Carson: Winning is now “so Cleveland”
Alex Carson | Wednesday, August 31, 2016
“That’s so Cleveland.”
As nearly 21 years of my life passed, I got pretty familiar with the line.
You’ve gotta understand how I grew up. When I was 83 days old, my dad pulled me out of my crib at around 11 p.m. to sit me in front of a television screen. Why?
After hitting Randy Johnson for four runs, including three in the eighth, the Cleveland Indians were set to win the pennant for the first time in 41 years. It was something my dad had never seen — and something he probably never thought he would again. So I had to watch it. Because who the hell know if I’d die without seeing another one myself?
It’s not like I remember the 1995 and 1997 Indians teams, or the soul-crushing ways in which they lost their two World Series appearances — by dropping three one-run games in ’95 and, you know, by surrendering an 11th-inning, Game 7 walk-off single in ’97 — but you can’t say I wasn’t born straight into one of the more emblematic periods in Cleveland sports history.
Side note: Can we talk about how underrated the ’95 Indians are? They won 100 games in a 144-game season. So incredibly good.
Of course, 1995 was also when Art Modell, who will forever be the most hated hated man in Cleveland, moved the Browns to Baltimore. Since, the Ravens have won the Super Bowl twice, and head coach Bill Bellichick has won four. The “new” Browns have had winning records … twice.
Cleveland sports misery pre-dates me, though. By a good margin. On the diamond, the Curse of Rocky Colavito, the Indians’ star and fan favorite traded in 1960, launched decades of irrelevance for the Indians. When it came to the hardwood, I grew up watching Michael Jordan’s 1989 “The Shot” — one of the defining moments of his career — to beat the Cavs in the deciding Game 5 of that year’s first round.
And of course, there’s the Browns. As always. From “Red Right 88” to John Elway’s “The Drive” and Earnest Byner’s “The Fumble,” the talent of the 1980s Browns teams never once reached a Super Bowl, let alone winning one.
If my dad’s struggles as a Cleveland sports fan — especially with a brother who’s a Pittsburgh fan — were any indication, there wasn’t to be much happiness for me, either. I saw that with my own eyes as a 27-month old in ’95 and ’97, and by the time I started figuring things out, 2007 offered my greatest glimpse yet into Cleveland sports fandom.
The Cavaliers, led by generational talent LeBron James, made the NBA Finals. But got swept, 4-0, by the Spurs.
The Indians, genuinely the favorite team of my childhood, beat the Yankees in the ALDS — in the series that featured the “Bug Game” — and led the Red Sox 3-1 in the 2007 ALCS, one win away from a World Series. But the Tribe blew that series, only to see Boston sweep the Rockies for the World Series.
And then there were the Browns, who went 10-6 that year; they were actually good! But they missed the playoffs. Because, you know, Cleveland. And then-Colts head coach Tony Dungy sitting his starters in the season finale against Tennessee.
I will never forgive him for that.
From there, I watched the Indians completely fall apart when ownership wouldn’t pay C.C. Sabathia or Cliff Lee, LeBron leave for Miami to win two titles and the Browns return to being, well, the Browns.
So when LeBron went to the line June 19 in Game 7, with the Cavs up 3 and 10 seconds left, it started flashing through my mind: He was down hurt, so whoever’d have to shoot from the bench would miss both, the Warriors would go down to the other end and Steph Curry would hit an and-1 3-pointer. The Cavs would find a way to lose, not in overtime, but in regulation.
Because that would have been “so Cleveland.”
But instead, as I watched, standing in front of the TV with my dad, LeBron hit one of those free throws — because he couldn’t settle the nerves enough by hitting both — and the Cavs hung on.
Winning titles? Between UFC champ Stipe Miocic and the Cavs, it’s the new thing that’s “so Cleveland.”
The Indians are really good this year. They’re going to win the World Series. It’ll be a move that’s “so Cleveland.”
And for the Browns?
Well, I don’t think we can really help them.
But just having to say “that’s so Browns?”
That I can live with.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.