There’s a strange feeling in the air across Northeast Ohio. As the calendar turns toward that glorious time of year we know as “Football Season,” we, of course, have the eternal hope that maybe this will be the year. However, it’s not just blind faith that’s filling the region but optimism as well. For the first time since the Browns returned in 1999 there’s a sense that they are headed in the right direction.
While a complete turnover of a franchise can be worrisome, there’s a feeling that this front office is set up in a way that actually makes sense. With experts on both the football side as well as the operations side now in place, there is promise of an entirely new fan experience. Consider this a complete app update. However, it’s not just stadium updates, new introductions and modern music; new Browns head coach, Rob Chudzinski is already winning fans over by having them participate in games during training camp (like last weekend when fans kicked field goals to allow the team to go home early) and by interacting with the diehards in attendance. It doesn’t hurt that he has a veteran coaching staff headed by Norv Turner and Ray Horton drawing up game plans either.
This offseason the Browns needed to sign real talent to make the necessary changes on their defense and proceeded to do just that. The Browns added some of the top free agents on the market when they picked up Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant. They also traded for wide receiver Davone Bess and drafted instant fan favorite Barkevious Mingo. Combine these names with the likes of Joe Haden, Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon, and the best offensive line in the division and it’s easy to see why Northeast Ohio is once again excited for the Orange and Brown.
It’s not just First Energy Stadium that has a breath of fresh air, though. The Cleveland Indians are in the thick of a playoff race and have been playing electrifying baseball all summer long. This all began back in the winter when the owners signed on Terry Francona to coach the club. By paying for a big name, championship caliber coach ownership showed that they were serious about competing. They continued to win back fans by signing the likes of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. These veteran players, along with the likes of Jason Kipnis, Justin Masterson, and Michael Brantley provided fans something they haven’t seen in a long time: household names. It’s now the middle of September and, for the first time in nearly half a decade, baseball still matters.
The third ring in this area’s circus of beloved teams, the Cavaliers, joined the excitement with their bold moves to improve the franchise. While the team has a young and exciting core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson, Dan Gilbert knew he needed to add talent to make sure this team competed immediately. He did so by signing veteran point guard Jarrett Jack and then made the splash of the offseason by signing Andrew Bynum to a team-friendly, two-year deal. If Bynum stays healthy he and Kyrie could become one of the more dynamic duos in the league. Oh and don’t forget number one overall draft pick, Anthony Bennett. These moves make the Cavs not only dangerous in the here and now, but they also leave plenty of room for the summer of 2014 when that ever-lingering prodigal son could return to the shores of Lake Erie.
Here in Northeast Ohio we are proud of our sports teams. Throughout recent history, even while we’d be excited for a season to come, realistically we knew what to expect. Something feels different now. Each team has real talent, excellent coaching, and the ability to win now. There still is always next year but we can confidently say that there may just be this year as well.