Recently my friend Dinesh made a joke about how I’m a silly little innocent who doesn’t understand true sports pain because I grew up rooting for the Twins.

He’s right.

My only other true, with-all-my-heart sports rooting interest before I came to Buffalo was the Minnesota Twins.  As a small child, I cheered like all kids do, without really worrying too much about wins and losses.  I loved the Twins either way.  Then, in 1987 when I became old enough to crave wins (I was twelve), the Twins won the World Series, and then they did it again in 1991.  During my formative years, I saw the Twins lose plenty, but I never saw them lose a playoff series, and I saw them win the World Series twice.  So, my friend Dinesh is right.  I was spoiled as a child, and I don’t intrinsically understand how it feels experience a lifetime of sports fandom without ever seeing a championship.

Dinesh is from Cleveland, so he DOES understand true sports pain.  As he says about cheering for Cleveland sports and the expectation that eventually his team will lose, “It’s always something.”

For one reason or another, I’ve become temporarily transfixed by the drama occurring around LeBron James today.  I know almost nothing about basketball, so my interest in this is coming for a position of complete ignorance.   Last night I became intrigued when the tone of the LeBron discussion in my Twitter feed became dramatic and scathing.   As the game wound down, Bruce Arthur wrote, “This isn’t just a capitulation by LeBron. It’s not just a surrender. This is a betrayal.” Whoa.  That’s some hardcore losing.

So, I’ve spent the morning reading about LeBron James and the history of Cleveland sports, and my final conclusion is, “Holy crap, poor Cleveland fans….they’re like Buffalonians.”

I don’t feel comfortable closely identifying with the history of losing in Buffalo.  That history is not my true experience and to over-identify with it seems a little disengenuous, but I have gotten increasingly aware of “it” in recent years (heh) and I deeply empathize.  My empathy is in part selfish, because it’s for my future self.  After all, if things stay the course, eventually I will have a genuine history with Buffalo’s losing ways.

I’m curious about how born-and-bred Buffalonians feel about Clevelanders.  I feel a combination of deep deep sympathy, and also a little bit of petty, “Ha ha!  You guys never win either.  LOSERS.”  I’ll admit, the idea of the Cavaliers delivering a championship to Cleveland made me jealous, and sort of cranky.  But now that it’s looking so grim for the Cavs, and LeBron is about to become a free agent on top of everything else….boy.  Poor, poor Cleveland.  They don’t deserve that.

So, Buffalo.  How does Cleveland make you feel?  Sad?  Petty?  Happy?  Would it make you happy to see them win, or would it make you feel lonelier here in Buffalo?

Are Cleveland fans our brothers in pain, or are they the competition?

19 Responses to “Cleveland”

  1. 1 Philip May 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I feel pity for Clevelanders because while our football team may suck for a decade straight, they never actually LEFT. Sure, the Browns are around again, but damn did they break a lot of hearts when the original Browns moved away.

    I know I’m in the minority here, but I do take solace in the Bandits. They may have had a stinker of a season this year and I know a lot of people are quick to put down indoor lax as a glorified beer league, but the undeniable truth is they’ve won 4 championships, have the best player to ever suit up, and their earliest teams have spread out into the league and forever changed the way the game is played.

  2. 2 Caroline May 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    A good friend of mine who is also a huge Sabres fan is from Cleveland and she also loves the Cavs and the Browns. While I don’t know much about basketball either, I’ve been sort of keeping an eye on the Cavs just because I know how much she loves them. But yeah…I have to say that I feel like Buffalonians and Clevanders can relate a whole lot with one another when it comes to sports (and other things, like a depleating population…)

    Misery loves company…when the Bills had that HORRIBLE, PATHETIC loss to the Browns last season, the only feeling of hope I got was that my friend was ecstatic that her lowly Browns actually won a game, although it was at my expense.

  3. 3 Anne May 12, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve only been to Cleveland once, to see my sister run a marathon two years ago. I’ve never really thought much about Cleveland as a city. It has terrible pizza (at least the place I went was terrible) but it’s a nice enough city that I check to see if concerts are coming there that aren’t coming to Buffalo.

    I don’t think much about their place as a sports city, though. I didn’t even know they had an NBA team until LeBron went there and I have no idea how I even heard about that. The Cavs have been around as long as the Sabres?! REALLY? No clue. Honestly, the NBA could fold and I’d have no idea.

