Wednesday, February 6, 2013

No gain for Cleveland from Super Bowl pain

When the Ravens won their first Super Bowl in 2000, I was bitter, angry and depressed. It felt as if a cinder-block was crushing my chest. Needless to say, sleep did not come easy that night.

Do you really want to hurt me?
When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 with Manny Ramirez as series MVP, I was struck by pangs of jealousy, bewilderment and a great deal of dislike for the former Tribe slugger, the entire Red Sox roster, their fanbase, and the city of Boston as a whole. My eyes stayed open through the watches of that night, too.

When LeBron James and the Miami Heat hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy last summer... well, see examples A and B for the predictable reaction.

Then came last Sunday, as the Ravens clinched their by God second Super Bowl with the entire team wearing black "Art" patches on their uniforms - a roster constructed by no less than Ozzie Newsome, the Browns’ Hall of Fame tight end-turned-Ravens general manager. This should have been another recipe for mental agony and dry-eyed insomnia, right?

Not this night. After Cleveland's own Ted Ginn, Jr. was tackled midfield to end the contest, the TV clicked off before the first Raven could get on the field to celebrate. I wasn't going to watch Baltimore's victory dance or the subsequent canonization of Ray Lewis, but at the same time I felt no bitterness, self-pity or tinge of jealousy.

Why? Hard to say, really. Maybe I don't connect Baltimore with Cleveland after all these years, despite Newsome's presence and Jim Brown's recent suggestion for Clevelanders to "get over" The Move. Indeed, it has been almost 20 years since Art Modell packed up the Browns and bundled them to Baltimore. Matt Stover was the last "old Brown" on the Ravens, and he left Baltimore in 2009.

A better explanation for my passive reaction is the uselessness of what somebody on my Twitter feed called "pain-by-proxy." That is, playing a depressive form of six degrees of separation where it not only hurts when Cleveland loses, but that pain is also felt when a player or team with Cleveland connections reaches the top of the golden mountain.

The Ravens' case is unusual, but it's not unprecedented. After all, the former Baltimore Colts won a Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Teams leave cities and strike it rich sometimes. It happens.

Granted, it's difficult to watch the ex-Browns become one of the league's superlative franchises while the new Browns continue to lead the league in incompetence and money spent on hiring those old-timey stencil guys to etch new names on office doors in Berea. (You know the guys I'm talking about. They wear those little visors. Go watch an old movie about the newspaper industry and you'll get the reference. Trust me, it's funny.)

And I suppose that's the main issue with Cleveland letting go of its self-pity and bitterness. It's been two full years since any Cleveland team has played in a single post-season game. The last one was...wait for it...That Guy in Miami's (TGiM) final game* with the Cavaliers in May 2010. 

See, from the paranoid Cleveland perspective,  all the evil happenings our sports' teams face come back in a big circle. It rhymes, like poetry, to quote George Lucas. Every ounce of hope has been scraped away, and all Cleveland is left with is a sickened defiance that makes us look petty and resentful to a nation that only pays attention to the North Coast when telling us how to feel.

Now I'm going to tell you, dear reader, how to feel. Because it really does not pay to get down when such-and-such team wins or whozit player gets a ring. It's bad enough watching Cleveland teams these days. Let Baltimore celebrate. Let LeBron kick it with his boys in Miami. Let it go, Cleveland. Let it all go.

*for now