Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A year that can never be taken from Cleveland

FILE - In this June 19, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates, including Kevin Love, third from left, after they won Game 7 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) NY354

FILE - In this June 19, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, center, celebrates with teammates, including Kevin Love, third from left, after they won Game 7 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) NY354

Any recap of a year in sports demands a great lede, such as: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

But no. We're talking Cleveland sports.

And this year the sun shined almost all the time. The basketball team was tough, the baseball team was smart, and the football team was … the Browns.

You may have heard that the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals to give the city its first major sports championship since 1964. (If not, let me ask: How was Pluto?) It was sweet to watch a team that had dismissed its coach at midseason and been left for dead in the finals overpower Wardell Stephen Curry II and the All-Galaxy Warriors. (No need to mention Cleveland has treated the Californians as ginger-haired members of the blended family ever since.)

Sweeter still was hearing chants of "Real MVP!" rain down in Quicken Loans Arena every time LeBron James touched the basketball. And that was just June.

As a second course, the Indians' run to the World Series wasn't ramen noodles. The depleted Cleveland Indians' season — beset by key injuries and held together with baling wire, spearmint gum and manager Terry Francona's guile — was carried by a bullpen deeper than the Mariana Trench. The Fall Classic vs. the Chicago Cubs didn't disappoint.

Forget that at times the Fox broadcasters sounded as if they were reading from Kyle Schwarber's Tinder profile. Never mind that Cubs reliever Aroldis Chapman was sputtering in the late innings of Game 7 like the cyborg in Terminator 3. Forget even that it took divine intervention in the form of a 17-minute rain delay to keep Chicago from making America Goat Again. The Tribe fell short. And in so doing prevented effigies of manager Joe Maddon from being hoisted over Wrigley Field instead of a W flag. You're welcome, Chicago.

Any recap of the Cleveland year in sports requires a nod to our largely professional football team. Suffice to say that the Cleveland Browns are the only NFL franchise rumored to offer grocery bags with eye holes as official team shop headgear. There is, we are told, a method to the on-field madness, the pot of gold at the end of this awful rainbow being a Santa's sack of high draft picks. But watching the Browns' front office evaluate talent is not unlike watching your drunken uncle fire up his Christmas gift chain saw. Unease is definitely warranted. Remember, this is a team that has been rebuilding since the Visigoths took Rome and the points.

Civic types here have been floating the notion that our sports success means that, after years of decline, we have finally arrived — championship rings the size of soup tureens being the visible proof of our new place in the leisure-industrial complex. Nonsense. For one thing, it was possible to study a Picasso and spy an Iron Chef in the same evening here long before J.R. Smith ever rode a parade float. And for another, Cleveland — despite efforts to sell bobbleheads and woo conventioneers — remains a city with a chip on its shoulder.

We are still a place where old men gather under the onion domes of the Russian Orthodox churches in the Tremont neighborhood and shake fists at the holes in the sky where their steel mills used to be, while swells in martini bars toast the death of smokestack industry.

We are still a city where you can spend the house note on dinner at Red the Steakhouse, and where working folks line up before dawn at Slyman's restaurant for the corned beef they must serve the righteous in the Great Hereafter. Wee morning drive radio personages mine the city's history of garish sports gaffes (Hue Jackson's clock management!), but no one really expects anything worth remembering from Steve-on-a-car-phone.

And Cleveland fans still ease their suffering with jokes. (How does a Browns fan count to 10? 0-1, 0-2, 0-3 …

But there is a new buoyancy about town. It is a buoyancy that started between the lines in the ballparks and the basketball arena and has spilled out, largely undiminished, into some of the less scenic corners of the city. You can't stop hope here. You can't even contain it.

A new year is here, and in town squares everywhere the hardy braved the cold to ring it in. There's a burg along the Lake Erie shore about an hour from Cleveland where they forgo a ball drop and lower a 600-pound fiberglass walleye instead. Watching a game fish descend out of the dark might not be for everyone, but its unhurried progress allows time to reflect on the past, and the year ahead — like, what Edwin Encarnacion's 40 dingers will mean in the middle of the Indians' batting order. The wind off the lake will seem gentle. And in 2017 the sun will shine all the time.

A year that can never be taken from Cleveland 01/01/17 [Last modified: Saturday, December 31, 2016 9:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  2. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  3. Rays journal: Cesar Puello, who has one major-league game, claimed off waivers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking to add punch to their right-handed lineup, the Rays claimed OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from the Angels.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.

  5. Bucs journal: Simeon Rice gives master class on sacks to defensive ends


    TAMPA — As the Bucs seek their first 10-sack season from a player since Simeon Rice in 2005, who better to help that cause than Rice himself?

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great Simeon Rice works with defensive end Noah Spence (57) after practice at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.