  4. 4 Jessica May 12, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I don’t want Cleveland to share our misery of loserdom. I selfishly want that feeling all to ourselves here in Buffalo. I want to wallow in our non-championship-ism and embrace the title as most deprived, downtrodden, dejected fan base in the history of all sports.

    Then, just think how good it will feel when we win.

    I know it is small-minded of me, but there, I said it.

  5. 5 Dinesh May 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I am now in a a truly elite crowd. I am a Clevelander transplanted to Buffalo (I know, bad to worse). The Sabres are the only hockey team I’ve ever known or loved and the Cavs are the only basketball team I’ve ever known or loved. In the same playoff season, BOTH my teams, from different cities might lose to BOSTON!! Boston, as I’m sure all good, decent God-fearing people will agree, is the epicenter of sports-fan douche-baggery. I wish nothing but harm and destruction to all things New England right now.

  6. 6 Katebits May 12, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    So, Jessica, you’d root for Cleveland to win, but not so that they’re happy, just so that we’re the more pathetic ones?

    This Lebron thing is hardcore, you guys. He’s largely considered to be the best in the game, and he’s from Akron, so he’s a hometown hero. He’s going to be a free agent in the summer. Take all the angst and disappointment and sense of unfulfilled potential from the Drury/Briere summer and multiply it by 10000000000x, and that’s what you’ve got in Cleveland right now. And last night he choked epically. It’s a mess.

  7. 7 Katebits May 12, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    I am now in a a truly elite crowd.

    Poor Dinesh, but it’s true, you are elite. We should make you (and Jeannine and Christina) some sad, droopy crowns or something.

    After thinking about this some, I think I’m agreeing more with Jessica. If you’re going to lose, you want to be the best at losing. Unfortunately, I think Cleveland’s got Buffalo beat.

    So, maybe we should all cheer for the Cavs so that we’re the best at sucking.

    This is all very confusing.

  8. 8 Capsworth May 12, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Born-and-bred Buffalonian checking in here. Great post, Kate – you’ve identified a really interesting facet of the Buffalo sports fan psyche: the relationship with Cleveland.

    Speaking for myself, it’s a multilayered thing. I vividly remember going to Cleveland for a class trip freshman year of high school, en route to Cedar Point, and thinking to myself “Whoa… this looks JUST LIKE HOME.” There’s a lot of similarities between the two towns, and losing is just one thing we have in common. (Fun fact: One of Buffalo’s most famous residents – indeed, a former mayor of our fair town, and the nation’s 22nd and 24th President – had the last name of Cleveland. First name: Grover.)

    On the one hand, I have sympathy for the Cleveland fan. The Browns are one of only four teams that have never qualified for a Super Bowl and went through the hell of actually losing their franchise. They have no hockey team. The Indians have been awful for a long while, and they are the only team to lose the World Series after entering the bottom of the ninth inning of the seventh game with the lead (1997). That’s like Norwood-level bad. And, as you note, the Cavaliers – the only hope as of late – are on the brink of blowing it big-time and watching their savior split town. So, they lose with gusto. I can relate.

    On the other hand, to hell with Cleveland. They have a baseball team – and, what’s more, that team won World Series championships in 1920 and 1948. That’s a long time ago, but it’s also two more world championships than Buffalo has, not to mention a whole summer of pro sports that we don’t have. They have a basketball team, which we don’t. If we still had a basketball team, Sully could train all his fire on them, among other benefits. If we had a basketball team still, I’d give a damn about the NBA, which would be cool. Cleveland’s football team isn’t held hostage by a half-dead old man, so that’s a plus. And while it sucks for them that they don’t have a hockey team, they have the Blue Jackets, which is kinda like having half of a hockey team, if they need their ice fix.

    I’m a Bills season ticket holder, and I’ve often said that if (sigh… when) the Bills move, I’ll probably eventually transfer over to being a Browns fan once the scabs heal. My rationale is that I won’t have missed any glory years, no one will ever accuse me of being a bandwagon fan, and the Cleveland fan can relate to the Buffalo fan and vice versa. Those guys will understand the pain. As a side note, one of the first Bills games I ever remember watching was the AFC Divisional Playoff on January 6, 1990. The Bills were down, 34-30, as the fourth quarter wound down, but they were driving. Jim Kelly’s pass to Ronnie Harmon bounced off Harmon’s fingertips, and the Bills lost. Their opponent? Of course, the Cleveland Browns.

