ESPN The Magazine just came out with a ranking of all 122 franchises in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB. The overall criterion: how much teams give back to fans for all the emotion, money and time fans invest.
The Browns rank … drumroll, please … No. 114.
I know what you’re thinking.
Yes, there really are eight worse franchises. Yes, the Bengals are one of the not-so-great eight.
No, you didn’t need a fancy national study to tell you what you already knew.
But it’s always nice when the nation feels your pain, and there’s a complicated formula to quantify and validate that heartache.
ESPN surveyed fans across the country and performed analyses to determine how efficiently the teams use the money the fans spend. The Los Angeles Angels ranked No. 1, while the New York Islanders, Oakland Raiders, Sacramento Kings, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers checked in lower than the Browns.
Charts and graphs look good in a magazine, but Northeast Ohioans already had all the data necessary to deem the Browns a failure.
They are 54-107 since returning in 1999. They have one playoff appearance and no playoff wins in the decade. They’ve never been to a Super Bowl.
They haven’t beaten the Steelers since 2003. (The Steelers ranked No. 3 overall, best among NFL teams. Some rivalry.)
Eric Mangini is the fifth coach in 10 years. And the Browns have two flawed quarterbacks competing for one job — again.
Other teams in other cities have abysmal records. Other franchises can’t find the right coach. Other organizations lack the leadership, vision, structure and stability to fix the plethora of problems.
What makes the Browns’ persistent struggles so excruciating is the fans’ indefatigable desire for them to be a winner.
They’ve sold out every home game since returning, although that streak could be in jeopardy in 2009 with the region’s economic hardship. More people attend a scrimmage at Cleveland Browns Stadium than the average Indians or Cavaliers game.
The fans chanted “Super Bowl” on the first day of training camp last year. One said he was going to lose sleep after I told him Brady Quinn had a lot of penalties during minicamps — and he was serious.
No matter the month, the Browns discussion on talk radio is the most popular and heated.
The Cavaliers topped NBA teams on ESPN’s list and ranked fifth overall. They rated first in the category of players — their effort on the field/court and likeability off it.
They have the world’s best player, had the NBA’s best record and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. Yet they can’t catch up to the brown and orange in the fans’ hearts.
The Indians were rated 67th by ESPN, and that was before the bullpen blew up, Kelly Shoppach and Ben Francisco regressed and Eric Wedge was given a vote of confidence.
The Browns may trail their downtown neighbors in bang for the buck, but they remain the clear fan favorite in the City of No Championships.
No matter how poorly they’ve been treated by the team they love.
When news broke of Joe Jurevicius’ lawsuit against the Browns and Cleveland Clinic, my first thought was: He beat LeCharles Bentley to the punch.
The Browns have experienced seven known cases of staph infection in the last several years, and it was just a matter of time before one of the players sought revenge. Bentley seemed the most likely candidate because the infection ended his career and his departure from the Browns wasn’t amicable.
Bentley still may sue, but for now Jurevicius is seeking his pound of flesh, which, coincidentally, could be the same amount taken from his infected knee in five surgeries to remove staph.
Jurevicius and Bentley signed with their hometown team with hopes of saving the franchise. Instead, they had their careers cut short and their bodies forever compromised.
Jurevicius was openly critical of the Clinic, but not the team, during a news conference last year in which he stated his desire to resume his career with the Browns. Now that Mangini cut him loose, Jurevicius has no loyalty to anyone except the fans.
And they likely support his court battle.
Donte Stallworth was surely at fault in the DUI manslaughter that robbed Mario Reyes of his life.
And while Stallworth’s wealth, which allowed him to pay a settlement to the Reyes family and afford top-flight lawyers, played a role in his “soft” 30-day jail sentence, that’s not the only factor.
The prosecutors and judge wouldn’t have accepted such a plea deal unless there were mitigating circumstances. My bet is the surveillance video of the accident showed Reyes in traffic illegally, which made Stallworth’s blood-alcohol level indisputable but his culpability debatable.