By In Cleveland

Cleveland and Believeland

From NBC SportsWorld:

Seeing “Believeland” — the new documentary about Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought — was an emotional experience. So I wrote a bit about it.

But the better part was that I chatted with fellow Clevelander Scott Raab about the agony of Cleveland losing, about the building hope surrounding this year’s Cavaliers, about where to get the best corned-beef sandwich in Cleveland, about the coolness of Paul Newman and about the time Scott went to get tattoos with Dennis Rodman. We covered a lot of ground.

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20 Responses to Cleveland and Believeland

  1. Mike says:

    There’s only two 30-for-30’s that I have started watching and not finished. One was about a college football coach who had some sort of crazy ideology. And the other was Believeland.

    Both seem sort of obvious, inevitable things to happen if you have enough time and enough college football programs or professional sports cities.

    When I watch a 30-for-30, I want to learn about events that impacted the country or the world. I want to learn about human nature and how sports teaches us something about it. Believeland didn’t offer either of these things.

  2. Jack Bartram says:

    Byner got his ring, as a Redskins’ player, not a Browns’, but he still got his ring in ’91-’92 on one of the most offensive dominant teams in League history. He even scored a Super Bowl TD.

    That year, Mark Rypien pulled a Brady Anderson, or maybe more appropriately, in 1996 Brady Anderson pulled a Mark Rypien, chemically-assisted or not. Rypien was a mediocre QB, decent backup that probably never should have been an NFL starter, certainly not a SB champion’s starter. Normally, you might think Trent Dilfer, maybe. And it is true that that Redskins’ team had a phenomenal defense. But also in the 1991-92 season, Mark Rypien had one of the best QB seasons of that era or any before it (you simply can not compare the QB numbers of any other era to this one). One of the main reasons for that was that Rypien could throw an outstanding long ball, and among the things Monk, Clark and Sanders were good at was catching bombs. In addition, Ryp made good decisions, and Monk was almost always there as a safety valve to move the chains. But like Brady Anderson, who’s 50 HRs came and then were gone in a flash and he was back to mid-teens Brady, Ryp was mediocre, then had one amazing season, then disappeared into obscurity again.

    I do not think, as a city, that Washington’s futility can match Cleveland’s. The Redskins have won three titles, the last coming 24+ years ago. The Bullets/Wizards have won a title and have been to 4 finals. In fact, it is arguable that they were the most successful team of the 70s, as the only team to make it to 4 finals in the decade. They have not won in 38 years, though. Since DC did not have a baseball team of note for most of my childhood, I grew up an Orioles’ fan (am now and have been since they arrived a Nats fan, thanks mostly to the Angelos contagion). And I have seen them make it to a few Series and win two. I am old enough to have seen most of these. So, they have had more success, and more recent success, than Cleveland. But…

    You’ll notice I mentioned Washington’s basketball and football team, and the area’s baseball team for several decades. But I did not mention the hockey team. The Capitals have a post-season history of misery to rival not JUST any Cleveland team, but any team in organized sports. It’s not JUST the fact that, in 42 years since their founding they have not won a Stanley Cup, and have only been to the Finals once. I understand that it has been that long since Cleveland was in an NFL title game. And I understand the Browns have a history of heartache and heartbreak. And I know that, at least the Caps are a perennial playoff team. In a way, that makes it worse because despite usually having one of the ten best teams in the NHL, they have ONE Finals appearance and no Cups. But if you look at the WAY so many of their seasons have ended, the misery quotient gets ramped up exponentially.

    How many two game leads? 2-0, 3-1? Like 20% of the time it has ever happened in the NHL, it has happened to the Caps. They are 1/30 teams and they have 1/5 2 game lead collapses. And they are still younger than half the teams. And then there are the quadruple-overtime game 7 losses. Two of them. Twice, they have lost two games when losing because twice, in game 7s, they have played SIX 20 minute periods and lost the SERIES in the 7th. So, yes Cleveland has DC beat overall, but DC I think has the single biggest heartbreaker of both citys.

    • invitro says:

      “But like Brady Anderson, who’s 50 HRs came and then were gone in a flash and he was back to mid-teens Brady, Ryp was mediocre, then had one amazing season, then disappeared into obscurity again.” — Wow. Anderson was not mediocre either before or after his 50 HR season in 1996. He had 6.9 WAR that season, but also had seasons of 5.9 (in 1999), 5.2 (1992), 3.7 (1997), 3.0 (1995), etc. He’s #63 on the JAWS list of CF’s. He’s in the all-time Orioles top ten in numerous categories. He’s not a Hall of Famer, but he’s a solid All-Star who did make the All-Star team two years other than 1996. Calling Brady mediocre or obscure is just embarrassing for you.

      • Jack Bartram says:

        *LOL* No, I am hardly embarrassed. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in my post, but I meant Rypien’s acumen as a QB came and went, much like Anderson’s power. Not that Anderson was a mediocre player, before or after, but that he was only a power hitter for one season, like Rypien was only a Hall-of-Fame-level QB for one season. Even with those 50 home runs, Anderson only averaged around 15 a season. But I’d say for nearly a decade Anderson was one of the top half-dozen leadoff men in baseball every year. Though I am not sure three all-star appearances in 14 years is a ‘solid all-star’, it’s damn sure a solid ball player AND he probably deserved another appearance or two. I am not a PED conspiracy nut on Anderson, even though his 50 was one of the big anomalies of sports. I think a line-drive, lead-off hitter decided for a season to try to drive the ball, and that was the result. Why didn’t he keep doing it? I don’t know.

