The city of Cleveland is among one of the most passionate fan bases in the country. No matter the performance of the team, the fans in Cleveland make Progressive Field, FirstEnergy Stadium (which should be a domed stadium) and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse three of the toughest environments for visitors in all of sports. With the calendar about to flip to 2023, Cleveland’s pro teams and the Monsters needs to take advantage of the city’s passion and turn it into success.
On December 17th, the Monsters, Browns and Cavaliers (in that order) were all in action on their home turfs, and all three came out victorious.
First, the Monsters fell behind the Laval Rocket (AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens) 3-1 after the first period. Cleveland proceeded to score six out of the last seven goals to defeat Laval 7-4.
Next, Deshaun Watson made his Dawg Pound debut, as the Browns played host to the Baltimore Ravens in a classic AFC North clash. It was a hard-hitting, low-scoring defensive battle in which the Browns won 13-3 while snowflakes were dropping throughout the contest.
In the nightcap, the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks were able to push the Cavaliers right to the wire, but the Cavs were able to eek out a 100-99 overtime victory behind 25 points from Donovan Mitchell to improve the Cavs’ home record on the season at the time to14-2 (now 16-2) and 20-11 (now 22-11) overall.
I would venture to bet there were fans on Saturday who went to at least two of the games, most likely the Browns game and the Cavs game. Perhaps some people attended all three events.
Despite dropping two consecutive games, the Monsters are still in a position to make the Calder Cup Playoffs, as they’re currently fourth in the North Division. The Top 5 teams in the division will qualify for the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Despite dropping three of their first four games at the Dawg Pound, the Browns have the opportunity to finish the season 5-3 at FirstEnergy Stadium by defeating the New Orleans Saints in the elements that await on Christmas Eve. The playoffs are still a VERY slim possibility for the Browns, but they’ll need to win their final three games (vs New Orleans, at Washington and at Pittsburgh), and they’ll need some other dominos to fall their way.
In short, it'll take a Christmas miracle for Cleveland to sneak into the postseason, so they should use their final three games to further the development of their offense with their $230 million quarterback at the controls. Since Watson was suspended for the first 11 games, it’s not fair to grade or judge his performance for this season. My evaluation of No. 4 starts during the first game of the 2023 season.
Wednesday night’s (December 21st) 114-106 win at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks put the Cavaliers a game back of the first-place Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings. Donovan Mitchell has been even better than I had originally anticipated when the Cavs dealt for the 26-year-old shooting guard. Heading into the New Year, he has made a case to be the MVP of the NBA this season.
The Cleveland Guardians are an above-average team. They’re not at the level of the New York Yankees or Houston Astros, but they’re also not at the level of the Oakland Athletics or Kansas City Royals. They’ve made some intriguing moves this offseason by bringing in Josh Bell and Mike Zunino. Both players are good additions, but neither of them are needle movers in my estimation.
The Guards still have Shane Bieber, Jose Ramirez, Steven Kwan, Triston McKenzie, Emmanuel Clase, and Aaron Civale (when he’s not injured), so they have great pieces, and they’re still a young team. They’ve got time to gel and become a legit contender.
Sports gave Cleveland fans a lot to cheer about in 2022. As the calendar turns over to 2023, there’s a lot to look forward to for the 216. As such, fans are going to be raising their expectations. It will be up to the teams to meet those expectations and take advantage of the city’s passion to turn it into success.