Tag Archives: Cleveland Browns

The death of Art Modell, and a bitter aftertaste in Cleveland

Art Modell died early today, and that will dredge up a lot of memories – the bad far overshadowing the good – in my hometown of Cleveland. The Plain Dealer had it right that Modell was “forever vilified” after moving the Browns to Baltimore.

I had long since left Cleveland when Modell moved the team in 1996, so the experience wasn’t as bitter for me as it was for others. But it still gets under my skin.

I also found it a great irony that Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore, which itself had its primary franchise — the Colts — ripped from the hearts of its fans. One awful move begetting another.

Neither city deserved what happened, and Clevelanders deserve better than what the New Browns have given them. But at least they have a team.





New York vs. Boston again – but I’m OK with that

On these posts I’ve complained, whined and kvetched about how America’s major television networks and the media overall are obsessed with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

Super Bowl XLVI is upon us, and we have another Boston-New York matchup with the Patriots and Giants. The network executives must be mighty pleased that those two big northeastern markets are reprented, but NFL execs are always  pleased with whatever teams are playing.

The Super Bowl is the biggest thing in sports – in this country, anyway – and it will draw monster ratings even if Tennessee is playing Tampa Bay. The big game rules regardless of the market size of the competing teams.

In the NFL, talent is dispersed, dynasties are rare and most teams have at least a strong  hope every few years at getting a shot at glory. Except maybe the Cleveland Browns.

There’s a lesson for Major League Baseball in the NFL’s universal success. Football has unified national appeal. Baseball, while enjoying broad appeal nationwide, is at heart a region-by-region, market-by-market affair.  And the game pays a price for that.

My TV is too lame, so I can’t host a Super Bowl party

At a measly 36 inches on the diagonal, the low-def television set in our family room  is simply too pathetic for me even to begin thinking about inviting people over to watch the Super Bowl.

Our Toshiba is a hand-me-down from my brother. He gave it to us when he moved overseas back in 2001, when Tom Brady was in his second season with the Patriots and Eli Manning was making his mark at Ole Miss.

The TV darn near broke my back when I hauled it out of my brother’s New York City apartment and ‘rassled it  down the stairs to our family room in New Jersey. Muscle spasms aside, seeing that 36″ screen was a thrill  for somebody whose earliest television memory is of watching a modest black- and-white Admiral catch fire right as Mary Martin came onscreen in “Peter Pan” back in 1960.

The Admiral was replaced by a Zenith (“The quality goes in before the name goes on”), which was to be the set on which I would watch the first football game I can remember. That was the 1964 NFL championship game, in which my Dad and I watched the Cleveland Browns defeat the Baltimore Colts. Even that childhood TV experience was cut short. Electronic “snow” filled the screen late in the fourth quarter as the sun set and we lost the signal from the Toledo station carrying the game.

Although I’m sure it happened a few times, I’m hard pressed to remember watching a Super Bowl in my own home. It seems we’ve always been guests at the home of somebody with a bigger, more manly set. At a co-worker’s place in Omaha as Da Bears won Super Bowl XX. At the home of friends in the Bay Area as the Packers took Super Bowl XXXI. And so on.

This year, we’ll again beg the gracious hospitality of friends across town who have an HD set so big that it’s measured in meters. Wes Welker will appear actual size. And I’ll sit there in a comfy chair, goggle-eyed at the spectacle of punts and pixels, knowing that my TV is today and will be forever too lame to afford me the pleasure of walking over to my own refrigerator for a beer during the big game.

Jumping on the Cleveland Browns’ bandwagon

Getting to watch the Raiders’ game on TV from Oakland is hard enough to fathom. But the Browns’ winning back-to-back games against stud teams is incredible.

The Browns drilled the New England Patriots today in Cleveland, a day after the first snowfall of the year there. The victory comes two weeks after the Browns knocked off the New Orleans Saints, the defending Super Bowl champions.