        • professorbohn says:

          You’re wrong about Rypien too. He was not a backup QB prior to 1991. He was the team’s starter in 1989 and 1990. He threw for more yards in 1989 than 1991, in fact. He had a career year in 1991, but he’s been very good in 1989 and 1990 when healthy

    • Kuz says:

      No body cares about the Caps outside of the District area. A complete non-story.

    • Nick says:

      You forget Washington has a soccer team who for several years was quite good (and still may be, if only I could remember their name. .)

    • Brent says:

      My memory of Mark Rypien that year he and his team won the Super Bowl was that he was hit less than 10 times all year. Lots of QBs look really good when they stand up in the pocket all day and not be touched. Washington’s O-Line made a good QB great that year.

  3. Reagan says:

    About the 1987 (Jan 1988) AFC Championship Game

    “There was still a minute left. Elway would have gotten the ball and driven the Broncos to the game-winning field goal. This is not a mere possibility. It’s not even a probability. It’s an absolute certainty, and every Cleveland fan knows it’s true.”

    Joe, I think you’re just wrong on this count. Cleveland had done a decent job of stopping Elway and the Denver offense in the second. At least decent enough to turn a 21-3 halftime deficit into a 38-31 situation with a minute to go. Denver scored two touchdowns in the second half – one of those being a fluke 80 yard catch and run by Mark Jackson. Until the Denver drive that turned a 31-31 tie into the 38-31 game, that one play was their only meaningful offense of the half (and their final TD drive might have been their only solid drive since the first quarter). Put it this way: Even with Byner’s fumble costing them a touchdown, Cleveland outscored Denver 28-17 in the second half. If Byner scores, it’s a 35-17 differential. There was one unstoppable offense in the second half, and it wasn’t Denver’s.

    So, sure Denver gets the ball tied 38-38 with a minute to go if Cleveland scores. And, yes, there is a decent chance they can score. But I’d put those odds at 60/40. 70/30 at worst.

    (Side note: Byner was great in the second half but so was Kosar. I can’t remember his second half passing stats anymore, but they were off the charts. Comparable to Drew Brees in the second half of his Super Bowl win, only with a lower completion percentage and a much higher yards per completion.)

    As for why the Browns lost, it wasn’t because of Earnest Byner. He just had the distinction of being the last guy to make a mistake. The Browns lost because they were characters in a Greek tragedy and didn’t know it. No matter how hard they fought, or how much they tried, or how good they were, they were destined to lose. Cleveland had the worst possible luck in the first half (I mean, how often does a pass hit a wide receiver in the hands and end up intercepted by a defensive lineman?), and yet they fought to within an eyelash of a 38-38 tie with a minute to go. And then the fates intervened to rip it out of their hands.

    No, I don’t actually believe that. But that game was just tragic.

    Hey, anybody remember that Twilight Zone episode where the three pilots somehow survive an impossible situation during a test flight of an experimental plane only to have the universe course-correct and remove them from existence? The NFL stole that plot.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I do remember that Twilight Zone episode, but, as I recall, the universe removed the pilots not just from present existence but from the remembrance of humans. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, Byner’s fumble has not been removed from people remembrance of having happened.

  4. KHAZAD says:

    I don’t think there is any historical “goat” who had the kind of performance Byner did. I have always thought it was unfair. Besides that game, he had 150+ yards and 2 TDs in their first playoff game that year, and a total of over 1200 with 8TDs in his post season career.

  5. Nick S. says:

    If we’re looking for new names for the Cleveland Baseball Club, how about the “Cleveland Rocks”?

  6. Marc Schneider says:

    One of the reasons, I think, that people talk about Cleveland fans’ suffering is because it’s Cleveland. The city, like most US industrial cities, has gone through rough times in the last 50 years. These cities develop a close bond with their teams, in part, symbolically for the city as a whole. Same with Buffalo. Other cities/teams have had droughts but they don’t seem to reflect on the city itself. (Detroit, obviously, had had an equally or worse time than Cleveland but the teams-other than the Lions-have had more success.) This is not a knock on the cities themselves; they might well be fine places to live. But the Cleveland story resonates because it seems to implicate more than just sports, at least in my opinion. Plus, Cleveland got screwed over by Modell, who took a beloved team away because he wasn’t able to extort a stadium out of the city that didn’t need to spend money on a rich guy’s toy. (Eventually, the NFL was able to extort a stadium; it’s good at that.) Then add LeBron leaving a rustbelt city for Miami. If he had left New York to go to Miami, who would have cared?

    • Swissvale says:

      Wow, I watched the 30 for 30 but none of those issues you point out were covered for the whole 90 minutes. Great insight, especially that part about Modell and LeBron. I’ll bet if the producers knew the “real story”, as you spell it out, the documentary would have been much different. Good job.

  7. Jay says:

    For my money, the problem with the documentary is that they didn’t interview Posnanski. Or Drew Carey for that matter…

  8. Andy says:

    I’m looking forward to the Phi Slama Jama episode.

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