Go Browns. Go Cleveland.
These are strange times for New England sports fans. We are coming into the divisional round of the NFL playoffs — wall-to-wall with big games — and the Patriots are not part of the action. We are in search of a team to adopt.
It’s easy for a lot of you, I know. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are with Tampa Bay, and the Buccaneers play the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome Sunday night. It’s the marquee matchup of the weekend, and lots of Patriots fans have adopted the Bucs.
I am all about Cleveland. The Browns will be playing the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday afternoon, and they need my love a lot more than Brady does.
The Browns haven’t won a championship since 1964. The city of Cleveland has won only one championship in any sport (thanks, LeBron) since 1964. The Cleveland baseball team hasn’t won a World Series since 1948 — the longest drought in the majors. The Local Nine last month decided to drop their century-old name and identity, erasing “Indians.” Back when they were still the Tribe in 2016, Cleveland took a three-games-to-one World Series lead over the Cubs, only to lose an excruciating Game 7, at home, in the rain.
Talk about being a city of losers: The last time Cleveland hosted a national political convention, the presidential nominee turned out to be Donald Trump.
I know the Bills and their fans think they are the ultimate underdogs. Like the Browns, the Bills have never won a Super Bowl and hadn’t won a playoff game in this century until last weekend. The Bills have loyal, long-suffering fans and play in a city that hope forgot. Like Cleveland.
Sorry, Buffalo. In my view, the poor people of Cleveland have endured more pain than you. Plus, your team is favored to beat the Ravens this weekend, while the Browns will be 10-point underdogs in Kansas City.
Cleveland was once one of the six largest cities in America (Wikipedia today lists it as 53rd). Cleveland teams gave us Jim Brown and Rocky Colavito. Paul Newman and Tom Hanks spent their formative years in Cleveland.
It’s where Oil Can Boyd said, “That’s what you get for building a ballpark by the ocean,” after a Sox-Tribe game was fogged out in 1986. It’s where you can still get a 16-ounce PBR without taking out a loan.
Browns fans endured Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer, Colt McCoy, Brady Quinn, and Tim Couch. They lived through 1980, when they were set to beat the Raiders at home in a playoff game when Brian Sipe was intercepted. They lost back-to-back AFC Championship games to the Broncos — once when John Elway moved Denver 98 yards in the closing seconds, and once when Earnest Byner became Cleveland’s Bill Buckner, fumbling near the goal line.
The Cavaliers were going to advance in the NBA playoffs when Jim Chones broke his foot in 1976, and again when Michael Jordan hit a shot over Craig Ehlo in 1989.
The Indians were set to win the 1997 World Series in Miami when reliever Jose Mesa blew a lead in the ninth inning of Game 7. The Tribe led Terry Francona’s Red Sox, three games to one, when things fell apart in the 2007 ALCS.
Oh, and like today’s Filene’s Basement Red Sox, the Cleveland baseball team just gave its fans the finger, trading franchise player Francisco Lindor for payroll flexibility.
Prior to last weekend, the last time the Browns won a playoff game was New Year’s Day 1995, when Bill Belichick’s Browns beat Bill Parcells’s Patriots, 20-13, in front of 77,452 in the old Mistake by the Lake. Belichick’s defense confounded young Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who completed only 21 of 50 passes and threw three interceptions. I was there. Who could ever forget New Year’s Eve in Cleveland?
Later that year, the old Browns played their final game in Cleveland, fired Belichick, then moved to Baltimore. Today’s expansion Browns were born during the 1999 NFL season and went from 2003 until 2021 without playing in the postseason. They went 0-16 in 2017, which gave them Baker Mayfield.
Last weekend, they traveled to Pittsburgh without head coach Kevin Stefanski and several starters who were left at home on the COVID-19 list. The Browns had lost 17 straight games at Heinz Field and were unable to practice much before the big game. Cleveland jumped to a 28-0 first-quarter lead, somehow turned it into a competitive game, but prevailed.
Now they are on to Patrick Mahomes and 14-2, top-seeded Kansas City.
Go Browns. Hope they make it the AFC Championship game in Buffalo, then play Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.