If you live in the 216, you know one thing is true: Cleveland is a football town.
Regardless if you are a huge sports junkie or a casual viewer, if you live in Cleveland, OH, you know the city lives and breathes football. It doesn’t matter if the Browns are the worst team in football, hosting a parade for being a winless team, or if the team wins a playoff game for the first time in over two decades like they did two football seasons ago. No matter the coaching changes, no matter the changes at quarterback, general manager or anywhere else on the gridiron, the Cleveland faithful bleeds brown and orange.
Why is that though? Why when the Cleveland Guardians are in the postseason going toe-to-toe with the loaded Yankees are callers on the radio constantly wanting to talk about the football team? Why when the Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the best young rosters in the Association and have a realistic shot at going deep in the postseason this season are the Browns talked about more?
Since Terry Francona took over as manager of the Cleveland Guardians in 2013, the franchise has had one losing season, and that was in 2021 when they finished two games under the .500 mark at 80-82, and Francona didn’t manage half the year due to health issues, and the whole starting rotation was injured by the All-Star break. The fact they won 80 games that season was incredible under the circumstances.
Since LeBron was drafted by the Cavs in 2003, the Cavs have made five trips to the NBA Finals and nine trips to the playoffs. In that same span, the Cavs have the same amount of trips to the Finals as the Lakers with those great Kobe Bryant / Pau Gasol teams, plus the bubble championship in 2020. Over the last two decades, they only trail the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors (six) in Finals appearances.
Since the Browns franchise returned in 1999, they have two playoff appearances (2002 and 2020) and one playoff win. Before 2020, the Browns were in company with franchises named the Lions, Commanders, Raiders, Jets, Bears and Dolphins as teams that haven’t won a playoff game in the last decade. All those teams have had significant infrastructure issues within the organization and on the field for decades, much like the team with orange helmets.
The point is this: Cleveland is lucky to have two functional teams in town currently. It may not always seem true, but the Cavs and the Guardians are two of the best well-run organizations in all of sports. There may be a few down years in-between the big successes, but the success heavily overweigns the failures for those two organizations.
Look at towns like Philadelphia. Look at towns like Detroit. Look at towns like New York.
These are towns with big sports brands. In Philadelphia, you got the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers. Only the Eagles have been consistent contenders for the last decade.
In the Motor City, the Tigers, Pistons and Lions have all been dreadful since the 2010’s, with the Tigers getting to the World Series in 2012 before completely falling apart. The Red Wings haven’t made the playoffs since the 2015-2016 season.
In the Big Apple, they haven’t seen a World Championship in 13 years. For the better part of those years, both of their football and basketball teams have stunk, while the Yankees save face with baseball, with the Mets occasionally doing something in the National League but nothing close to their in-state rivals.
It’s not common or easy (unless you're Boston or LA) to have good/great teams in your city at the same time. Cleveland has that for the foreseeable future with the Cavs and Guardians. The Guardians have a young nucleus that’s going to be competing for the World Series for a long time to come, and the Cavs have the same fire power that will be competing for the Larry O’Brien trophy for the foreseeable future. Even if they never bring home another trophy, winning consistency in sports is difficult, and since my lifetime (1998), the Guardians and Cavs have almost always been competitive. Hopefully, the Browns can be when Deshaun Watson gets back into the fold, but I have my (pessimistic) doubts based off history.
The 216 has always been a “Browns first” town, but that should be changing now. Until the Browns prove they can constantly build a winning football program, the town should be primarily focused on baseball and basketball rather than football.
As those other franchises would say, Let Em Know and For The Land!
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