  9. 9 Katebits May 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Oooh, thanks for your comment Capsworth. This is a lot to chew on. The “relationship to Cleveland” (I like how you put that), is really interesting to me, not just in a “who is more pathetic?” way, but also because it creates this weird thing where I get confused about what we’re actually cheering for. Buffalonians cling so proudly to all this losing. I wonder how we’d identify ourselves if we ever actually won.

  10. 10 Mike May 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I also know the pain of Ronnie Harmon so it keeps me from being too sympathetic to Cleveland. It was the first season I was really paying attention to the Bills (also the first year in awhile they were worth paying attention to. The Bills, at least post AFL, have a pretty miserable history. The early 90s are by far the exception). Despite the declining population, Cleveland is still bigger than Buffalo and has more going for it as far as money, downtown development etc. It’s also demographically a little more whitebred (insofar as it is not like Buffalo in that 95% is some combination of 4-5 ethnic groups), wealthy and corporate focused than Buffalo. With that having been said, I’ve been to Cleveland a bunch and outside of Buffalo, Clevelanders are some of the nicest, most open and accommodating people I’ve met in any metro area, and I think their sports mindset is very similar to Buffalo. While Cleveland has always had the Indians, it could not keep it’s football team (likely neither will Buffalo, of course) and its hockey team. Cleveland’s always been more of a basketball/baseball town, which is very different from Buffalo, where I think most people live for hockey and don’t care as much about the other sports. In other words, I think Buffalo is more ok with not having a baseball or basketball team. If we ever lost the Sabres, chaos would reign for a week.

  11. 11 elise May 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    IIII even felt badly for LeBron last night in his press conference. Isn’t a dude allowed to play badly once in a while?! Having said that, go Ray Allen!!!!
    p.s. Red Sox and Patriots fans pre-2000 were pretty pathetic! My childhood. Although we did have the Celts. Okay, no sympathy needed.

  12. 12 Amy May 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Buffalo and Cleveland are cities-in-arms when it comes to sports futility. We’ve had our wide rights, our forward laterals and our no goals. They’ve had futility as well, but their team’s futility was made into a movie (Major League). Can’t say the same about Buffalo, but would we really want to see the Bills & Sabres portrayed on the big screen?

    I do know that there’s some sort of cultural exchange (as I like to call it) of college students each year. It seems like that for every Buffalonian who heads down to John Carroll, a Clevelander heads up to Buffalo to go to Canisius.

    And all this talk of Cleveland is making me want the pulled pork and sweet potato chips from Fat Fish Blue in Downtown Cleveland.

  13. 13 Capsworth May 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Unfortunately, there is a Buffalo Bills movie: “Second String,” starring Jon Voight as coach of a Bills squad that falls victim to food poisoning. Seriously.

    “A movie for the winner in all of us! When a plate of tainted oysters shelves the entire Buffalo Bills offense on the eve of the playoffs, the benchwarmers and a taxi-squad QB with a knack for trick plays must show they’ve got what it takes to go from Super Bums to the Super Bowl.”

  14. 14 pjf-usrt May 12, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Cleveland….Buffalo…the two cities do know a lot about heartbreak. But focusing on Cleveland here, a rundown.

    The Browns: No NFL title since prior to the Super Bowl era(1964, i thinks) Lost two AFC Championship games on plays that are still referred to with nicknames. “The Drive”, “The Fumble”. Heck , they lost another playoff game when they were stupid enough to throw a pass into the endzone(intercepted) in the final seconds when they were in position to win with a field goal.

    Yes, they moved away. And got their team back. How’s the saying go “Be careful what you wish for….”

    The Cavs: Been around since ’70, no titles, one trip to the Finals(2007) and have been a team with ups and downs. Greatest teams may have been from the late 80’s-early 90’s. Good enough to win big, not good enough to get past Jordan or the Pistons. Horrible ownership(Ted Stiepen) in the late 70’/early 80’s, so bad that the NBA gave the team extra high draft picks when he sold the team to new ownership. Ultimate moment of heartbreak – “The Shot” – Jordan beats Cavs in 5th and final game of 1989 first round series. Jordan and the Bulls had yet to be a title contender, and the Cavs were a killer team that year, possibly the best they ever had until recently.

    The Indians – no title since 1948 for a team in existence since 1901. And while the Bills may suck enormously for a decade, they can’t touch the futility of the Tribe from the late 50’s until the early 90s’. Look it up, there was barely so much as a season with an above .500 record in that era, forget about having a team that actually was a realistic contender for a postseason.

