Cleveland did a lot of losing before LeBron

by Gary Shelton on June 20, 2016 · 0 comments

in general

Monday, 6 a.m.

I love Cleveland.

After all, it's a great place to be stuck in an elevator.

It was January of 1987, and history was about to be made outside. But for the moment, none of us could figure out how long the elevator was going to be stuck. It was cold, and it was cramped, and the air smelled like other people had breathed it already. Worse, a couple of the writers were starting to freak out. Have you ever tried to be calm in a stuck elevator when other people are having meltdowns?

To us, this was the mistake by the lake. How can an elevator break down in the middle of a crowded stadium? Didn't the engineers plan on

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it going all the way down? All we could do was hope someone would set fire to the lake so we could stay warm.

Oh, eventually, the elevator jerked to life, and we made it to the ground floor, when where walked out...into a rain of dog biscuits.

They were everywhere -- hard, stinging dog biscuits -- and they fell harder as John Elway brought the Broncos downfield. The sidelines were covered with plywood planks to cover the ice, as I remember. And the Browns players kept back peddling. Elway was about to break their heart.

In Cleveland, they called this The Drive, and it was even worse than Percy Sledge (?) in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There are fans who still have patches of hair missing from the third-and-18 Elway made.

Funny. Few people remember that Elway only tied the game. The Broncos won it in overtime. Still, when a quarterback writes a key chapter in the failure of a city, it lingers.

Cleveland is one of those towns you never think about. It is a deserted outpost, the American version of Siberia. (Sort of Tampa Bay North, without the Bucs of 2002 or the Bolts of 2004). It is a forgettable wasteland, a town where they might as well not invest in scoreboards.

At least, that was the case until Sunday night, when the Cavs finally brought home a trophy. LaBron succeeded where Albert Bell could not, where Bernie Kosar could not.

The best story I've ever written that did not appear? It was when the Indians had the Miami Marlins on the ropes in 1997. The Indians led 2-1 going into the ninth inning.

Now, if you know journalists, we're always fightning against deadlines. So I started to shape a “Cleveland wins'' lead. I called a local sports bar in Cleveland and had the owner describe the scene to me. There were tears. There was yelling.

And then the Marlins came back to tie in the bottom of the ninth.

And my story died a bitter death.

There was the fumble, when Ernest Byner dropped the ball on his way into the end zone. There was Brian Sipe's interception. There was Michael Jordan's shot.

They lost the 1995 World Series when a heavy-hitting Indians' team was shut out by Tom Glavine.

Oh, for the most part, Cleveland has been lousy for most of the last 52 years.

You remember what most Bucs-Browns have been like? Ugly on ugly, that's what. Remember the Christmas eve game in 2006? It was a horrible game. The four-win Bucs beat the four-win Browns for their only road victory of the year. Whee.

The Browns are Johnny Manziel. They're Courney Brown, Trent Richardson, Tom Cousineau and Mike Junkin and all the rest.

Now, they are King James. They are Kyree Irving. They are champions.

They are winners.

They are champions.

And somewhere, that old column of mine might be worth printing, after all. Get me rewrite.

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