Cleveland rocks: How this city suddenly became important sports town

09/07/14 by Mike Catania

Johnny Manziel is suiting up for the Cleveland Browns today as the back up quarterback.
He may even see some playing time in the "Wildcat" but even though the cameras won't be on his as the starting guy, all eyes have been on Manziel and, more specifically, the city of Cleveland as a result.
When you think about what city is the epicenter of the professional sports world, where are you thinking of?  New York?  Los Angeles?  Maybe Chicago?  Well if you were looking for what city had drawn the most attention from professional sports fans during the summer of 2014, all three of the above would be wrong. 

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So what sports town is it that had all eyes on it more than once this summer?  Wait for it....Cleveland. 
 No really, you didn't read that wrong.  Yes, that Cleveland.  The city where there hasn't been a championship in any professional sport since 1964.  The Cleveland that hasn't seen a World Series since 1948.  Yes indeed, that same Cleveland where there has never been a basketball championship.  So how is it the city that's known in some sports circles as "The Mistake On The Lake" was the most polarizing city in professional sports this summer?  For two big reasons known in their respective sports as "The King" and "Johnny Football".
We'll get to the latter Browns' rookie in a minute.
Prior to being anointed "King James", LeBron was the "Chosen One".  From Akron, Ohio he was a high school basketball phenomenon who was going to be the man who final brought a championship back to Cleveland.  Except it didn't happen.  
LeBron left town in 2010 as part of the ill fated "Decision," and now he's back four years later.
I don't know about you, but to me it feels like this feel-good story doesn't feel all that good.  Cleveland kind of looks like the frumpy middle aged house wife who's husband left for the hot next door neighbor, but when he was tired of playing there, she took him back "home" because he told her she's the only one he ever really loved.  James only signed a 2-year contract, which would give him the opportunity to move on again as a free-agent.  Did LeBron sign back just make things right because of how bad he looked the way he left Cleveland in 2010?  For his own image did he come back so he didn't look like the bad guy anymore?   Knowing how desperate Cleveland is for any kind of relevance in professional sports, did he come back knowing this is a win-win situation for him?  By coming back "home" he knew he could make peace. 
That doesn't quite sound like the guy who's going to bring Cleveland their first NBA title.  That doesn't sound like the same guy who went to Miami guaranteeing championships.  That sounds like a guy who came back out of pity, to right his own image, and who will be guaranteeing titles again in two-years somewhere else.
And than there's "Johnny Football".  Born as Jonathan Paul Manziel, he was anointed "Johnny Football" (and yes that name is trademarked now) by the fans and students at Texas A&M.  In 2012 he burst onto the college football scene, breaking numerous NCAA records and becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.  Then he started to believe his own hype.  His college career turned for the worse, and his NFL journey wasn't much better.
Manziel fell all the way to the 22nd pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, where Cleveland was waiting to catch him.  There couldn't be a more perfect match.  Cleveland has never won a Super Bowl.  The Browns last title was in 1964, and 20 different players have started at quarterback in Cleveland since the "new" Browns returned to the NFL.  So despite any knocks against him, Cleveland was the perfect landing spot for "Johnny Football".  With their 2nd pick in the first round, Cleveland made Johnny Manziel a Brown, and the city was excited about their new signal caller and perhaps face of the franchise.  And from there reality set in.
Manziel drew the ire of Browns management with his off the field antics and partying.  Pictures of him yelling at a stack of money and with money in the bathroom surfaced on social media.  NFL broadcasters, former coaches, and current players began questioning his maturity.  But none of that would matter once he finally took the field.  Well except that when he did take the field, he wasn't that good.  And then the man known for his "money fingers" biggest moment in the preseason came from his middle finger.  Frustrated during a preseason game versus Washington, Manziel flipped the bird to the Redskins bench.  Of course that became the biggest moment of the Browns preseason.  Well that and the fact that "Johnny Football" couldn't beat out Brian Hoyer for the starting quarterback position. 
Oh Cleveland, I feel for you.  You are the city that the fans in other sports cities use to feel better about themselves.  Well Cleveland, I hope you enjoyed your summer in the spotlight, even if it wasn't exactly for any reason of accomplishment.   So much potential and so much hype thanks to "The King" and "Johnny Manziel".  Unfortunately though, once that hype wears off, reality will set in again. 

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