    And I’ll close with this. They did have an NHL franchise in the mid 70’s when the California Seals moved to Cleveland and were renamed the Barons. They sucked for their entire existence(2 seasons) and get this, they didn’t move to another location. They were merged with….wait for it Kate…..the Minnesota North Stars. It’s the last time that a major pro sports team actually closed up shop/merged to date.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to ramble….too late.:-)

  15. 15 mcguffers May 12, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    I wonder how we’d identify ourselves if we ever actually won.

    I’d be willing to find out.

    I’m not a Buffalonian and I am a Celtics fan, so my opinion probably means nothing. :) But I did go to college an hour away from Cleveland and Pittsburgh, so some of my best friends are from Cleveland and I will say we always bonded over hating the Steelers.

  16. 16 Katebits May 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Holy, TOLEDO. I think I might have to see that movie.

    Okay, okay, for SURE Clevelanders have had it tough. I guess what I’m more interested in is how that makes Buffalonians feel. What, in your saddest darkest corner of your mind are you most afraid of? Which creates the most hope? That Cleveland will win before us, or that they’ll always be better at losing? It’s a weird thing to ponder. I suppose you guys are used to it, but I just discovered Cleveland as a super lose-y sports team last night. :D

  17. 17 Katebits May 12, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Thank you to everyone who commented so thoughtfully on this post. I love these comments!

  18. 18 Browndog May 13, 2010 at 11:13 pm


    I’m grew up a Clevelander and after 30 years here in Buffalo, I consider myself native to WNY. I’ve got your perspective right here…

    I was just old enough to be aware of the ’64 Browns. I killed a TV over Brian Sipe and “red right 88”. The “Drive” and the “Fumble” will live forever as the most sickening sports moments in my memory. Art Modell is a curse word.

    I cried myself to sleep after one too many Sam McDowell outings where he couldn’t keep himself from throwing that hanging curve instead of his “heat”. I was a regular (with 3,000 of my closest friends, anyone who went to a Tribe game in the 70’s was considered a friend) at Municipal Stadium. I knew, with 100% certainty, that Jose Mesa couldn’t hold that lead in ’97. And I’m still in shock over losing two Cy Young winners in back to back years recently.

    I watched the AHL Barons at an arena where more cars were stolen than goals were scored on a game night. I drove to Richfield to watch the Crusaders (WHA). Hell, I even went to an NHL Barons game (which just about put me off hockey forever).

    I loved the Cavs for how bad they were as a start-up franchise. The ’76 Cavs were lightening in a bottle that got jobbed by the refs in Boston. The Daugherty/Price/Nance squads were classy but ran into Jordan. And now Lebron.

    In 1980, I moved to Buffalo. I gained a hockey team, and a damn good one at that. I didn’t lose my love or allegiance to the Browns…that would happen in 1996, a cursed be the house of Modell. I will die a Tribe supporter as well as a fan of the Cavs.

    I’ve lived and died on a nightly basis with the Bills and Sabres because of what they mean to the community. I understand what suffering is. Someone from Boston, New York or Chicago never has or will feel the depth of pain as someone from Buffalo or Cleveland when it comes to having validation jussssst elude us as it is always “wide right” or a “foot in the crease”.

    I bleed Blue and Gold (the Smoking Goat never existed as far as I’m concerned). I appreciate having the Bills. I wish we had big league baseball (but I did enjoy us being the Tribe’s farm club). And I know enough not to bring up the Braves in certain circles or the name of John Y. Brown.

    Both towns have tasted the bitterness that come from repeated kicks to the groin when it comes to their sports teams as well as their local economies. We are mirror cities…though I would give the nod to Buffalo in terms of “friendliness”. We have no one to champion us but ourselves. The “press” considers us backwaters…if they dain to consider us at all.

    I would like to believe that there is a kinship between the two cities fan bases. That the success of one would be be looked upon with a warm heart in the other as we have both traveled the same hard road.

    For one to mock the other would deny us our own delight in our success when it comes…and it will…won’t it?


  19. 19 Katebits May 14, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Browndog, thank you so much for your heartfelt and well expressed comment. Man, this Cleveland stuff is intense. I’m so sorry about the Cavs.

    At the end of your comment, “delight in our success when it comes…and it will…won’t it?” is really interesting to me. The hope that it success will eventually come seems to be some sort of bottom line. Personally, I think I have to believe that success will eventually come.

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