A couple years ago, ESPN.com's Page 2 posted an article regarding sports cities in America.
The subject was both simple and intriguing, as the piece simply looked at various cities and asked which team each town would hate to lose. Basically, the article established which teams represented the lifeblood of each metropolis.
Most of the results weren't terribly shocking. The Red Sox and Yankees topped Boston and New York, respectively. The Red Wings were listed as the pride of Detroit, while the Lakers were obviously the biggest draw in Los Angeles.
When it came to Cleveland, Page 2 claimed the Browns were the kings of the town. The reasons were obvious, as it was noted how no city has lost a team only to fight so hard to bring the franchise back home, with all of its history in tact.
However, one quote in this piece really caught my eye. After discussing why the Browns were the most popular team in the city, noting the passion and attachment fans have with the team, the article stated, "If the Cavaliers were ever taken away from Cleveland, two janitors might look up."
At the time, this statement may have been pretty true.
NBA phenomenon LeBron James was a huge draw, but the Cavs weren't really considered a legitimate threat in the league. Back then, it was LeBron and friends—nothing more, nothing less.
Now, however, citizens of Cleveland might be witnessing a changing of the guard.
Last week, the Cavs traded for Shaquille O'Neal, one of the biggest names in the NBA. At 37-years-old, Shaq may not be as dominant as he used to be. However, he's still one of the top centers in the league, and is a sure thing to bring more sellout crowds to Quicken Loans Arena.
This offseason, the Cavaliers are stating their goal loud and clear—they want a championship, and they want it now.
While the Cavs' recent dominance is great news for any Cleveland fan waiting for the 45-year championship drought to end, it should be noted how the team's recent upswing is affecting the Browns.
For multiple decades, the Browns were indeed the pulse of this city.
Through good times and bad, football season always had the biggest effects on the citizens. If the Browns won, Monday's were practically holidays, whereas a loss can lead to the biggest collection of irritable and bad-tempered natives you'll ever see.
Bottom line—for the longest time, the Browns were Cleveland.
But things are changing now. On the south end of town, LeBron James is leading a revolution.
The Cavaliers have made the playoffs four straight years, never to be defeated in the first round. Though the team was swept in the 2007 NBA Finals, it was the first time a local franchise advanced to a league championship since the '97 Indians.
Each time the Cavs run into shortcomings, the organization's front office spends the offseason upgrading the squad, as seen with the recent Shaq deal.
With LeBron and Shaq playing together, the Cavaliers are now the first Cleveland team in what seems like forever to actually have two big-name superstars on the roster.
So, how does this affect the Browns?
For one, the Browns organization can no longer assume their team is the biggest draw in town.
This assumption was safe in the past.
It took the Cavaliers forever to become a legitimate franchise. Home crowds were a joke, as the Cavs were ridiculed in the NBA for years. The team does have its heroes, but in the end, Mark Price and Brad Daugherty just weren't as popular as Jim Brown or Bernie Kosar.
The same can be said about the Indians, as well. Sure they had a record of consecutive sellout games from '95-'01, but it should be noted that the majority of this streak occurred while the Browns were removed from the city.
Even when looking at the city's endless list of heartbreaks, those related to the Browns just seem to sting the most. Replay Michael Jordan and "The Shot" or Jose Mesa's blown save all you want, it's just not as heart-wrenching as having a team uprooted from your town.
These days, however, it would be wise for GM George Kokinis and head coach Eric Mangini to take note that they may not be the big dogs in town anymore (no pun intended).
However, this isn't meant to be seen as a high school popularity contest. No, the Browns front office should see this as pressure to become competitive, and soon.
Let's face it. When given the choice between which team you'd rather see, would you choose a franchise being labeled by multiple sports analysts as "championship caliber," or one which never seems to leave the rebuilding years?
The economy certainly isn't making matters any better.
Now more than ever, fans in Cleveland are going to be keeping tighter budgets. If the Browns continue to put on weekly displays of ineptitude and losing, you can bet people will second-guess the idea of spending money on tickets.
Think this is a problem the Cavs will be running into anytime soon?
Consider this; the economy took it's first dive last October, the same month in which the NBA season begins. However, while the stock market plummeted, LeBron and company drew sellout crowds at nearly every home game. Fans certainly weren't discouraged when the team went 39-2 at the Q.
At the same time, during the last game at Cleveland Browns Stadium in 2008, the crowd was dismal. The team was starting Ken Dorsey at quarterback and going for their fifth win in the sixteenth week of the season.
Again, who are you going to pay to see—a team who only lost at home twice, or one which only won at home once?
Its up to Mangini and Kokinis to make the Browns relevant again, because they're finally facing some tough competition from another local franchise. This organization hasn't played second fiddle to a fellow Cleveland team in quite some time, but they certainly can't sit back and watch the Cavs take over the city.
Instead, they have to do their best to convince fans in Cleveland that the Browns are worth spending money on. This will be no easy task, especially with a lack of credible talent and still no starting quarterback.
If they fail to do so, those same fans know they can find some quality sports entertainment by taking a ten minute walk down East 9th Street.
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