“How many of us have conflicts with someone else- and how many of us pray for that person? We have individuals with whom we are competitive, or whom we dislike or have a quarrel with; but very few of us have true enemies in the martial sense. And yet if Lincoln could pray fervently- and contemporary reports indicate he did- for the people who were opposing him, how much more can we do for someone we just find a little irritating?” — John Wooden
As 2013 merges into 2014, I look at that quote from the great UCLA basketball coach and I wonder, “Is there someone I consider a rival or an enemy, even, that I believe deserves prayer and good fortune?”
Yes, there is.
I don’t consider football fans in Cleveland to be my “enemy”, per-se. They’re much more of a rival, really, in the traditional sense of city-to-city support for our respective sports teams. That said, because of the situation involving the transfer of the Browns to Baltimore in 1996, we’ve probably considered ourselves enemies if for no other reason than we stole their football team and then clenched our fists when those in Cleveland took us to task for it.
After all, in Baltimore, we’ve “been there, done that” when it comes to having a team swiped from us. Our cries and outrage? Laughed at by those folks in Indianapolis who were just glad to have a team.
The firing of Rob Chudzinski in Cleveland and the press conference yesterday — where the owner of the team looked outrageously out-of-touch with reality — got me to thinking about the football fans in Northeast Ohio.
I realized, with sadness, that football fans in Cleveland are just like baseball fans here in Baltimore.
Saddled with a poor philosophy that seems almost magnetized to losing, the folks who cheer for the Browns haven’t tasted a Super Bowl win (or, trip, even) since — well…since forever.
Our baseball team hasn’t been to a World Series since 1983.
Cleveland football fans haven’t seen their team play in the biggest football game in the world — EVER.
The baseball organization in Baltimore, save three years since 1993, hasn’t been competitive for nearly 20 seasons now. Along the way, they’ve embarrassed us, poked at us, infuriated us and, most agonizing of all, used our resources to pad their pockets and make us suffer through year after year of bad baseball.
But if you think we’ve had it bad in Baltimore – baseball wise – it pales in comparison to what they’ve experienced in Cleveland since 1996.
The football fans there lost their team. It wasn’t because they did something wrong. Like us, in Baltimore, they woke up one morning and the newscast said “Browns leaving Cleveland”. And that was it.
Three years later, football started again in Cleveland.
They had a sprinkling of success early in the last decade, but for the most part, it’s been nothing but embarrassment in Cleveland as it relates to the Browns.
Yesterday, of course, they fired their head coach after giving him one season in charge.
He joins the long list of coaches they’ve had in Cleveland over the last decade.
In Baltimore, since 1996, there have been THREE head coaches, period. Marchibroda, Billick and Harbaugh.
In Cleveland, since 1999, they’ve had Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Terry Robiskie, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmer and yesterday’s departed, Rob Chudzinski.
The people in Cleveland deserve better from the football organization.
Just like the people in Baltimore deserve better as it relates to the baseball franchise we’ve supported since the late 1950’s.
If you’re a man or woman of faith and you believe in the power of prayer, it would be kind of cool for you to throw one or two the way of the football fans in Cleveland as 2014 begins and another season of losing football starts to disappear in the rear view mirror of 2013.
I’m going to do it, for sure.
I don’t necessarily want the Browns to be better than the Ravens, but that, in and of itself, is completely out of my control.
Instead, I’ll just privately hope those football fans in Cleveland get to experience some of the joy we’ve experienced in Baltimore with our football franchise.
And, of course, I’ll continue to hope that someday soon, our baseball organization in Baltimore rivals the football franchise in terms of class, integrity and on-field success.
Above all, though, in 2014, I truly hope the people of Cleveland get some sort of reward for their years of support for a franchise that, frankly, probably doesn’t even deserve it.
If John Wooden says it’s OK, it must be.