The Cleveland Browns won the NFL Championship in December of 1964.
50 years later, the city hasn’t since seen another professional sports title.
The Cleveland Indians last won the World Series in 1948, and the club went over 40 years without appearing in the Fall Classic. While northeast Ohio is in euphoria over LeBron James announcing that he will be returning to the team that drafted him this coming NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have never won an NBA championship. The Browns haven’t just been a laughingstock for over a decade, they also left the city for several years.
Here are the 5 best and 5 worst moments in Cleveland pro sports since 1964.
5. The Worst: The Fumble
The majority of Cleveland fans have, since that fateful 1988 contest, forgiven running back Earnest Byner for coughing up the football late in that historic AFC Championship Game. Wide receiver Webster Slaughter failed to block the man responsible for causing the fumble, and Byner had, up until that point of the contest, had a good game. Besides, there is no guarantee that the Browns would have won had Byner managed to make it into the end zone while carrying the ball.
A touchdown would have only put Cleveland in a position to tie the game.
Nevertheless, The Fumble remains one of those moments that is often cited whenever the so-called “Cleveland sports curse” comes up during a TV broadcast or in an article. Byner ultimately won his Super Bowl ring, but with the Washington Redskins and not the Browns.
4. The Worst: The Decision
That LeBron James left Cleveland and the Cavs to join the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010 was not what caused so many in northeast Ohio to become so enraged that they burned the jersey of who is the greatest player in the history of the Cavaliers.
It was how James left that didn’t sit right with fans, and the player has since realized just how much of a mistake “The Decision” was.
James has, on multiple occasions, publicly apologized for that ESPN television special. He has also made things right with Cleveland and with Cavs fans by returning home. That night, which featured James unintentionally backhanding an entire city, would have been a massive blemish on his resume had LBJ not rejoined the Cavs this summer.
3. The Worst: Game 7, 2007
The Cleveland Indians were not the best team in baseball when they made it to the World Series in 1995. That wasn’t the case two years later, however, when the Tribe faced off with the Florida Marlins. Closer Jose Mesa could not hold a lead in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, but he alone was not why the Indians went on to lose that contest.
Catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. got himself thrown out at home in the top of the ninth on a play in which Alomar never had a chance of scoring. What might have been had Brian Giles stepped up to the plate with an insurance run 90 feet from home remains yet another sign that a sports curse may truly hover over the city of Cleveland.
2. The Worst: The Drive
Fantastic single moments often occur in sports. A wide receiver catches a pass via the aid of his helmet while playing on football’s biggest stage. Shortstops make behind-the-back flips to begin double plays. Hockey goalies complete splits to make last-second saves.
The Drive is not supposed to happen. A quarterback is not supposed to lead his team 98 yards down the field in hostile territory with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. That is exactly what Denver Broncos QB John Elway did, however, breaking Cleveland hearts in the process.
1. The Worst: Browns Leave
Nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever stun and crush Cleveland fans as did the Browns leaving the city for Baltimore after the 1995 NFL season. Cleveland was on the verge of a renaissance in the 90s, with both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Jacobs Field both opening during the decade.
Then, Art Modell announced, out of nowhere, that he was taking the city’s most beloved sports franchise away from a devoted fan base.
In some ways, Cleveland has never recovered. Modell’s move set the city back decades economically speaking, and, while the Browns did return in 1999, that franchise has never had the same luster as the old Browns.
5. The Best: 2007 Cleveland Browns
The ’07 Browns started the campaign with a 34-7 loss to rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the team then traded starting quarterback Charlie Frye the following week. A funny thing happened after it appeared as if the Browns were on their way to yet another forgettable season.
The team got good. It got very good.
Derek Anderson had what was his best season as a starting NFL quarterback. Josh Cribbs made highlights on kick returns. Despite finishing at 10-6, the Browns failed to make the playoffs, but that team came out of nowhere to give fans more enjoyment than anybody could have imagined back at the start of September ’07.
4. The Best: Summer of ’95
Cleveland was the place to be in the summer of 1995. The Indians were far and away the most fun team to watch in all of Major League Baseball, winning 100 games en route to cruising to a Central Division crown. Jacobs Field rocked throughout the spring and summer months, with over 40,000 fans packing the new ballpark every time the Indians played home games.
As with everything regarding Cleveland pro sports since the conclusion of 1964, ’95 did not end well for local fans. The Indians lost the World Series to the Atlanta Braves. That loss was followed by the ultimate heartbreak of Modell telling the world that he was taking the Browns to Baltimore.
3. The Best: Kardiac Kids
The 1980 Cleveland Browns are, to this day, arguably the most beloved roster in the city’s history. Known as the “Kardiac Kids” because of the amount of games they played in what came down to the waning moments, that Browns team qualified for the postseason for the first time in eight years. Some believed that destiny was finally on the side of the franchise and of the city.
It wasn’t meant to be. Quarterback Brain Sipe threw an interception on a play known as Red Right 88 in a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, a turnover that spelled the end of Cleveland’s championship hopes. That play and its name will haunt Browns fans until the team wins a Super Bowl;
assuming that day will come at some point.
2. The Best: LeBron Comes Home
It’s a heartwarming tale. A prodigal son who also happens to be the best player in his sport tells the world that he wants to go home and attempt to bring a championship to a city that hasn’t won anything in 50 years.
James, in penning a love letter to Cleveland, did more than just return to the franchise that drafted him. The word’s top basketball player and a true sports superstar who is known around the world chose Cleveland, Ohio.
James could have gone anywhere. He could have played in New York. He could have lived in Los Angeles or Miami or Chicago.
He chose Cleveland, a city that doesn’t look so “sad-sack” anymore.
1. The Best: Browns Return
As much as LeBron’s return home has sparked the city, nothing short of a championship parade will ever match the feelings that spread throughout Cleveland when the Browns returned in 1999.
Sure, that expansion team was downright terrible, and it produced football that was largely forgettable. It didn’t matter. A franchise that never should have been able to leave in the first place was where it belonged – back on the shoreline of Lake Erie – and never again shall it leave Cleveland.