harsh critic of LeBron James came to terms with his possible Cleveland Cavaliers return: Bill Livingston | cleveland.com.

 

I really appreciate the sentiment in this article.  I hold a grudge, typically indefinitely, maybe in part due to my Irish ancestry.  Either way, the possibility of pairing Kyrie with Lebron is extremely exciting.  That duo, with the young core the Cavs have built with Waiters, Thompson and Zeller, could be a legitimate power in the East.  Here’s hoping…

Why Being A Browns Fan Is So Hard


I could nail you with a ton of stats or a ton of numbers to make my case.  One playoff appearance (a loss) since 1999.  No Super Bowl appearances or championships, ever.  I could go on and on, but I won’t.  No, I want to give you some purely non-numbers related reasons why being a Browns fan is the worst spot to be in as an NFL fan.

5.  It’s tough to defend Cleveland.

Not just as a sports franchise.  The Dolphins have been similarly futile over the past decade as an NFL franchise.  Constant changes at head coach and at key positions like quarterback.  Few playoff appearances.  No championships.  But fans in cities like Miami can shake it off a lot easier.  Partly because they have had and will continue to have viable teams in other sports.  And partly because at the end of the day, if we’re honest with ourselves, their cities have a lot more to brag about.

Cleveland is cold.  It’s dark.  It’s decaying.  The economy is a mess and the city is run down, rusting and old.  And it’s cold.  So very cold.  You don’t notice the cold quite as much as those of us who have left and come home to visit.  It’s seriously one of the worst climates I’ve ever encountered.  The wind off the lake is brutal in winter, and the summers are short and unsatisfying.  But more than even the weather, Cleveland has become a city that hopes and hopes, but very rarely sees a fulfillment of that hope.  So many “heroes” come up short, turn their backs on us, and walk away to greener pastures.  They move to better teams, better money and brighter futures elsewhere.  Cleveland is the bastard child that everyone wants to see get their shot one day, but never seems to have a real shot.  And when sports fans in other sports towns have a retort to insults or smack talk, Cleveland fans are left groping at straws.  The rock hall.  The “vibe” of the city’s historic districts.  Stuff that no one else really cares about.  It’s rough.

4.  Football actually MATTERS to us.

All cards on the table.  We, Cleveland Browns fans, actually care.  We love this dreadful team with their hideous colors and non existent logo. The wins, the losses, all of it actually make a lasting impact on our moods.  We feel the wins and losses more than the players, or even the staff whose careers are measured by their performance.  At the end of the day, even if we have a pretty good idea going in that our hopes for relevance are likely to come up very short, we still hurt when they fail.  We still have the same deep-down hopes and expectations that winning franchises have, except that we literally never have them met.

Non-Browns fans, do you have any idea what that’s like?  No, no you don’t.  You can’t.  You’ve never lived your entire life (I’m 28, for the record) waiting and hoping for a winner, believing that one is coming.  You’ve never spent 28 or 56 or 72 years watching the team you love represent the city you love so pathetically.  You can’t possible grasp how awful it is, how much it sucks, and how low it can take you.  Which brings me to the next point…

3.  No one understands our struggle.

No one.  Not one single outsider can ever empathize with us how we feel about our team or their lack of competence.  They will never get it.  They will never be able to walk in our shoes, to see things through our eyes.  They might be able to look at it and say, “Man, it must suck to have THAT be your team.  I’m glad it’s not my team,” but that is a worthless sentiment, because they’ve never lived it.  They’ve never had to watch, year after year, as their beloved team is broken apart, rebuilt, hyped up, only to fail miserably, be broken apart and rebuilt again with the same result.  They can’t ever know what that feels like, or the stress it adds to game day, the draft, and the off season.  Most teams view draft day as a great time, when they get brand new talent and potential.  Browns fans always know draft day is going to be a day when we draft a Brady Quinn or a Tim Couch or a Brandon Weeden.  Not the guy we wanted, because we know that the team will blow it on a guy who was doomed from the start.  But we keep hoping, because…

2.  We are loyal to a fault.

I’ve been asked literally hundreds, if not thousands of times…  Why?  Why are you still a fan of a team that is so consistently terrible.  Why do you keep rooting for a team that, at best, will be mediocre?  The answer is as simple as it is complex. My answer, invariably, is, “I’m loyal.” When pressed for more, I usually follow up with, “They’re my hometown team. I couldn’t bring myself to cheer for anyone else.” Which is so ridiculous if you think about it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing on loyalty. Loyalty is an amazing character trait. But think about it honestly for a minute. Do you like the colors burnt orange and poop brown? Do you like them together? I certainly do not. Do you like that our team name is the an ugly color while other teams have cool pirate/animal/warrior names? I feel gypped.

I’m pretty sure the majority of Browns fans feel the same way I do. Our team name sucks, our colors suck, our jerseys suck. Our team is either losing or rebuilding. Yet, here we are, unwilling to cut them off. Unwilling to be disloyal to the team that bears the name of our city. So we suck it up, buy their ugly gear and watch them lose game after game.

Because of loyalty. No other group of people are this loyal.

1. You know, deep down, that it’s never going to get better.

Let’s be honest with one another. We all know the Browns are never going to be a dynastic type of franchise. They’ll never be what New England has been. They’ll never be a perennial contender. And the strange thing is that most of us are okay with that. I find myself wishing for 8-8 seasons. 8-8! God, how I wish we could just break even. Who thinks like that? Browns fans, that’s who. Because reality, after nearly 30 years, has finally sunken in. I still hear some people talk about the “traditions” of the Cleveland Browns. That’s idiotic. Tradition? Our tradition is futility. Our tradition is last place in our division. That’s what we’re USED to. It’s all we know.

So anyhow, I’m sure this year will be be our year…