TIS the season to be joyous and hopeful.
But if you are a fan of the Cleveland sports teams, this may be a time of despair.
The Browns are coming off another four or five and something debacle of a season; the Cavaliers are looking for another draft lottery coup and the Indians, well, the Indians are providing that gleam that a one-time Browns coach talked about. But that gleam may be the reflection coming from the wintertime sun over the wonderland of Progressive Field's Snow Days. The ball club has simply not opened their wallet to obtain the talent needed to improve on that second-place finish in 2011.
But before we continue this holiday rant, let's settle down to a long winter's night nap and dream of times long ago in Cleveland sports land... when things were much worse!!!!
Let's go back 40 years ...
The Cleveland Browns were in a middle of a quarterback and coaching controversy... surprise, surprise. The team did not make the playoffs in 1970 because they were aced out by the upstart Cincinnati Bengals led by former Browns coach Paul Brown. That winter, the owner - let's call him Uncle Artie - sacked longtime successful coach Blanton Collier and hired a longtime assistant named Nick Skorich. The young quarterback whom the Browns traded popular Waren native Paul Warfield to Miami for his draft rights was a college sensation out of Purdue named Mike Phipps. Meanwhile, Warfield was headed to the upstart Dolphins who were just on the doorstep of a dynasty led by their coach, Cleveland-born and bred Don Shula and another Purdue quarterback named Bob Griese.
Our man Phipps flopped and so did Skorich even though the team did win a 1971 AFC Central Division championship and 1972 wild card. But both playoff contenders were immediately eliminated at home by Baltimore and then the undefeated Dolphins! It would be almost another 10 years before the Browns would see the playoffs again.
The Cleveland Indians were in the middle of their 40 years wandering in the desert called the American League East's second division. In the winter of 1970, the Tribe traded ace lefthander Sam McDowell, who had an affinity for the fast life, for a durable righty named Gaylord Perry and a slick fielding no-hit shortstop named Frank Duffy. Perry immediately became a sensation with his forkball which some A.L. managers (especially Billy Martin) looked like a greaseball. Duffy barely hit .200 and the club never reached .500 let alone contention. And there were more gnats in the cold, cavernous stadium on the lake than fans in the seats every summer. It wasn't until 1975 that a spark was made with the hiring of baseball's first African American manager, Frank Robinson. Unfortunately, Perry and Robinson didn't see eye to eye and Perry was shipped off to Texas, who was being managed at the time by the aforementioned Martin.
The Tribe didn't gain respectability until the early 1990s after Cleveland voters approved a "sin" tax to build a new ballpark. Unfortunately, this made Uncle Artie the Landlord on the Lake jealous and he took his football team in 1995 and headed to Baltimore ... but that is another sports nightmare!
The Cleveland Cavaliers were born as the third expansion club of the NBA in 1970. They were treated like a red-headed stepchild.. and their wine and gold outfits fit the dreary environs of the old rat-infested arena on Euclid Avenue. The first team won 15 games and things didn't get much better even though the Cavs added Notre Dame hotshot Austin Carr. The coach Bill Fitch cracked good one-liners and we had the best announcer in the business named Joe Tait. There was little else to cheer about until that one glorious spring of 1976. The team had moved to the suburbs in Richfield and the Coliseum was rocking that year with guys named Jim Chones, Bingo Bobby, JJ, Jim Cleamons and big Nate Thurmond ... oh yes, that guy Carr did make some good contributions too. But Chones broke his ankle before the Eastern Division Championship series and big Nate couldn't hold off the majestic Celtics. The Cavs then would fall back into a deep slumber and dissolve in the Ted Stepien era of the early 1980s. It wasn't until mid decade when the Gund brothers bought the franchise and made them respectable, even if Michael Jordan called them soft!
Well, here we are into the second decade of the 21st century. The Cavs have lost their bearings and their superstar ... the Browns don't have a spine and the Indians, well, management may have misplaced their checkbook. Let's continue to have the virtues of faith, hope and love ... because that's all we've got!