Cleveland and Pittsburgh: A Tale of Two Cities

This past weekend the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns faced off in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.  Considered one of, if not the most heated rivalry in the NFL, there has been no love lost between the two teams or the cities they call home.  Saturday was no different.  It was a blood bath and a trash talkers dream come true.  Unfortunately, the Browns were once again on the losing side of things, but like always it was a close game coming down to the wire.

Browns versus Steelers has always been a heated rivalry, especially during the 80’s during the height of the Bernie Kosar era.  However, the rivalry cooled a bit during the 90’s thanks to a period of mediocrity and threat of relocation for the Browns.  Meanwhile, the Steelers dominated the old AFC Central, made it to a Super Bowl, and made the playoffs almost every year.

Things began to change thanks to the revenue of a new stadium approved in 1995 and completed for the start of 1997.  Ozzie Newsome was able to draft and sign franchise players such as Ray Lewis, Steve McNair, Ed Reed, and Terrelle Suggs.  The turn around culminated with their first Super Bowl championship in 2000 and allowed Art Modell to ride off into the sunset of retirement as a hero in Cleveland.  The Steelers, not to be outdone, would win the Super Bowl in 2005 and 2008 and in doing so, continued the AFC North’s domination of the NFL.

Since its inception, the AFC North has been a two horse race.  The Browns and Steelers have won the division a combined 8 times, 6 for Pittsburgh and 2 for Cleveland.  The only other team to wear the crown has been the Bengals.  They won a tie breaker over the Steelers in 2005 and won the division outright in 2009.  The Baltimore Rams, who relocated to Baltimore from Los Angeles when Cleveland approved its new stadium referendum, have been an absolute joke finishing at the bottom of the division practically every year since their inception.  Even the old division rivals the Oilers, who of course now are the Titans, were able to win a Super Bowl in 1999.

In the Past decade we have been treated to some truly epic football wars.  As two of the top teams in the AFC, it has been a battle for supremacy between the Browns and Steelers.  In the process they have met 3 times in the playoffs since 2002, as mentioned earlier, the most recent being this past weekend.  While the Steelers have won all three meetings, they have been classic games coming down to the very end each time.  So yes, while the Steelers continue to be the thorn in our side, there’s no reason to be down.  The Browns look primed for success for years to come.  Led by the emergence of Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, and our trademarked defense, the Browns should be contenders again next year.

So while yes, it looks like the Steelers may be primed for yet another Super Bowl championship we have no reason to be down.  We’re in good shape.  Our leadership structure has proven throughout the years that they know what they’re doing and will have this team ready to compete once again next year.  The Browns have plenty of draft picks and Ozzie will know what to do with them.  He’s probably already started searching the draft boards for sleepers.  In the mean time, let’s just hope that the Jets, Packers, or Bears can do the unthinkable and knock off those bastards from Pittsburgh.  I don’t think we can handle watching another Steelers victory parade.  Then again it’s just more fuel to add to the fires of hatred between Pittsburgh and Cleveland… and hey it could be worse.

At least we’re not Baltimore.

……

………

Of course none of that happened.  Not even close….

What did happen is that Art Modell betrayed us, the NFL did nothing to stop it, and the city of Baltimore hijacked our team and maybe more importantly, our rivalry.  Yes, we kept our records, our colors, and our history but Baltimore stole the one thing that really mattered.

The Browns/Steelers rivalry hasn’t been the same since the day Art Modell packed up and moved the team to Baltimore.  The Browns came back, but have been wallowing in futility since their return in 1999.  Meanwhile the Steelers have dominated, the Ravens have become a power, and the NFL glorifies it as their premier matchup.  Great.  It really is a tale of two cities heading in opposite directions.  One team is among the NFL elite while the other has become the clown prince of the league.  Even the economic statuses of the cities are on opposite paths.  Pittsburgh is widely considered a growing city that has been able to reinvent itself.  Cleveland is stuck in the past and continues to fall into economic hardship.  In a way the football teams are a microcosm of life in general.

And it’s a shame too.  When you think of everything that has happened and everything that could have been one can’t help but feel sick.  But such is life.  Some days you’re the pigeon and other days you’re the statue.  Unfortunately, the Browns and the city of Cleveland have been the statue for quite some time now. 

So this weekend, the Steelers will take the field and after 60 minutes of football they may very well be on their way to yet another Super Bowl.  Pittsburgh will rejoice.  Cleveland will stew and the hate will fester.  We will let it consume us and we’ll hope and pray that the Bears or Packers can kick their asses.  If they win we’ll be sick.  A Pittsburgh victory will do nothing more than help fuel the inferiority complex that has consumed Cleveland.

All the while no one in Pittsburgh will care what we think.  They will celebrate and live it up.  They’ll plan a parade through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh with streamers and floats.  The Steelers will get on the microphone one by one and tell the crowd how much this means to them and the city of Pittsburgh.  No one will think to mention the rivals across state lines to the west.  All the while, every single person in attendance, players, fans, coaches… maybe even the owners will be thinking the same thing…

Suck on this Baltimore. 

NFL… I hope you’re happy.

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