The Browns had the advantage of home turf and a bye week to prepare, although in recent years neither seemed to be much of an edge for the woeful expansion franchise.

A 3-5 record is hardly a return to glory. But as a Cleveland native who has paid scant heed to the resurrected franchise, I must admit the team has finally gotten my attention. That’s been a long time coming.

Bye, Bye, Lebron

Lebron James has bid adieu to Cleveland and the Cavaliers, choosing to take his quest for an NBA championship to Miami and the Heat. The tales in the leading newspapers of the two cities are as expected. There’s joy in Miami, where the Herald’s lead sentence tonight is “Size up the rings.” Meanwhile in Cleveland, The Plain Dealer cries “Heartbreak” on its homepage and on its Cavs section.

As a native Clevelander, I have standing to comment. And I’m not broken up, except perhaps for a transitory feeling of pity for the fans in Cleveland, Akron and elsewhere in Ohio and environs who live and breathe NBA basketball.

I started life as a television-bred New York Knicks fan, as we had no NBA franchise in Cleveland until the Cavaliers joined the league as an expansion team in 1970. Several woeful years begat several more woeful years, with a mediocre or even decent year here and there .

When the Cavs won the lottery for the right to pick Akron-raised James, the franchise suddenly became a blooming powerhouse. The Cavs never quite made it to the championship, and it’s going to be more difficult now, no matter what kind of ridiculous promises owner Dan Gilbert makes.

Cleveland fans, who know and more or less expect and accept heartbreak from their teams, will talk themselves silly about Lebron over the next few days.

My unsolicited advice to them is to mope for a day, maybe two. Then turn the radio on and listen to the Tribe, and maybe start thinking about the Browns’ season ahead. Dream about the championship that some day,  as sure as the cold winter wind blows off Lake Erie, will come to town.

Ravens peck the Patriots in the NFL playoffs

The Baltimore Ravens thrashed the New England Patriots today in the NFL playoffs 33-14 in a lopsided game in frigid Foxboro, Mass. I’m having a hard time getting interested in the playoffs, and runaway games don’t do much to lure me in.

It’s obvious that the Patriots’ dominating run is over as they’ve succumbed to age, injuries and bad breaks. Not that I care. Years have passed and I’m still ticked off about the blown call that helped the Pats defeat the Raiders one snowy night in 2002.

As for the Ravens, it’s nice to see one of the non-elite franchises advance. I have mixed feelings about this one, however.

The Ravens were wrestled away from Cleveland by the petulant Art Modell. Although he no longer owns the team and the last ex-Browns player on the roster is long gone, I have not been able to get behind the Ravens.

Counterbalancing that franchise move is the travesty of how the Colts were ripped from Baltimore in the middle of the night for a move to Indianapolis.

Wrong is wrong is wrong.

So I hereby bury the hatchet with the Ravens and wish them and Coach John Harbaugh (above) well next week. May they kick the Colts in the keister.

Woe unto thee, Raider Nation

It’s not easy being silver and black. The Oakland Raiders, one of the most intimidating and successful franchises in the history of professional football, are reeling. On so many Sundays the past few years, the Raiders have been outplayed and outclassed. Since 2002, when they last won an AFC title and appeared in the Super Bowl, they haven’t posted a winning record. I didn’t realize how bad it was until I checked the stats — the Raiders haven’t won more than five games in any season since.

With the way the team has played this season, six victories seems like a tall order.  A colleague who has season tickets (and writes a fine Raiders blog) said the fans in the Black Hole at the Oakland Coliseum relentlessly booed quarterback JaMarcus Russell on Sunday as the Broncos embarrassed the Raiders 23-3.

This is pitiful football. My Raiders’ credentials are a bit tenuous, but I have enough of a connection to justify a few observations. Growing up in the snowbound Eastern time zone, I watched a lot of Raiders games from the West Coast after the Browns wrapped up. The Raiders in those days were Daryle Lamonica and Fred Biletnikoff, Ken Stabler and Cliff Branch, not to mention scores of outstanding defensive backs and linemen both sides of the ball.

