In sports, many fans are obsessed about streaks. Hitting streaks in baseball, touchdown streaks in football, scoring streaks in basketball, or winning streaks in just about any sport. For all of the obsession over these positive streaks, many players and teams have infamous streaks that they would like to rid themselves of. However, one streak goes beyond just a single player or team – no professional sports team in Cleveland, Ohio has won a championship in fifty years, with the Browns being the last team to do so by winning an NFL Championship (it wasn’t even called the Super B owl yet!) in 1964.
However, I truly believe that is going to change very soon.
I attended two Cleveland sporting events recently and saw firsthand how the culture around Cleveland sports is changing. On October 12th, the
beloved Browns faced off against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers, and on October 30th, the Cavaliers opened their most anticipated season ever against the New York Knicks.
I’ll start with the Browns game. Ever since Ben Roethlisberger became the Steelers’ starting quarterback, the Browns had struggled mightily against them, losing eighteen out of nineteen matchups. However, this game felt different coming in. The Browns were playing very well, and Steelers were not. In one of the most anticipated games in recent Cleveland history, the Browns drubbed the Steelers, 31-10. The atmosphere was incredible, and it was truly the best atmosphere of any sporting event I’ve ever attended…
…until the Cavaliers opened their season against the New York Knicks. As everyone knows by now, LeBron James returned to Cleveland this
offseason, and the Cavs assembled a championship-caliber roster around him. The Cavs instantly went from having the number one overall pick in the draft three out of four years to potentially having the number one team in the league.
Fans in Cleveland made that game incredible to attend. LeBron was overcome with emotion in his homecoming, and unfortunately, it affected his play on the court. He had one of his worst games in his entire professional career, and the Cavaliers lost to the Knicks, 95-90. However, the night was not ruined. Despite the loss, Cleveland fans were still buzzing over their team and their prospects for the season.
With the Browns doing well and the Cavs having a star-studded roster, Cleveland sports are back. However, in Cleveland, it goes a level deeper than just sports – this represents a Renaissance for the entire city.
With this Renaissance comes incredible passion from the fans. Players for both the Browns and Cavs – particularly locally raised players, such as Donte Whitner and Brian Hoyer for the Browns, and of course LeBron James for the Cavs – truly fed off of this passion from the fans and were very emotional in these games. Despite the fact that this is their profession and job, the passion these players played with would suggest otherwise.
Despite their obvious love for the game, John Huizinga would not think of these games as “play” because of their professionalism. In Huizinga’s book Homo Ludens, he laid forth his idea of play. One of his qualifiers was that play must be disinterested, which would disqualify professional sports due to the money they make playing the game.
However, one key point that was discussed in a Political Science 101 lecture was how to change a few points of Huizinga’s definition. We found that play does not necessarily have to be disinterested, as long as the players involved started playing out of fun and love for the game. Another key point we agreed upon was that play is not entirely separate from life. In this case, Cleveland sports fans obviously view their sports teams as far more than just a bunch of guys playing football or basketball. Cleveland sports is a very important part of life to many fans, and the players in the Browns and Cavs games each showed this.
Overall, attending the Browns game against the Steelers and the Cavs opening game against the Knicks were very eye-opening for me. I always knew how important sports were for Cleveland and the fans, but the atmosphere at each of these games showed me how it really is “More Than a Game” for these fans. With the passion of the players and fans, it was more than just a job for the payers – it represented the Renaissance of the entire city of Cleveland.