Cleveland Fans: What's It Going to Take to Get Them Out of the Sports Doghouse?

John StebbinsCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2011

As a native Clevelander who enjoys sports, I root for my city's sports teams: the Browns, Cavs and Indians.

Growing up wasn't easy. My first sports memory was the Kardiac Kids' playoff loss to the Raiders on the infamous "Red Right 88" interception that thwarted a possible last-minute winning drive to win the game.

With my fellow fans, I grew up with Ted Stepien, who made Donald Sterling look like Jerry Reinsdorf. We dealt with Art Modell.

The Drive and Fumble. The Shot. Jose Mesa. The Move. In 2004, we got named by ESPN as the "Most Tortured Fanbase in America." And the stats back it up. No championships since 1964.

Since then, it's only gotten worse.

In 2007, the Indians were a game away from a return to the World Series. Now, they're a major league affiliate for big-market clubs. The Browns, under the absentee ownership of Al and Randy Lerner, have given us two winning seasons and a single trip to the playoffs since 1999.

And I'll just mention LeBron James. Clevelanders, you can just groan.

But non-Clevelanders won't. They won't just gloat. They party sadistically at our suffering. Just like Steeler fans do when Ben Roethlisberger shows up for his nearly-annual pre-playoff warmup at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Right now, there is no defense for any of Cleveland's professional sports teams. All three seem rudderless and unable to fix any of their problems.

I can ask: "What did we do to deserve this?" Almost immediately, I'll get answers saying "we" didn't give our star basketball player a proper supporting cast. "We" can't draft a running back or wide receiver to save our lives. "We" can't sign free agents because "we" don't spend enough.

That is why, according to many Cleveland-bashing sports fans, "we" suck. It's why we don't deserve a pro sports championship.


"We" are not Danny Ferry not pulling the trigger to acquire Amare Stoudemire. "We" are not Randy Lerner, who is a bigger fan of "futbol" than football. "We" are not Larry Dolan, hoping to get lucky with low-budget retreads and unproven youth.

We. Are. Fans.

We're not the front office, and we're certainly not going to run on the field or court. We are just as passive as you are.

As I write this, ESPN shows a tweet from a former Cav saying that "karma's a b***" and we're getting what we deserve.

Okay, fine. I disagree, but for argument's sake, let's say that's correct, and "we" deserve all this. What do we do to end this karma? Thank all our teams for their disappointment? While other cities hold victory parades, just be happy with second, third or eighth place?


"We" get ridiculed, mocked and slandered on every page that contains a story containing the word "Cleveland." What are we supposed to do? Hate ourselves? Hate our teams? We try defending our teams and we get mocked further for things we have no control over.

Just like you, we want to root for our teams. We want our teams to win. So does every other team, but when we Cleveland fans do it, we get told we don't deserve to win. Not because our teams suck like they do, but because we're Cleveland.


Do the Royals deserve success? Or should they be destined to suck because—well, they're Kansas City? What about the Pirates? Pittsburgh's the "City of Champions" but they suck at baseball, I guess. They never deserved Barry Bonds. Enjoy your losing summers!

Yes, that sounds ridiculous... unless you're saying it about Cleveland.

It's like there's an unwritten rule that we're supposed to enjoy losing; that we're not allowed to defend fandoms and simply root for our struggling teams. It's not enough to beat Cleveland's teams; you now have to humiliate the fans before your work is done.

In a way, being a Cleveland fan is defined by losing, "We" point to many of our tortuous past and spin it as a badges of honor that we are the most die-hard of any fanbase. But basically, it's all we got. When Alex Rodriguez commented that the Yankees fans had waited "so long for a World Series title," we laughed.

Nine years! You talk about patience? We've had to be more patient than you'd ever be willing to deal with.

But seriously, what other choice do we have? It's not like we've got a long victorious tradition to uphold. We'd rather would have memories of winning a championship; of spending an offseason with the entire league looking up at us instead of wondering what needs to be done to take that "next step."

So I ask: Since we cannot hop on to the field and we cannot literally sign/hire anyone—and therefore have a direct impact on the actual game play itself—what's it going to take to get Cleveland fans some respect for once?