Everyone needs a rival.
Muhammad Ali needed Joe Frazier. Thomas Jefferson needed Alexander Hamilton. Howard Hughes needed germs.
In Cleveland, rivals are hard to find. That's what happens when you lose. Even sure-fire historic hatred dies out eventually if competition is compromised.
Today, the Browns host the Steelers, in a game that only Cleveland fans still regard as anything but a normal, run of the mill mismatch.
Oh, how it used to be. My father hates the Steelers, to the point where he even cheered for the Ravens in a 2001 playoff game. At the time I didn't understand it, because the Ravens were the remnants of our team, the one that abandoned us.
But the memories for my dad and those from his generation run deep. Memories of Terry Bradshaw getting thrown on his head by a player called "Turkey." Memories of a losing streak in Pittsburgh that lasted for 16 seasons. Memories of four Steelers' Super Bowl titles in the 1970s while the Browns trudged along with the likes of Mike Phipps at quarterback.
For me, the pure hatred of the Steelers arrived relatively recently. I became a Browns fan during a period when Cleveland won seven straight games over Pittsburgh and the Steelers were good, but not great.
Then the Browns left town, returning just in time for the 2000s, a decade where the Steelers won two Super Bowls, and did it with a quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who I watched torch my college (Bowling Green) when he was at Miami University.
After a few years of watching Hines Ward hit players after the whistle, James Harrison seemingly try to separate QBs' heads from their bodies, and the Steelers continually chuckling on the sidelines in the fourth quarter of games on the lakefront, it's safe to say I hate the Steelers.
And since the Browns rarely win (2-8 is 2-8, no matter how close the losses are), I extract joy from Sundays by adopting two favorite teams - the Browns and whomever plays Pittsburgh.
But no matter how much we Browns fans hate the Steelers, the rivalry is all but dead. To believe that, all one had to do was watch the Ravens-Steelers game last Sunday night. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, who were on the call, heaped praise upon the physical nature of the games between the two teams, hyping the classic confrontations that have occurred between them.
Yeah, and that rivalry goes all the way back to 1996.
Fans can complain about the Browns' move to Baltimore, how it ruined things. But the "new" Browns have been around since 1999. That's plenty of time to build a competitive football team.
But it hasn't happened. And it will be up to new owner Jimmy Haslam (ironically, a former minority owner of the Steelers) to make the Browns relevant, and perhaps, rebuild the rivalry with Pittsburgh.
But that will take time.
And frankly, I'm tired of waiting.
I don't care that the Browns are 2-8. I don't care that beating the Steelers will come with plenty of built in excuses for Pittsburgh (Roethlisberger and Troy Palamalu aren't expected to play; Charlie Batch is being brought back from 1998 to start at QB for the Steelers). As a fan, I just want a win.
It may not save the Browns season (that went by the wayside in September) or coach Pat Shurmur's job (at least I hope it won't).
But it could cripple Pittsburgh's postseason hopes.
And after the last 14 years, I'll take what I can get.