After clearing the vomit from my mouth after the sociopathic narcissistic "press conference" ESPN held to promote LeBron James, I felt it important to throw the city of Cleveland some love. Not only because it is tiresome watching ESPN attempt to shove their anointed heroes down our throats in hope of cashing in on faux reverence, but because Cavalier fans need only look back to 1980 and owner Ted Stepien to get a smile of chagrin.
Stepien tried to buy a winner, traded away first-round draft picks back to back years that led the NBA into implementing the "Stepien Rule" that disallows teams to trade away first round picks in consecutive seasons. The moves failed so badly, fans renamed the team the "Cadavers". They can now hope the same fate for the Miami Heat.
Let us remember some great memories in Cleveland professional football history, perhaps pro footballs first great dynasty. Arthur McBride partially made his fortune in the taxicab industry. After an unsuccessful attempt to buy the Cleveland Rams in the NFL, he joined the fledgling All-American Football Conference and established the Browns in Cleveland.
His first move was to hire Paul Brown as the head coach and general manager, naming the team after him, as McBride handled the financial aspects. He would keep injured players on the payroll by saying they drove his taxicabs, thus the "taxi squad" was invented. The team dominated the AAFC, winning the leagues championship each of the four years the league existed.
After the AAFC folded in 1949, they moved to the NFL and immediately won the 1950 championship. The Browns continued win championships in 1954, 1955, and 1964. They also reached the championship games from 1951 to 1953, but lost.
The last title winning team was led by Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest football player ever. Each team was coached by Paul Brown, with the exception of the '64 squad, and many consider him the greatest coach in football history. It adds to the lore of the franchise that the faces of the franchise were named Brown.
The Rams had some success themselves, being founded in Cleveland in 1936. They stayed until 1945, winning the championship that year while led by Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Waterfield. The team did not play in 1943, due to a shortage of players because of World War II. They were the first NFL team to suspend operations without merging with another team, and the only other team in NFL history to do this was the Browns after owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore in 1996. The Rams moved to Los Angeles after the 1945 title season.
Sixteen men who primarily played with the Browns are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the fourth largest total for a franchise in NFL history. Five more members also wore Brown jerseys for a short time. The Cleveland Rams have two members enshrined.
Here are a few of the legends:
Paul Brown, Coach, Browns 1946 - 1962
Otto Graham, Quarterback, Browns 1946 - 1955
Marion Motley, Fullback, Browns 1946 - 1953
Lou "The Toe" Groza, Kicker/ Tackle, Browns 1946 - 59, 1961 - 67
Dante Lavelli, End, 1946 - 1956
Bill Willis, Guard, Browns 1946 - 1953
Frank Gatski, Center, Browns 1946 - 1956
Len Ford, End, Browns 1950 - 1957
Mike McCormick, Tackle, 1954 - 1962
Jim Brown, Fullback, Browns 1957 - 1965
Gene Hickerson, Guard, Browns 1958 - 60, 1962 - 73
Leroy Kelly, Halfback, Browns 1964 - 1973
Paul Warfield, Receiver, Browns 1964 - 69, 1976-77
Ozzie Newsome, Tight End, Browns 1978 - 1990
Dan Reeves, Owner, Rams 1941 - 1971
Bob Waterfield, Quarterback, Rams 1945 - 1952
Basketball season is over, as is the era of Lebron James in Cleveland. Football is the main game in town anyways. Not just because of the hugely successful Ohio State University dominating college football for decades, but for the Cleveland Browns helping the NFL attain their riches of today.
From the AAFC and the Paul Brown Era, to the Jim Brown Era, to the Kardiac Kids, to the new Browns trying to achieve a winning program today, the Dawg Pound is as vivacious as ever. Now that Mike Holmgren has come into town, fans are optimistic the team can revive a team stagnate in mediocrity since the late 1980's.
Time moves on, as will the memory of the betrayal of James as he "takes his talents elsewhere" instead of having the heart to attempt to build his own legacy. An image tarnished forever for the perceived easy way out. Now is the time to buckle up the proverbial chin strap, get ready for some football, and hold dearly onto the memories of the truly great Cleveland legends.
Paul and Jim Brown, Otto Graham, Bob Feller, the list is long of legends yet those are the biggest names of all time for the area in the game of football. The NFL could pay better tribute by allowing the city to host a Super Bowl. Cleveland is the only NFL city to neither host a Super Bowl game nor appear in one. With the loss of the ESPN icon, perhaps the blow can be softened by the NFL? Even if neither happens, it is a city rich in tradition one certainly can hold with pride.