Steven King

Time For Browns To Join Cleveland's Party

Created on Jul. 12, 2014 5:00 AM EST

Cleveland is where it’s at.

Betcha never thought you’d see that anywhere, did ya?

Believe it.

Johnny Manziel, the most electrifying player in college football the last two seasons, was taken in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Yes, Johnny Football is now wearing a plain orange helmet.

Although they are sitting at .500 heading into Friday night’s game with the Chicago White Sox, it is hoped the Cleveland Indians (46-46) will do what they did in 2013 and make a strong second-half run to qualify for the American League playoffs for the second straight season, which would be the first time that has happened in a decade and a half.

The Republican Party picked Cleveland over Dallas as the host city for its 2015 national convention, which will be a financial windfall and ego-boosting bonanza for the region, and Cleveland is also still in the running to host the Democratic National Convention next year.

And then early Friday afternoon, LeBron James – one of the greatest players in NBA history – made the announcement that he was leaving the Miami Heat and would return to his northeast Ohio to play once again for the Cleveland Cavaliers, saying that he wanted to bring the city its first major pro sports championship in 50 years. There are many who are claiming – and they just might be right – that it is one of the biggest news events in Cleveland’s history. Not in Cleveland sports history, mind, you, but in Cleveland history in general.

Think that’s an exaggeration? Then you should have listened to Cleveland sports talk radio on Friday as caller after caller – mostly adult men, some in their 60s -- admitted they wept openly when they heard of James’ decision.

It’s a good day – a good time -- to be a Clevelander. Those who still want to toss around “The Mistake on the Lake” jokes are buying Betamax tapes and driving Yugos.

Now it is the Browns’ turn to be part of this Cleveland makeover. It was the Browns, after all, who captured the city’s last sports crown when they crushed the Baltimore Colts 27-0 in the 1964 NFL Championship Game. It was the franchise’s eighth league crown in 19 seasons.

It was also the Browns who got to the doorstep of the Super Bowl on five different occasions – 1968, 1969, 1986, 1987 and 1989 – only to be denied, twice in agonizingly close fashion.

The Browns are “the flagship of the fleet,” as former coach Sam Rutigliano likes to call them in reference to their standing as one of the NFL’s most storied and tradition-rich franchises, along with carrying the torch for Cleveland for all the years when the Indians and/or Cavaliers were floundering.

But the Browns have also floundered themselves since being re-born in 1999. In 13 of the 15 seasons in this expansion era, they have posted losing records, including the last seven. In only one season (2002) have they made the playoffs. This 12-year postseason-less drought is -- by far -- the longest in team history.

So with the city in the national and, in the case of James, even world spotlight in so many different ways now, it is high time – actually, well past high time – for the Browns to join the party by awaking from their lengthy slumber and becoming relevant again.

Don’t offer excuses that WR Josh Gordon – a rising star in the NFL – won’t be around to help this year as he is facing a sure league-imposed suspension.

Don’t offer excuses that QB Brian Hoyer is coming off ACL surgery or that his competition for the starting job, Manziel, is just a greener-than-green rookie.

Or that Mike Pettine is a rookie coach.

Or that Ray Farmer is a rookie general manager.

Indeed, no whining – no complaining – about anything or anybody.

As Lou Holtz, a native Ohioan (East Liverpool) always likes to say, “No one wants to hear about your problems. Ninety percent of the people don’t care and the other 10 percent are glad you’ve got them.”

Just shut up and get the job done. Now. This season. This fall. In 2014. No five-year-plan, three-year plan or even two-year plan. Make it a one-year plan and be part of all the good that is happening right now in Cleveland – the city where it’s at.

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