Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Every time I drink the Kool-Aid, something bad happens

There is always a disconnect when you write for a weekly newspaper. For instance I am writing this on Wednesday an entire week before you are getting little black smudge marks on your fingers reading it.

In fact, I will already be back from my eagerly anticipated vacation. So I have spent most of what is normally down time, preparing as much of this issue as possible before I leave. Some of it, for instance the View from Row Z column, I have to leave on faith that it will turn out all right.

But what I am most nervous about is some catastrophic event altering the next statement I make: I don't know if there has ever been a more hope-filled time to be a Cleveland sports fan.

I said it and maybe even worse I wrote it.

LeBron James is already the best basketball player in the universe. Maybe Kobe Bryant is a better scorer, but no one is a more complete player than James.

And the team is starting to really respond to his leadership. Damon Jones is knocking down threes. Flip Murray is a spark in tight games. Larry Hughes is getting healthy and Z seems to be ok.

Maybe it is asking too much for the team to defeat Pistons this year. But James is only 21 years old and soon, very soon , he will take this team to the NBA finals.

Even in the days of Price, Daugherty and Nance – did we really believe they could win a title? Never has there been a more hopeful time to be a Cavalier fan.

Dan Gilbert appears willing to pay whatever it costs to make this team a winner. He has moved jobs from his company here, he is building a state-of-the-art practice facility and he has stayed out of Danny Ferry and Mike Brown's way. Just like he promised he would.

The Indians are built to contend for years to come as well. The core group is signed to stay together for at least a few years. The Indians have a brilliant GM in Mark Shapiro who has developed and stuck with an intelligent plan within his financial constraints. He has hired a manager who the players believe in and take their cue from. The Tribe will be a joy to watch, that is if SPO and its satellite and cable partners get their act together.

I know the best time to be a Browns fan is often April. It is always a time of hope when the draft picks are bound to superstars before finding some way to go bust.

But maybe this time, the off-season won't be full of fool's gold. Phil Savage built his reputation on scouting and this year's draft hasn't even taken place. But you have to love how he has gone about rebuilding this football team. The team returned in 1999, but this is the first time the team has invested in an offensive line. He has also upgraded the defensive line and picked up team leaders in Super Bowl winners Willie McGinest and Joe Jurevicus, secured the future of the team's first 1,000 back in 20 years and as bonus found players who know what it means to be a Cleveland Browns fan.

The hope seems real. It is an exciting time to be following three teams who have not won a championship in my lifetime. I can't remember a time when all three teams were good at the same time.

This town often has more negative fans than postive ones. Every week you see a letter to one of the daily papers saying “Don’t believe, they will break your heart.” But is that what being a fan is? You don’t blindly follow, but you do allow yourself to dream.

But now I am headed to Wisconsin to visit my nieces. The last time I was there, you may recall from my column, the Browns lost 41-0 to Pittspuke. The visit before was in August and while I was gone the Tribe was swept at home by Tampa Bay. So I am nervous.

And at the very moment I finished that above sentence, LeBron limped off the court to get an X-ray with the team down 26 points.

And I hadn’t even left the state yet.

It ain’t easy being sports fan of faith in Cleveland. At a certain point, you wonder if there isn’t some strange Ghostbusters II karma we bring on ourselves?

LeBron’s ankle will heal. But will our psyche?