by Eric Williams
Cleveland. A city with quite possibly the most loyal and die-hard fans in all of major league sports. Year after year Cleveland fans get their hopes up for playoffs of some sort. They fill their heads with countless what-if’s and scenarios on how it can be possible. But season after season the fans are rudely let down and left disappointed yet again. Thus resulting in the well known saying among fans, “There is always next year.” Some outsiders have come to refer to Cleveland, Ohio as “The Mistake on The Lake,” but if a native Clevelander hears this they get offended and are quick to defend their hometown teams. Fortunately for Cleveland fans, the past few months and a recent turn of events have caused their arguments to appear warranted. It seems as though the times are changing in Cleveland and it appears that the losing seasons just might be on their way out the door. Let’s take a quick look at how this may be possible.
Cleveland Gladiators and The Arena Bowl
Although Arena Football isn’t one of the three major league sports in America, it is only fair to begin with The Cleveland Gladiators and the near-perfect season that they have had thus far. The Gladiators had the best record during the 2014 season by going 17 – 1 during the regular season and setting a new AFL record in doing so. The only loss came in week 10 against The Pittsburgh Power by a score of 48 – 34. But, The Gladiators had a scare as they narrowly escaped defeat in the first round of the playoffs when former Ohio State Kicker Aaron Pettrey propelled them to a 39 – 37 victory over the Philadelphia Soul with a 36-yard field goal as time expired. The following week Quarterback Shane Austin threw seven touchdown passes in the American Conference Championship game to lead the team to a 56 – 46 victory over the Orlando Predators. This will bring Arena Bowl XXVII to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio on Saturday August 23rd, at 8:00pm where The Cleveland Gladiators will host The Arizona Rattlers. So not only will the fans of Cleveland get to enjoy watching one of their teams play for a championship for the first time since 1964, they will get to watch it live and in person.
Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had by far the most exciting off-season of any team in Cleveland in recent memory. It all started in May when the club announced that they would officially appoint interim General Manager David Griffin as the new full-time GM. In the same day the club also decided that they were going to fire coach Mike Brown after a one and done season in his return to Cleveland. The Cavaliers then went through an extensive coaching search to find a replacement for Mike Brown. In June the team decided to hire David Blatt as their new coach. Although he may be a “rookie” coach in The NBA, he is no stranger to the game as he has been a successful coach overseas. To make the transition easier for David Blatt, the club hired Tyronn Lue as an associate head coach and made him the highest paid assistant coach in the process. The Cavaliers made it known that they wanted to keep All-Star Point Guard Kyrie Irving by offering him a five-year $90 million contract which he willingly accepted.
The biggest news for the team though was when Small Forward LeBron James shocked some around The NBA by announcing that he would be returning to his hometown team. He signed a two-year contract with the team worth $42.1 million, but has insisted to the team and fans that he plans on staying home this time. After taking Shooting Guard Andrew Wiggins from The University of Kansas with the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, rumors have been flying around the league that he may be used in a trade for The Cavaliers to acquire three time NBA All-Star Power Forward Kevin Love from The Minnesota Timberwolves. If any of these rumors happen to be true, any trade involving Wiggins cannot take place until August 23rd, 2014. If The Cavaliers are able to acquire Kevin Love from The Minnesota Timberwolves then the team will provide The NBA with a new “Big Three” in James, Love, and Irving. Which leaves Cleveland Cavalier fans salivating at the thought of a NBA Championship.
Cleveland Browns and Johnny Manziel
After one season of owning The Cleveland Browns, in which The NFL forced their hand in appointing Joe Banner to assist new owner Jimmy Haslam in running the team, he has cleaned house and hired his own people. From making Ray Farmer, who shows good potential so far and who is rumored to be respected among most circles within The NFL, the new General Manager. To hiring Mike Pettine, who appears to possess the “punch you in your mouth” no non-sense attitude that is needed to succeed in the AFC North, as the new Head Coach. All three seem to be on the same page and it has shown during the off-season. Beginning with The 2014 NFL Draft, they drafted according to team needs and acquiring future picks in next years NFL Draft, including The Buffalo Bills first round pick. Then making decent personnel moves such as re-signing Pro-Bowl Cornerback Joe Haden to a five-year $68 Million contract extension in June.
Pair all that with the fact that The Browns drafted the most polarizing rookie Quarterback in recent memory in Johnny Manziel. In doing so the team hopes that he can become the missing piece at the Quarterback position that they have so desperately been in search of since their return to the league in 1999. Could he become the next Steve Young like some have tried to prematurely compare him to? Or will he become yet another first round bust for The Browns like Brandon Weeden and Brady Quinn? Nobody knows yet and only time will tell. One thing is for certain though. His unique style of play, off-field activities, and swagger is something Cleveland fans haven’t seen in quite some time. Group all of these things together and it has left the fans of The Dawg Pound licking their chops in anticipation of the upcoming season.
The optimism that these three teams has caused over the past few months is exciting for the fans of Cleveland. Yet again the off-season has left them with a lot of what-ifs and scenarios that could help bring a championship back to Cleveland. Only this time it feels as though the saying “There is always next year,” is finally something of the past and the time to win is now. Now the fans just have to sit back and bask in the excitement that is pulsing through the city until there is another championship team in Cleveland.