Sunday, May 31, 2009


John Elway.
Michael Jordan.
Ernest Byner.
Art Modell.
Jose Mesa.
Craig Ehlo.

If you say any of those words and names to a Cleveland native, you will understand the angst of what a Clevelander has been going through for the last 45 years.

If you thought Boston was going through a hard time during the Red Sox's 86-year drought of always finishing close but not winning a World Series, try telling that to Cleveland fans who have not celebrated a championship in a major sport (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) since the 1964 Browns shutout the then Baltimore Colts 27-0 in an upset in the NFL Championship game. That is the longest drought of any kind for a city with at least one team in a major sport.

Try these for size....

In 1965, the Browns returned to the NFL Championship Game, but only to lose to the Green Bay Packers. After the season, Jim Brown retired prematurely, and the Browns have seen perfect opportunities slip by like...

In 1980, "Red Right 88" was the infamous play that ended the Browns' season in the AFC Division Playoffs against the Oakland Raiders. Fittingly the Kardiac Kids, who had played in many heart-wrenching games in the 1980 NFL season, finally broke the hearts of Cleveland fans thanks to a Brian Sipe pass being intercepted in the end zone and securing the narrow 14-12 win for the Raiders en route to winning Super Bowl XV.

In 1986, the Browns had the Denver Broncos right where they wanted them in the AFC Championship Game: at the two-yard line with 5:32 left in the game and up 20-13. John Elway would lead his greatest comeback, "The Drive", by not panicking, chewing up the clock, and convert all three of his third-down conversions. With 37 seconds left in the game, he would tie up the game at 20, the Browns were emotionally dead in overtime at home, and Rich Karlis made the game-winning field goal.

The very next year, in 1987, the Browns and the Broncos squared off again in the AFC Championship Game, this time in Denver. Up 38-31, Ernest Byner was close to scoring the game-tying touchdown until...he fumbled the football at the three-yard line and Denver won 38-33. Elway would also victimize the Browns in the 1989 AFC Championship game, and the irony is, that Elway would lose the in the Super Bowls that he beat the Browns in the three AFC Championship Games!

In 1995, owner Art Modell left many Cleveland fans sad and bitter after announcing that the Browns would move to Baltimore in the 1996 season. Clevelanders did not make it easy, keeping the name, logo, the "Dawg Pound", etc...and got the team back in 1999 as an expansion team. Sadly, the "old Browns", the Baltimore Ravens, would win Super Bowl XXXV in the 2000 season, as the "new Browns", only made the playoffs one since their reincarnation.

The heartbreaks would also affect the Indians and the Cavaliers, starting with the fact that the Indians own the dubious distinction by being the only MLB team to NEVER play in an LCS when there were two divisions in each league (1969-1993).

Also in 1995, the Indians made the playoffs for the first time since 1954 after winning 100 games in a 144-game season, but would lose to the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.

Then in 1997, Jose Mesa, one of the more dominating closers in the 1990s and arguably the most dominating closer from 1995-1997, had a chance to close the door on the upstart Florida Marlins with a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7. The "high topped" Mesa then did what real mesas do in geology...flatten out. He blew the save by allowing the Marlins to tie the game at 2, and eventually winning the game 3-2 in the 11th inning.

In 1999 and 2007, the Indians saw leads of 2-0 (the 1999 American League Divisional Series and a best-of-five) and 3-1 (the 2007 American League Championship Series a best-of seven) evaporate thanks to the Red Sox winning three straight games to win both series.

Then the Cavaliers were victimized by Jordan's series-winning shot over Craig Ehlo in game five in the first round of the 1989 NBA playoffs, and a sweep-clincher in the second round of the 1993 NBA playoffs. Plus, Jordan and the Bulls also won the 1992 NBA Eastern Conference Finals over the Cavaliers in six games en route to Jordan's second NBA title.

Last but not least, the scene just a night ago, as the heavily favored Cavaliers lost to the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Finlas in six games, following a 66-win season, the most in Cavs history, and after sweeping the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks en route to the conference finals.

In what was supposed to be a coronation for LeBron James, turned out to be an embarrassment as his supporting cast did not show up in the series, and by the fact that the Magic just were hungrier than Cleveland and wanted it more. Now as "King James" goes into a contract year with the Cavaliers, the ever-growing question pops up again...Will LeBron go to New York in 2010? If you ask me, I don't think he is going to join CC Sabathia there, but only time will tell. Until then, Cleveland fan is twisting and turning in his or her bed (whether under Indian, Brown, Cavalier, or regular covers) wondering what could have been and when will the heartbreak end?