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Only In Cleveland
September 17, 2011 - Al Stephenson
It really isn't easy being a Cleveland sports fan. Want examples? Well, fasten your seatbelt and I will give you a few.
After overachieving at the start of the season, the Indians have come crashing to earth. I was suspicious of that early success. They caught some teams by surprise that first month and gave us the belief that they were going to be contenders. I even had a friend suggest in early June that if they played 500 ball for the rest of the season that they would be in the thick of things. Well that was apparently too lofty of a goal and now they are officially out of it.
This really shouldn't come as a surprise. The Tribe sent Triple A players out to battle against major league competition. That should eventually lead to losses and it did. Maybe we should be happy with the progress the young players made and chalk up some of the teams problems to that youth and of course, injuries. One thing that sticks out in my mind though is the strikeouts. Particularly the called third strikes when pitches were thrown down the middle of the plate. That has to change guys. I'll be back rooting and hoping again next season. That's what loyal fans do.
Then there is the Cleveland Cavaliers. There is a distinct prospect that there will be no NBA season this time around. No basketball. No watching the post LeBron Cavs setting losing streak records. Perhaps losing the 2011-12 NBA season would not be the worst thing to happen to the Cleveland sports fan!
As the Indians faded, the Browns took the field. The NFL managed to figure out how to divide up all that money and now we have the Browns to root for. A win at home against a Bengal team that some predicted to go 0-16 would put us in a good mood, right?
Well you saw the game. It was not just the loss itself, but how it happened that made you wonder if being a Cleveland fan was akin to being cursed. I have no real problem with losing to a Bengal team that got better by subtraction. No T.O. or Chad 85. Carson Palmer rode off into the sunset rather than play another year for the "worst" franchise in pro sports. The Bengals are still a professional sports team and therefore you have to play to beat them.
The Browns just couldn't do that. After falling behind early, the good guys scored 17 unanswered points to take a four point lead. It stayed that way until some five minutes remained in the game. Then, in a scene that could only happen to a Cleveland team, the Browns were slow to leave the huddle. The Bengals snapped the ball and 11 defenders scrambled to cover a play that started without their approval. Brad Gradkowski threw a TD pass to a wide open (that's what happens when the defense does not anticiapte that the offense will not wait for them to get set before trying to run a play) A.J. Green for the go ahead touch.
How can that happen? How could a coach not see what was happening and call timeout? It rankled me to no end and I hate being rankled that far!
I thought that would be the worst play I would see all season, but the Browns tried to top it just a few minutes later. Not being able to move the ball, the Browns punted and hoped to stop the Bengals to get one last chance. With a third down and eight with just over a minute remaining, the Browns needed a stop to get one last chance. The Bengals predictably ran Cedric Benson off tackle and it was like the parting of the seas. The man ran untouched - UNTOUCHED - for nearly forty yards and the clinching touchdown. Again I simply ask, HOW CAN THAT HAPPEN?
Well it's on to Indianapolis to play a team that is staggering not only from the loss of it's All World QB, but from a shellacking from the Houston Texans last week. Easy pickings for the Browns? Yea, right. Nothing will come easy for this Cleveland squad and if they have a couple of plays each week like they did against the Bengals... Well hold on tight Browns fans, you will be in for a long miserable ride.
The view from my seat suggests that we Cleveland fans will be back in front of the tube tommorrow. Hope springs eternal for us. We never give up on our team. We can deal with losing (we've had plenty of practice), but please, PLEASE, give us reason to be proud of the effort.
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