I’m not sure how well-publicized the recent conclusion of the NBA Finals might have been, but in case you missed it, the Cavaliers’ prevail over the Warriors served to end the longest major championship drought among all major American sports cities for Cleveland, where happens to reside the Cleveland Browns.
As you might imagine, the city’s championship served to energize the entire population, and that includes the athletes participating in the other major sports teams hosted by the city, the Browns being among them (in spite of what you might have heard [I kid, of course]).
One such player who drew inspiration from the Cavaliers’ championship run, which served as Cleveland’s first major sports championship since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964 a total of 52 years ago, was Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who was inspired enough to men an article that was published in Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback column.
The article, titled “LeBron and the Cavs Show the Way”, begins quite simply with, “oh my goodness”.
It’s a well-written first-person account of what the basketball championship means to the adopted son of a city that has experienced so much grief over the past several decades, both on and off of the athletic fields, and helps to highlight the role that sports actually can play in society.
Haden, the Browns’ first-round cornerback drafted in 2010, notes what no doubt many other players in the city have observed, literally, for generations now. “I got so tired of hearing about the curse”, he said, “about no team in the city winning a championship since the Browns won in 1964”.
“But you’ve got to go out and end it”, he continued, “not just talk about ending it. And that’s what the Cavaliers did”. He talked about what it means for the city and for the players, how it shows a population seemingly often without hope “that anything’s possible”, and pointed out some facts of the series—the Cavaliers coming back from a 3-1 series deficit, LeBron James’ late block—as examples of how much it takes, and how much willpower and drive it takes, to achieve that goal.
“I look at our Browns team now, with the new coach, Hue Jackson, a lot of new coaches on the staff, and so much new blood, and I can tell you we’re going to be competitive”, he wrote. “This is an inspiration to us, and to the Indians I’m sure”, the Indians of course referring to the Cleveland Indians, the city’s professional baseball team.
Haden went on to talk about the frustration that comes with so much losing, and on the other end, the dedication and support of their fans, writing that it makes you want to win not just for yourself, but for the city as well, and that “it’s one of the reasons why it’s such a rewarding place to play when you win”.
He concluded by writing, “the curse is dead. The Cavaliers are champs. Now we’ve got to work like LeBron and the Cavs to get ours. This is motivation for our city, and motivation for our team. I am just so ready to go win a championship right now”.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, and the city of Pittsburgh, know this all too well as well. The Steelers’ dynasty years in the 1970s were an integral part of the industrial city’s fabric at that time, during which there was a great deal of strife, and transition. The city also shares a similar communal bond, as many Steelers players and coaches were highly active and visible in cheering on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ recent championship earlier this month. No doubt that will serve as inspiration to go get another Lombardi as well.