Let me throw a few statistics at you. Ready?
The Cleveland Browns’ record since returning to the NFL in 1999.
The number of times the Cleveland Indians have qualified for the playoffs during that same 12 year span.
The Cleveland Cavaliers record in the six years before LeBron James’ rookie year.
And finally the most telling statistic of all.
The number of championships Cleveland sports teams have won since 1964—a 50-year drought that ranks as the longest in the nation amongst cities with three sports teams.
To be a Cleveland sports fan is to be committed to torture. Year after year, foolish Cleveland optimists flock to Lake Erie in hopes that this year might be the year that the curse will end.
Up until this summer's most recent nightmare, two-time MVP LeBron James embodied the city’s only hope of bringing a championship to Cuyahoga County. But even the most gifted player to ever touch a basketball saw no hope for a championship in Cleveland.
Recently, many diehard Browns fans smiled at the hiring of Mike Holmgren, citing his past success as evidence of good things to come.
But unfortunately, the Browns dropped another close game this Sunday to the Ravens. They are now winless and without any inclination of progress in the near future.
This most recent disappointment, then, begs the question:
Who will be the first Cleveland team to break the curse of Rocky Colavito?
The Cleveland Cavaliers have never won an NBA championship. In fact, the Cavaliers have only made it to the NBA Finals one time, and they were swept by the Spurs.
Yet, in a very non-Cleveland way, the Cavaliers have been one of the NBA's best teams for the last five years. Much of this dominance, of course, has been due to the play of King James.
Statistically, James accounted for more than half of the Cavaliers' offensive production. In terms of playmaking, he created much more than that. James' penetration and overall offensive prowess consumed most of the opposing defense's attention. As a result, players like Mo Williams and Delonte West were open far more than they should have been last year.
You don't lose one of the most talented players in the history of the game and get up walking. Reason says that the Cavaliers will struggle without their leader.
The Cavs' future, however, is brighter than it was in the pre-LeBron days. Although they lost Delonte West, they shook loose of the aged Shaquille O'Neal and rescued Mo Williams from retirement temptations.
The Cavs also have a very exciting group of forwards. Antawn Jamison, J.J. Hickson, and Anderson Varejao talents complement the Cavs athletic small forwards. Cavs fans hope that new head coach Byron Scott will be able to use these talents effectively.
The Cavaliers have a much longer way to go than the Browns or the Indians. Unless some serious talent is added in the next couple years, the Cavaliers will have to scratch and claw to make the playoffs.
Unfortunately, the NBA is an old boys club. Unless you are the Lakers, Spurs, or Celtics, your odds aren't very high of winning the championship. Even worse, the Cavaliers will have to go through James' Heat.
Remember what Jordan did to Ehlo and the Cavs back in the day?
Even though the Indians will not have the worst record in baseball this year, they have been arguably one of the most boring teams to watch. Their best player Shin-Soo Choo will most likely finish the season hitting below .300. The once intimidating Fausto Carmona has never returned to his 2007 19-win form.
The Indians stink.
Historically, the Cleveland Indians can be listed alongside some of the worst franchises in American history. After the Tribe lost the World Series in 1954, it took them 40 years to return to the playoffs (ever seen the movie Major League?).
Ironically, while the Indians continue to disappoint, their farm team affiliates have routinely dominated the minor competition. In 2009, the AA Akron Aeros boasted one of the best records in all of professional baseball. They have won the Eastern League Championship three out of the last seven years. Last week, the AAA Columbus Clippers beat Tacoma to take the AAA championship.
The NBA and MLB playoffs are two completely different animals. In the Major Leagues, a team can go from the bottom of the barrel to the World Series in just one year (i.e. 2003 Marlins, 2008 Tampa Bay Rays).
For this reason, a World Series title in Cleveland is much more imminent than an NBA championship.
The Indians have shown the ability to rebuild their rosters through a very talented farm system. After depleting their roster of All-Stars in the early 21st century, the Indians organization put together a 2007 squad that was one game from the World Series.
The only question to ask is who will be the next Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, or Victor Martinez to come up through the Indians farm system?
Cleveland fans hope that teams like the Clippers and the Aeroes will continue to produce studs capable of leading the Tribe to another World Series.
Why not? The Red Sox broke their curse.
The Cleveland Browns are one of professional sports' most woebegone franchises.
The Fumble, the Drive, the Meltdown...the list goes on. Season after tragic season foolish Browns fans pack those freezing lakefront seats in the same spirit as a former high school athlete who never achieved his dreams.
What might have been keeps them going, keeps them hoping.
But even so, the Browns are closer to a championship than both the Indians and the Cavaliers.
The Browns are 0-3.
Over the course of their next five games, Cleveland must face off against New England, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh. It's quite possible that the Browns could end up starting the season 0-8.
The Browns aren't very good, right now.
The Browns, very predictably, have given away their first three games of the season.
The difference, however, lies in the style of those losses.
Against the Ravens, the Browns put an extremely hobbled squad on the field. Their main weapon, Josh Cribbs, wore a medical boot to the field. Starting quarterback Jake Delhomme was sidelined with an injury.
And the Browns still had a chance to win the game.
The Browns have been playing well—they just haven't been winning.
In most cities, the win column is all that matters.
But those cities aren't Cleveland.
In Cleveland, any sign of improvement, any glimmer of hope is considered success. In Cleveland, we have to think in the long term.
The passing of the torch to Holmgren, while yet to yield results in the short-term, has already placed the Browns closer to a championship than any other Cleveland sports team.
It's not as crazy a statement as it may appear. The Browns by no means are good. They are just the least bad.
The Cleveland Browns will break the curse before the Indians or the Cavaliers.
That is as long as Joshua Cribbs doesn't take his talents to Venice Beach...or something.