Here comes the sun, Cleveland — will it stick around?
Perhaps you’ve heard about how winter here just ended two weeks ago, how the supremely talented 2013 NFL receiving leader Josh Gordon could be headed for an indefinite suspension and how 56-million-dollar-man Nick Swisher was hitting .211 coming into Wednesday’s action.
The Cleveland Cavaliers recently fired their coach — just like they did last year around this time — and the Browns have fired everybody, in some cases twice over, since Jimmy Haslam was introduced as the new owner of Cleveland’s favorite team 21 months ago. Yep, Haslam is the same guy whose Flying J company got raided by the FBI and the IRS last April.
In Cleveland sports, this stuff comes in pairs, threes and by the dozen, too.
That coach just fired by the Cavaliers, Mike Brown, was also fired by the Cavaliers four years ago, just before LeBron James fired Cleveland on national television and took his talents to Miami.
You know that story, too, and how it fits both the popular narrative and recent history.
Cleveland might rock, but its sports teams generally stink. Especially lately.
Since "The Decision" by LeBron, Cleveland’s teams and fans have been greeted by derision from both near and far. The Baltimore Ravens, the team that used to be the Browns, won another Super Bowl 15 months ago. LeBron has two rings and two more MVPs, and though the Indians made the postseason last year for the first time since 2007, they were eliminated in one game. At home.
Across Cleveland and surrounding areas — areas full of people who love sports and their teams as much as anybody, anywhere — waiting for the next year and pointing to the future have become the norm. Clevelanders are addicted to draft picks, adept at patient rebuilds and always anxious for what might be if two or three or 15 things fall into place.
Suddenly, two have.
Against all probabilities on Tuesday night, the Cavaliers came out of the lottery with the No. 1 pick in next month’s NBA Draft. There’s no guarantee that’s going to lead to success, but suddenly the Cavaliers might get more returned calls in their wide search for a new coach.
Suddenly, too, the Cavaliers’ chances of landing Kevin Love via trade or an opted-out LeBron this summer went from "slim and none" to "slim yet at least worth talking about."
Cleveland sports teams as real players and conversation pieces not involving laughter or failure?
This latest Browns house-cleaning was best for the future, and though the Browns still have a bunch to overcome they spent the free-agent period adding proven players with big-stage experience and gave both the organization and a beaten-down fanbase a jolt with the drafting of Johnny Manziel, who you might know as Johnny Football and who said of the Browns back in February, "I don’t care if they’ve had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I’m going to be the 21st and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl."
At very least, Manziel represents hope. The NBA Lottery’s ping-pong ball machine hadn’t even cooled off Tuesday night before Manziel was tweeting about top NBA prospect Andrew Wiggins; the two have a mutual friend in rapper Drake and were mentioned by name in Drake’s recent song "Draft Day."
In Cleveland, it seems like it’s always draft day. And that’s OK, because the NFL Draft and now the upcoming NBA Draft have restored good vibes and big dreams. The Browns are getting TV time. The Cavaliers are getting TV time. A whole bunch of nothing has been won or accomplished yet, but famous people and their famous friends could land in Cleveland.
This Drake guy, it seems, roots for whoever’s winning. Cleveland would welcome him.
It’s only been 50 years since the Browns won the NFL title, the last title for any major Cleveland professional sports team. The Cavaliers have won 97 games since LeBron left but they’ve won three draft lotteries. That’s a start, right?
The Browns haven’t moved in almost 20 years. Gordon hasn’t been suspended yet. Nobody loves drafts like Cleveland fans love drafts, and the most recent draft yielded Manziel, cornerback Justin Gilbert and an extra 2015 first-round pick courtesy of the Buffalo Bills, one of those teams Browns fans circle on the schedule each April as a game that looks winnable.
Maybe all this luck is about to change. Maybe all these picks and assets and years of bad decisions and luck can be rolled into good vibes and good players and good results going forward.
Certainly, there’s at least a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.
Wednesday’s forecast called for clouds and storms. By the time the Browns took the field in suburban Berea for their second of 10 spring organized team activity (OTA) practices, though, it was sunny.
Maybe, just maybe, it will stay that way.
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