30 Years After “The Drive”

Thirty years ago, yesterday, UJ and I and two of our friends were sitting in our seats in Cleveland Municipal Stadium, watching the AFC championship game and hoping that the Browns would finally make it to the Super Bowl.

It was the first year after Kish and I had moved back to Ohio from Washington, D.C., and UJ and I decided to spring for season tickets to the Browns.  To our delight, the team — led by Bernie Kosar, Ozzie Newsome, two great running backs, some very good receivers, a defense that would bend but not break, and an indomitable coach, Marty Schottenheimer — turned out to be really good.  We saw some great wins during the regular season, and the Browns had won an improbable, come from behind, overtime thriller playoff game against the Jets the week before.  Now, on a cold day on the Cleveland lakefront, the Browns were playing the Denver Broncos for the AFC slot in the Super Bowl.

plain-dealer-front-page-the-drive-41646014a33b632eOf course, just as the Browns seemed to be on the cusp of victory that day, “The Drive” happened, and the hopes of the team and Browns fans the world over were crushed.  It’s a story that has almost become the stuff of legend — which is why you can find Cleveland newspapers and, of course, the Denver Broncos website remembering it, 30 years later — and it is always mentioned, bitterly, when people talk about the horrors of Cleveland sports fans over the past half century.

I didn’t realize that yesterday was the 30th anniversary of “The Drive” until one of the guys I went to the game with mentioned it.  I groaned when he did, because I had no interest in ever thinking about that game again, and I expected to experience that familiar hot blast of pain and frustration that always bubbles up whenever I remember that game — but to my surprise my reaction yesterday really wasn’t all that bad.  It’s almost as if the Cavs’ NBA championship win last year, and the passage of three decades, have taken the pitchforks out of the demons’ hands that are lurking in my Cleveland sports fan subconscious and replaced them with something softer that can produce a twinge of regret, but not the torment and angst that once seemed to be everlasting.

They say that time heals all wounds.  Maybe it’s true, even for sports fans.

Series Shots


Russell, UJ, and I had a blast at Game One of the World Series last night.  Downtown Vleveland was packed before the game, and the area between the ballpark and the Cavs’ arena — where the Cavs were to play, and win, their season opener — was especially jammed.  Two big screen TVs were set up to play season highlights and get both the Cavs fans and the Tribe fans fired up.

On To The Series!

What a year this has been for the Cleveland Indians — and for that matter for Cleveland, period.  After seeing the Cavs end a 52-year drought without a sports championship and shatter every jinx in doing so, and then hosting the Republican Convention without a hitch, the Best Location in the Nation now sees the astonishing Indians hoist the American League pennant and move on to the World Series.

bn-qj049_1019in_gr_20161019190617Well, why not?  In a year when the Indians have overcome injuries to key players that produced a decimated starting pitching staff — and that saw the Tribe experience the first blood-soaked drone injury in recorded MLB history — why wouldn’t you expect, Ryan Merritt, a rookie who has thrown all of 11 innings in the big leagues, and who was predicted to be “shaking in his boots” by a Toronto player, to go out and pitch lights out, like a grizzled veteran?  And why wouldn’t you expect the offense to produce just enough runs to get the game into the fifth inning with a lead?  And why wouldn’t you expect the Indians’ duo of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen to once again shut down the Toronto Blue Jays’ powerful lineup and close out another nail-biting win?

Consider the results of AL championship series.  Toronto came in after having battered Texas pitching and romped to a three-game sweep over the Rangers.  The Tribe pitching staff sucked it up and held the Blue Jays scoreless twice — in the opener and the clinching game — and gave up one run, two runs, and five runs in the other three games.  For the math-challenged among us, that’s eight runs in five games.  Miller’s ERA during the series was 0.00.  Allen’s ERA was 0.00.  And the Indians bullpen had one game where it pitched 8 1/3 innings to secure the victory.  It’s got to be one of the most amazing pitching performances in any baseball series in history.  And, it’s got to be one of the most amazing managerial performances in baseball history, too.  Would anyone but Terry Francona have kept his cool, kept his battered team focused, and used his bullpen so deftly?  And, by the way, wasn’t the trade for Andrew Miller the best trade in Cleveland Indians history, without any conceivable argument?

So now the Tribe moves on, with the AL pennant in hand, to face either the Cubs or the Dodgers.  This year, in Cleveland, anything is possible.  I’ll be looking forward to the World Series, and I’ll be thinking one thing:

There are no jinxes!

Hail To The Chiefs


Last night the Cleveland Indians beat the Detroit Tugers to clinch the American League Central Division and a spot in the playoffs.  Russell went to the game up in Comerica Field in Detroit and snapped these pictures after the last Tiger was retired and the Tribe’s celebration began.

We’ll have to see how the Indians fare in the playoffs — their most reliable starter, Corey Kluber, left last night’s game with an injury, making him the third key starter to fall prey to jury in recent weeks — but for now we can enjoy a win by a team that has been fun to watch.  The team’s success is attributable to young players who have really blossomed, vets who have come in and played well, good team chemistry, fine starting pitching, and a bullpen that just keeps putting zeros on the scoreboard.  Behind it all is manager Terry Francona, who has done a masterful job.

Go Tribe!  Bring on the playoffs!

In Titletown

This morning finds us in the City of Champions — Cleveland.  UJ, Russell and I came up yesterday afternoon to watch an early edition of October baseball as the Tribe beat the Detroit Tigers, 1-0, in a brilliant display of bullpen management by manager Terry Francona.  It was a fantastic nail-biter that ended in triumph.  Then we walked to a nearby pub to learn that, thanks to a well-timed rain delay, we could watch the entirety of Ohio State’s epic beat down of Oklahoma.  

Today we’re going to swing by Octoberfest on Public Square, then it’s off to see if the Browns can resemble a professional football team against the Ravens.  Can we complete the Cleveland-Buckeyes trifecta?  Or will we learn, as Meat Loaf once sang, that two out of three ain’t bad?