Why the Long Face, Frownie?

by Cleveland Frowns on February 5, 2008

The relationship between the success of a city or region’s sports teams to that city or region’s civic pride is one of the main reasons professional sports are so interesting. So consider what Cleveland sports fans have suffered in recent years:

The Drive: 1986-87 AFC Championship Game — Trailing by a touchdown, pinned on his own 2-yard line with 5:32 left to play in the game John Elway leads the Broncos on a 15 play 98 yard drive to tie the game with 38 seconds left, in front of a rabid crowd in Cleveland Stadium. Denver goes on to win the game in overtime.

The Fumble: 1987-88 AFC Championship Game — With 1:12 left in the game, Earnest Byner looks to be heading into the endzone for a game-tying touchdown when he’s stripped by Denver’s Jeremiah Castille. The Broncos recover the fumble and win the game. Byner played an outstanding game before fumbling, totalling 67 yards rushing, 7 receptions for 120 yards, and 2 touchdowns. The Fumble is widely attributed to Browns receiver Webster Slaughter’s failure to block Castille.

The Shot: 1989 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5 — With 3.2 seconds left in the deciding game of the series the Bulls inbound the ball to Michael Jordan who hits the game winner over Craig Ehlo, setting off the Bulls dynasty and sending home what was at the time the best Cavaliers team in history. The Bulls were winless in six games against the Cavaliers in the 1988-89 regular season.

The Move: Coming off a playoff season when the Browns lost to rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, hopes were high entering the 1995 season, until Browns owner Art Modell announced his plans to move the beloved Browns to Baltimore. Modell moved the Browns, who became the Baltimore Ravens, despite constant sellout crowds and feverish fan support in Cleveland. The Ravens won Superbowl XXXV in 2001.

Game Seven: With the Indians leading 2-1 entering the bottom half of the 9th inning in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series (after failing to score an insurance run with one out and a runner on third in the top half of the inning), Jose Mesa surrenders the tying run on a two-out Craig Counsell sacrifice fly. Counsell reaches base in the 11th inning when Tony Fernandez misplays his slow rolling ground ball, and eventually scores the winning run for the Florida Marlins, who become World Series Champions in their fifth year of existence.

There’s also Red Right 88, losing a 3-1 lead over the Red Sox in the ’07 ALCS, the Buckeyes’ embarrassing losses to SEC teams in the last two BCS Championship games, and a whole lot more.

So one wonders about how the results on the playing field are connected to everything else going on in a city and region that’s seen plenty of hard times even aside from its absurdly tragic sports history. There has to be some truth to be found in the symmetry, and one might be optimistic about what it might be and what might be done with it. The cities of Northeast Ohio served uniquely well in their former roles as global manufacturing hubs and way-stations between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, so patience is probably in order as the region transitions to a service-based economy with the rest of the country — a transition that Northeast Ohio would naturally be among the last to make. Put another way, there’s no question that Cleveland’s a city on the move, and that local sports teams will figure into the transition. Because the games these teams play are so much fun, they might be as good a lens as any through which to try to understand it. We’re all watching anyway, so …

Thanks for reading. Please don’t hesitate to comment.

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UPDATE: Another answer to the “why the long face” question: The Curse of Chief Wahoo

  • KyleM

    Love the Browns logo at the top…although the Brownies performance this year certainly didn’t stink! Cleveland sports is on the up…watch out for Bron come playoff time. Shout out to my boy Dennis!

  • John

    It makes you wonder what the city of Cleveland may look like had half of those disasters turned our way. I know there are a lot of problems with the city, but maybe there would have been a brighter outlook over the years and the city would not be bankrupt, who knows?

  • dylan

    the drive was 86, the fumble was 87-both were marty teams-the broncos subsequently lost to the giants then the redskins, they got smashed by the 49ers after the third one

    IIRC

  • A. J.

    Hey, I know it’s before your time (and, believe it or not, even before MINE), but you gotta include The Catch in your list of Cleveland Frowns heartbreaks. Willie Mays of the New York Giants put a dagger through the heart of the Cleveland Indians at the Polo Grounds that day back in 1954.

    Mays’s over-the-shoulder catch of a potential game-winning hit in Game 1 of the World Series and follow-up throw to keep the Indians runner pinned at third, have gone down in the annals of baseball as one of the most memorable plays—but people forget it was once again the Indians on the short end of history.

  • http://www.copperreflections.com/ handmadejewelry

    Despite all the problems  Cleveland is still a beautiful city and a great place if you need a heart surgery!!!

  • Martin Jacobs

    A good summary for anyone not familiar with Cleveland and our sports history. After reading this article, just to give yourself the full Cleveland fan experience, consider adding the following steps:

    (1) Get a large, angry person to sucker punch you in the gut
    (2) Get kicked in the balls by the same large, angry person
    (3) Have a group of large, angry people beat you into unconsciousness
    (4) Repeat steps 1-3 at the end of every major sports season
    (5) Watch as the national media shows replays of every time steps 1-3 happened to you, along with commentary about how much that would suck

    Even with all that though, Cleveland sports fans are tough to crack. We’re still loyal, even after all we’ve been through, and deep down inside there is always a belief that things will get better. And, of course, there’s always next year…

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