When the team returned to Oakland from exile in Los Angeles, I lived in Alameda – where Al Davis & Co. set up their corporate home. My kids’ high school manned concession booths at home games as a fund-raiser. While I saw little action on the field, I poured plenty of beers for the fans. The early years in Oakland Phase Two were mediocre, but the team had passionate backers who knew better times lay ahead.

For maddening contrast, today’s Raiders fans need only look across San Francisco Bay to see how the 49ers are resurrecting their program. I wish I had a solution for the Raiders, who for so many years found a way to win. Right now, the fabled “Commitment to Excellence” has a hollow ring to it.

Hitting the baseball perfecta

Indians capInspired by a few trips to the betting window over the years, I’ve developed a system of rating how good a sports day I’ve had. To hit the daily double, my two favorite teams – the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants – must win. That happens fairly often (although the Tribe didn’t exactly give me great odds during the first half of the season).

To hit a trifecta, the Tribe and Giants must winLos Angeles Dodgers cap – and the Los Angeles Dodgers must lose.

For a superfecta: all of the above plus victory by the baseball teams next nearest to my heart, the Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland Athletics.

The parimutuel concept probably struck me in college, about the time I went to my first horse race. That was the 1976 Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore. (I had bets on four of the horses in the field of six; neither won or placed.)

During college football season, the main components in my calculus were Ohio State winning and Michigan losing. Eventually, I added USC victories and Notre Dame losses to the formula.

San Francisco 49ers capIn pro football, a Browns’ victory paired with a Steelers loss was extremely satisfying. Nowadays, my daily double is a San Francisco 49ers victory paired with a Dallas Cowboys loss. I’ll include the occasional (and I do mean occasional) Oakland Raiders victory  and a Steelers loss for good measure.

In September, when football and baseball seasons overlap, I can have either a mighty fine weekend or a miserable one, depending on the fortunes of the Indians, Giants, Buckeyes and Niners.

As for October, my baseball teams are usually watching the Yankees, Cardinals and Dodgers along with everybody else. But one can dream.

The NFL draft 2009, and the new look of the Detroit Lions


Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford

The Detroit Lions are feeling mighty pleased today. They chose Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford as the No. 1 pick of the NFL draft. He’s shown at right, sporting the new Lions’ logo on his cap.

The Lions made a big fuss the other  day in announcing the logo, which is supposed to represent a fiercer look. Maybe, maybe not. They couldn’t do any worse than they did last season with the old logo.

As for Stafford, I know nothing more than that he was touted as the catch of the draft. All I can say to that is, “Good luck, Mr. Stafford, and good luck, Detroit.”

My years as a football fan are littered with busted first-round QBs. Exhibit A is Mike Phipps, for whom the Cleveland Browns gave up wide receiver Paul Warfield in a move stunning in its stupidity, even by Cleveland standards (See, Colavito for Kuenn). Farther west and more recently, the San Francisco 49ers put all their draft eggs in the Alex Smith basket, and that, to say the least, has not been a picnic.

If any NFL team wants to pay me what Stafford is reportedly getting – $41 million, give or take a few thou – my services are available. But I’d settle for $1 million and a couple of ball caps.

Capping off the NFL season

At the risk of alienating a work colleague who is a die-hard San Diego Chargers fan, I hereby link to this year-old photo of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers whacked the Chargers this afternoon at snowy Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, setting up the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens, a match I personally find revolting.

The Steelers are the age-old nemesis of the Cleveland Browns. While I have not fully bonded with the inept Browns expansion franchise, the Steelers’ black and gold uniforms still make my blood boil. The Ravens are, of course, the Browns franchise that the hated Art Modell wrenched away from northeast Ohio.

So it’s a given that I won’t pay much attention to the AFC championship. I’ll be rooting in the NFC game for the Eagles against the Chicago-turned-St. Louis-turned-Arizona Cardinals.

Suffice it to say I’m not a fan of franchise moves.