Following the Cleveland Browns embarrassing blowout loss in their season opener, I planned on writing about this topic. Then, with Cavaliers play-by-play man Fred McLeod’s unexpected passing, I shifted my thoughts to a post remembering Fred. With Will Gibson’s absolutely tremendous, must-read post remembering McLeod and the man and announcer that he was, there was nothing else I really have to say. If you haven’t yet read Will’s outstanding article, it would be wise to do so. May you rest in peace, Fred McLeod.
I’m a sports fanatic. Ask my family, friends, or anyone else who knows me and they will say that I not only might be too into sports (if that’s even possible?), but the knowledge I have and things I remember about sports — Cleveland and Ohio State sports in particular — is incredible. Some of the things I know and remember are so dumb, yet here I am. I’m not here to just say that I know a bunch about sports, but my love for sports is insurmountable. If I could, I would watch something sports-related every minute I could. On College Football Saturdays and NFL Sundays, you can find me sitting on a couch, parked in front of my TV, and watching football throughout all hours of the day. While I obviously have a life outside of the games themselves, it has always been something that I will love.
Growing up a Cleveland sports fan, rooting for a consistent winner has been tough to find. I was born in 1991, so I, unfortunately, don’t remember much of the Indians’ success during the ’90s. While the Indians have had plenty of success over the years, they’ve never been able to win when it matters most and bring home a World Series trophy. Prior to this glimmer of new hope that the new-look Browns have given us, there has been very little success on the gridiron since their return in 1999, the only Cleveland football that I actually remember. Then there are the Cavs. During the years led by LeBron, the wine and gold have certainly been dominant, but outside of that, there’s been little to no legitimate hope of a title prior to 2016, at least since I can really remember watching.
My love for the Buckeyes has certainly helped, but there was just something about a Cleveland sports team winning a championship that meant just a little more. I’ll never take Ohio State’s success on the football field or basketball court for granted but through the first 25 years of my life, I was continuing to search for that first Cleveland championship. My addiction to sports and wanting a championship continued to grow. In fact, it hit me hard when the Indians and even Cavaliers came so close but never actually got it done. With every close postseason loss that ended any hope of a Cleveland team bringing home a championship, it became tougher and tougher to love my Cleveland teams. A Cleveland kid, I will always love them, but I wanted a championship, and the unsuccessful runs at doing so or even the dismal, not-so-great seasons that we all had to suffer through continued to grow, I continued to give up hope more and more.
Then that special night on June 19, 2016, happened, and it changed my thinking of Cleveland sports forever. No matter where you were that night, you will always remember that location, who you were with, and what you were doing. For me, I was at Panini’s in downtown on West 6th, which closed later that year. The postgame festivities consisted of walking throughout downtown much like the entire city did, hugging strangers, giving high-fives, yelling, finally, that we were in fact the champions of the world. I no longer was starved for a Cleveland sports title. I no longer had that burden. I was no longer hungry for that trophy. No matter what else happened, I got my championship.
As a Cleveland sports fan, one is certainly good enough, but let’s be honest, it’s never really enough. That became obvious later in 2016 when the Indians came oh so close to beating the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series. After a 52-year drought, Cleveland almost had two major-sports championships in less than a five-month period. Given the super-team era, it will certainly be tough for the Cavs to win another championship any time soon, but the hope is certainly still there for the Indians and Browns. The Cavs won one, but now Cleveland is hungry for more. Given that it’s a Browns Town, the Dawg Pound definitely wants a title.
It’s just that, at least for me, everything is different now after what happened June 19, 2016. While I sure hope that I see many, many more championships in my lifetime, I no longer feel the same way about it, which is certainly a good thing. If I still felt the same way I did prior to the summer of 2016, I would have been devastated after the Browns’ performance in Week 1. With so much hope and hype, they laid an egg to open the season, even giving some people that “same old Browns”-type feeling. But with a new mindset, I saw the positives. I saw hope. I saw that if they can fix and improve on their self-inflicted wounds, they can be a much better team. It just all comes down to discipline, being responsible for your actions, and living up to the hype while playing together and maximizing the talent that’s on the team. The Browns have certainly talked the talk, but now they must walk the walk. With my new mindset, I believe they will. I believe they will, in fact, live up to expectations and be successful not just next year (and beyond), but starting this season. Prior to 2016, I would have already given up, admitting that this is the same old Browns. I would’ve yet again been heartbroken because a Cleveland team that was supposed to be good just went out and had a 30-point dud to start the season.
June 19, 2016, changed me for the better, whether it’s my mindset when it comes to sports and the outcomes of games or just the success of my teams overall. I’m so glad it did. And for that, I am forever grateful.