Welcome to the Discover Ohio series! Every week, we'll unpack the best parts about the Buckeye State by determining Ohio's best name, history, food and more.
Best Sports City: Cleveland
This one has been in the cards for a long time, and the nomination from 12th Warrior Barfolomew took the words right out of my mouth.
Currently, The Land is home to five professional sports teams:
- Cleveland Browns
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Cleveland Indians
- Cleveland Gladiators
- Cleveland Monsters
Combined, these franchises have 12 championships, 23 conference crowns, 29 division titles and each possesses a rich history that make the city one of the best fan bases in all of its sports.
With that being said, Cleveland sports fans have had their fair share of traumatic experiences.
Art Modell's relocation. The Fumble. The Drive. The Shot. The Decision. All of these experiences left supporters in pain for a multitude of reasons, and for 52 years Cleveland did not hoist a major sports trophy and the championship confetti continued to collect dust in a storage room.
Each team has encountered their own form of torture on and off the playing field, and unfortunately, most of them took place in the most important games of the franchises' history.
The Browns experienced this agony on two occasions in back-to-back seasons. First during the 1986 AFC Championship Game where Cleveland led the Denver Broncos 20-13 in the fourth quarter. Until Broncos quarterback John Elway led his team on what would become known as "The Drive," a 98 yard march in five minutes to send the game into overtime. Denver went on to kick a field goal to seal the victory, but the teams would again meet in the same game a year later.
Down 38-31 with 1:12 remaining, quarterback Bernie Kosar and the Browns offense inside the five yard line when he handed the ball off running back Earnest Byner. As he was about to score and tie the game, Byner was stripped at the one yard line by Broncos defensive back Jeremiah Castille and fumbled. Denver recovered the ball, and after taking an intentional safety went on to their second-straight Super Bowl while Cleveland was again left behind.
For the Indians, that moment came in 1997 when the Tribe held a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning and sent closer Jose Mesa to the mound for the win. Three outs away from a World Series crown Mesa blew the save opportunity, and after a Tony Fernandez error in the bottom of the 11th, the Florida Marlins would go on to win the title on a walk-off single by Craig Counsel.
These moments have haunted Cleveland for decades, but finally in 2016, the championship drought ended with the Cavaliers' dramatic 3-1 comeback in the NBA Finals, including a Game 7 that featured two moments that will never be forgotten: The Block and The Shot (2.0).
In the same year the Monsters defeated the Hershey Bears to become AHL champions, the first time a Cleveland hockey team had won the Calder Cup since 1964. Additionally, the Indians held a 3-1 lead in the World Series, but lost an eventual Game 7 to the Chicago Cubs to end another city's title dry spell.
The Gladiators are a successful franchise and the Browns, well, they're the Browns, and will figure out how to play football someday soon (maybe). Despite their troubled past, the everlasting love Cleveland has and always will possess for their teams is something I have come to learn and respect over time.
This loyalty, along with the recent success of a couple of the franchises, is what has made it state's best sports city. So sit back, enjoy the dumpster fire that is the Browns, the up-and-coming Indians chase titles for seasons to come and the King's reign in Northeastern Ohio. Some of it may be heading out West as soon as the summer of 2018.
Other Nominees for Best Sports City
This installment of Discover Ohio is my final piece of my internship at Eleven Warriors. I have been a member of this amazing team since early January, and have enjoyed every moment of it. This is an extremely hard-working group of people, and I am honored to have been a part of it.
I also want to thank all you readers out there. I truly appreciate that you took the time to read my content, and I hope that you all will continue to view the work done at Eleven Warriors dot com.
Thank you, and for one final time, Go Bucks!