ESPN's BELIEVELAND - 60 for 30 - The Rest of the Story
by Tom Stroup, Mayor
May 18, 2016

Lots of Clevelanders and viewers across the country watched ESPN’s recent 30-for-30 segment “BELIEVELAND”. While it didn’t get anything wrong, it only told half the story. Here’s the half that they missed.

First an unnecessary disclaimer (I think you’ll figure it out). I’m a Cleveland fan – I’m a Cleveland sports fan – I’m a homer – my Cleveland glass isn’t half full, it’s overflowing.

ESPN (that’s what I’m going to call the 30 for 30 segment, I’m not going to call it BELIEVELAND) retold the news stories of our local sports sufferings, the terribly close calls and just misses, the seemingly impossible endings. They told what we already knew accurately – anyone can Google any of those “The”s and find the record.

The first thing that they didn’t mention is that you have to be playing in the game to have heartbreak happen to you. Twenty-five to thirty other professional teams in whatever sport was being chronicled didn’t need to read the news – they were home sitting on the couch watching it unfold live.  Their season was over.  Some of the very best teams sitting at home had been eliminated by the Cleveland team that was then realizing a cruel fate. Once earning their way into the game, we had to be “in” the game for a last second tragedy to occur. Michael Jordon couldn’t have made The Shot over Craig Ehlo if Craig Ehlo hadn’t put Cleveland in the lead – John Elway couldn’t have executed “The Drive” if Bernie Kosar hadn’t eliminated Denver’s advantage with a minute left to play (in fact, Cleveland wouldn’t have even been playing in the game if they hadn’t come from behind in the classic double-overtime victory the week before against the Jets.)

If any two of the absurd game-ending events that ESPN replayed hadn’t happened – Cleveland would not have been beleaguered over its sports franchises for the past 25 years.  If any three or more of them not occurred, Cleveland would be known as a power house across multiple sports – continuation of the Browns from the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the Tribe from the ‘40s and ‘50s.  I know I’m going back a ways for those championships – but I had plenty of fun with the Browns of the ‘70s and ‘80s, the Cav’s of the 80’s and 00’s, and the Tribe of the ‘90s (hey, I didn’t take you back to the Tribe of 1920 – but highly recommend picking up a copy of “Under Pallor, Under Shadow” – from where ESPN could have certainly pulled tragedy without needing to mention that Cleveland won that World Series).

But all of those absurd game-endings did happen – history can’t be revised.  And yet, Clevelanders continue to support their teams in droves.  The Browns sell out every Sunday, despite the on and off field issues that have existed since their return – the Cavs fill the Q every night, the Tribe held the longest sell out streak in history despite two teams being featured on ESPN’s rant of ruin.  Cleveland fans support Cleveland sports – and THAT is the real story of BELIEVELAND, and what this ESPN feature should have focused on.  THAT is the untold story of Cleveland, and not just a regurgitation of old news.  THAT is what BELIEVELAND is all about.

Can you imagine what will happen in Cleveland when the Browns win a Super Bowl, or the Tribe takes the World Series, or the Cavs an NBA Championship?  The top will come off of Terminal Tower, spewing confetti that will cover Northeastern Ohio.  That’s what I believe – and you might just get to see it happen in the next couple weeks!