COLUMNS

A new hope

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Weekly Citizen Sports Editor Kyle Riviere.

The city of Cleveland dons many nicknames--from the "Forest City" to the "Plum City" to the "Rock and Roll Capital of the World" but to many of its sports fans, it's simply a city of broken dreams and torturous despair.

Sure, it saw years of championship glory and greatness during the good old days of Otto Graham and Jim Brown but ever since then, things have appeared to be in a tailspin.

And just when their sports teams have endured, turned things around and looked to be on their way to breaking the curse, they've gotten the rug pulled out from under them.

The Cleveland faithful have had to suffer through football lowlights like "Red Right 88," "The Drive" and "The Fumble."

They had to watch Art Modell move the team to Baltimore and change the name to the "Ravens." And if that wasn't bad enough, they were forced to painfully watch their former team win two Super Bowls.

In baseball, fans got their hopes up as the Indians went up 3-1 on the Red Sox in the 2005 Wild Card just to see Boston win three straight and boot them out of the playoffs.

In basketball, they had their hearts shattered by Michael Jordan in 1989 when he hit "The Shot" over Craig Ehlo.

The two longest losing streaks in NBA history are both co-owned by the Cavaliers at 24 and 26 games.

And of course, most recently, Cleveland had their hearts broken by native son (actually from nearby Akron) LeBron James with "The Decision."

But the times, they are a changing. After decades upon decades of blunders, failure, frustration, embarrassment and demoralization, there appears to be something new on the horizon.

It's something Cleveland fans aren't used to seeing: hope. Through all of the agony and despair, there is finally the warm and radiant glimmer of hope.

Two and a half triumphant months can't offset almost 50 years of soul-crushing futility, but it's certainly a start.

The city's torturous string of bad luck began its decline in May when the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel. The Heisman Tophy winner fell right into their laps at pick No. 22 after multiple teams decided to pass.

Will "Johnny Football" pan out? It remains to be seen, but his acquisition at least breathes new life into a franchise that had grown stale a long time ago and desperately needed a shot of adrenaline.

The Browns have been cursed when it comes to the quarterback position. Since they were brought back into the league in 1999, 20 different quarterbacks have started for them. Just last season, Cleveland featured three different starters.

They're praying that things can change with Manziel.

We don't know if his arm strength and frenetic style of play will transition to the NFL just yet but one thing is certain: he gives them hope.

The excitement he brings on each play, his ability to improvise and make something out of nothing, his flashy personality, his ability to make teammates better and his leadership qualities have Browns fans proudly looking to the future.

Speaking of the future, not long after the Browns snagged Manziel, the Cavaliers won the NBA Draft lottery again. It was their second straight year pulling that off and the third time they've done it in the last four years.

And with that No. 1 overall pick, Cleveland selected Kansas' freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins.

The Cavs' top pick last year turned out to be a disaster. Anthony Bennett averaged just four points a game in his rookie season but this time around, things feel different.

Wiggins is immensely-talented with a high ceiling. Not only was he the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft this year but just last year, he was the No. 1 high school recruit in the nation.

There has been talk that the Cavaliers may trade Wiggins for Minnesota's All-Star forward Kevin Love. Whatever happens, if the rookie stays or if Love takes his place, the city's hopes will be undoubtedly heightened either way.

But if that wasn't good enough, then came a decision by LeBron James that Cleveland fans could overwhelmingly support for a change.

In James' first big free agency decision, he broke their hearts. This time around, he emphatically won back their undying love.

When he chose Cleveland over Miami, all of those fans that destroyed his jersey when he left, they quickly destroyed their vindictive grudges against him as he came back home.

In just one day, he went from being the most hated man in Cleveland to the most beloved. Instead of giving him the middle finger, they were ready to give him the key to the city.

And now, as he makes his return, Cleveland is once again blessed with that beautiful yet elusive emotion: hope.

They remember how he resurrected a franchise that was dead in the water and turned them into a perennial playoff power. They remember how he led a team filled with role players and journeymen to the NBA Finals.

They remember how much it hurt to see him win two championships in another city. They don't have to worry about that anymore. If he wins another title, it will be under their watch.

LeBron, Johnny Football, Andrew Wiggins (for now) and Kyrie Irving have all become beacons of hope for a city where hope hasn't come so easily.