Thursday, January 03, 2008


It’s only fitting that in a year dubbed Ohio’s “year of almosts” that another near-miss would cap 2007, just as it started.

Yesterday, the Tennessee Titans prevailed over the backup-laden Indianapolis Colts 16-10, snubbing the Cleveland Browns, who finished 10-6, from the playoffs. The Browns methodically disposed of the San Francisco 49ers at home, 20-7, earlier in the day, in a game they hoped was a playoff tune-up. But luck, as it always does, stayed away from the most tortured sports city in the country.

This year, Ohio might be the most tortured state.

Let’s start with Jan. 3. Ohio State’s football team dominated its way to a 12-0 season before being outplayed and outcoached by Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators in my new digs, Glendale, Ariz., during the national title game. In the spring, the Buckeyes mens basketball team earned a shot at redemption, before losing to those same Gators in the national title game. The Cavaliers, behind the godlike play of LeBron James, reached their first ever NBA Finals before being swept by San Antonio. The Columbus Destroyers, though of little significance to many, played their way out mediocrity by advancing to the Arena Bowl, before losing there. The Cleveland Indians blew a 3-1 series lead in the ALCS to the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox. OSU made it all the way to the NCAA finals in mens soccer and then lost. Then yesterday…the Browns.

However, saying the Browns lost their playoff hopes yesterday ignores all of their other missed opportunities. Yes, I wanted to punch Tony Dungee in the goatee for playing his junior varsity, even when the game could have gone his way, and for not managing the clock at game’s end. Clearly, he wanted Tennessee in the playoffs over the Browns (and I don’t blame him.) But the Browns left the playoffs on the shelf when they laid an egg in Cincinnati a week ago, when they committed four turnovers in Arizona and when they played down to the Raiders—and lost the game on a timeout-induced botched field goal. Granted, the Browns pulled out a couple of close ones, but the end story is all too familiar: close, but no cigar.

Fellow sports writers and friends are reflecting on 2007 and calling it a “Season of Dreams.” Given my recap above, I fail to see what’s so dreamy about it. I’m often accused of being a pessimist, but 2007 for the Ohio sports fan has been about as pleasurable as getting hot and heavy with someone before the other person whispers they have an STI. It’s been the year of fool’s gold, where as soon as the thought creeps into your head that “this could be the year,” a twist of fate chokes those dreams around the neck.

You implore, “But John? What about all of the good memories? LeBron’s 48 points? Bugs attack Joba Chamberlain at the Jake? Browns egde Bills in the snow bowl? Hey, I never said the year wasn’t entertaining or lacked good times. As it stacks up with other years, I suppose 2007 has been a pretty good one. But never, never have I, a Cleveland/Ohio sports fan, been inside of so many different championship panties just to get shooed out of them.

As we turn the page to 2008, the Buckeye footballers can silence all of the doubters with a win over LSU. Will the coming year be the year of finishing? Or can we expect more of the same?

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