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Never Sunny in Cleveland: It May Be Time to Move to Canada


There's no way of sugarcoating it: The Cleveland Browns got their rears handed to them courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens Sunday. The Ravens won in Cleveland 24-10. You know that your football team is getting pretty bad when one of the highlights of the game is a squirrel running on the field.

As sports commentators and pundits may want to put blame on the Browns' coach or quarterback, the bottom line is that the Cleveland Browns are not a good football team. As the Associated Press succinctly put it: "The Browns have major problems." The Browns' latest loss is key as it is becoming apparent that there is a perceivable gap between the Browns and their fellow division teams the Bengals, the Steelers, and the Ravens. As Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs said, "It's a big gap." It's not even the fact that the Browns are bad; it's the fact that the Browns have been bad for so long.

To say the least, the game was a wet and dreary one for Browns fans. While Browns fans are understandably frustrated with the home team, the ever-apparent gap between the Browns and the rest of their division is starting to change the landscape of fanhood in Cleveland, Ohio. The plight of a Browns fan is fast becoming a desperate one, and this plight is changing as fans catch on to the fact that given the stiff divisional competition, the Browns will most likely have no chance to even make the playoffs in four to six years. And even then, the so-called Cleveland sports curse weighs down on fan's hopes -- so as to leave fans wondering, "Even as we wait for next year, even if the Browns make the playoffs, what are we waiting for? The next Cleveland sports disaster? What will the next one be called...'the Punt', 'the Kick', 'the Block', 'the Run', or 'the Drop'?" Even as some Clevelanders still lament "the Decision", are Cleveland fans to be left merely waiting for the next chapter of the Cleveland sports curse?

Of course, aside from those who believe in the Cleveland sports curse, there is another school of thought in Cleveland sports that believes that the current Browns are not legitimately the "genuine" Cleveland Browns as there is discontinuity from when the Browns left for Baltimore. Ergo, the current Browns are not the real Cleveland Browns and cannot be regarded as such. Individuals in this school may go so far as to suggest that the Browns should change their name until they become a respectable professional football team. However, this perspective appears to be a minority. It would appear that there's no hope for the city by the lake.

In other words, the plight of the Browns fan has transcended the realm of sports. In philosophical terms, the plight of the Browns fan is actually starting to become an existential problem...a metaphysical problem. It may very well evolve into a public health issue. As fans begin to give up hope in their team and resign to being at peace with their team having a borderline-comical loser status for the foreseeable future, frustration is giving way to resignation...and resignation appears to be giving way to fans' simply ignoring the team and ennui. Yes, the plight of the Browns fan is becoming an existential problem; Soren Kierkegaard and Jean-Paul Sartre would be so proud.

With the prospect of a fan exile and declining attendance, as I have written previously, the Browns are starting to become the jester in the court of the NFL. And one cannot help but feel that this stigma of being a loser is starting to weigh down on those who live in Northeastern Ohio; we who live in northern Ohio don't want to be seen as a loser. Even today, as I look outside my window to see the dreary, dismal weather of Northeastern Ohio and take a sip of green tea out of my Cleveland Browns mug, I cannot help but feel that the malaise in Northeastern Ohio brought about by sports has some serious socio-economic and financial implications.

Of course, the success or failure of a city does not necessarily depend on its sports teams. Even so, we have already seen that the status of a sports team can substantially affect a city's socio-economic standing. If we consider the financial impact of when the Browns initially left for Baltimore or when LeBron James left, sports can impact a city's economic situation.

In considering the economic situation in Cleveland and the dire state of the Browns, one cannot help but see the Browns as being a metaphor for current struggles in the city of Cleveland. Where Cleveland was once a booming city with a strong population of over 900,000, today the city has a population of a little under 400,000. To be fair, many of those who lived within the city eventually moved into more suburban areas outside Cleveland. Even so, just like much of the Midwest, the Great Recession has hit Northeastern Ohio hard.

As the fan malaise over the Browns ferments, some companies may wonder if they want to remain in Cleveland owing to the perception of the city being a loser town with a losing culture. As I have previously written, "the situation with the Browns is analogous to Northeastern Ohio's financial issues". One who has just graduated from college in Northeastern Ohio may even want to move away from his or her home to avoid the Cleveland malaise that hovers over the region like a dark cloud.

On a personal note for those who are not aware, at least from my experience, living in Northeastern Ohio works as a sort of whirlpool vortex; many want to leave, but they somehow find themselves getting sucked back into the region. As a young adult, I tried getting out of Northeastern Ohio twice to find better opportunities, but for whatever reason, I found myself returning to the region. Even in the case of my father, he was born in Cleveland, was raised and grew up elsewhere far away, and then found himself back in Cleveland as an adult and he still lives in the area to this day.

To be honest, I know quite a few people who tried to escape from Northeastern Ohio, but for whatever reason they found themselves inevitably returning. It's like the Truman Show or something. It's like when you're born in Northeastern Ohio, all roads lead back to Northeastern Ohio. I remember when I initially left Northeastern Ohio, I had no intentions of returning -- but just like in the Godfather Part III: "Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in." It's like purgatory or something...or for Cleveland sports fans, a kind of hell.

But is it really a stretch to say that a city's socio-economic performance is related to its sports teams? Perhaps, but I think the crux goes back to the perception of a city having a losing culture. Given the choice between happiness and sadness, most people would choose happiness; thus, perhaps there is something to be said for seeking out sunnier locales. That being the case, I was very surprised to not see Cleveland, Ohio on the Mens Health Top Ten list of America's saddest cities. Maybe Mens Health is sympathetic to the plight of those of us who live in Northeastern Ohio.

Nevertheless, I wonder if companies like KeyBank (NYSE: KEY), Parker-Hannifin (NYSE: PH), Sherwin-Williams (NYSE: SHW), and Eaton (NYSE: ETN) have to do some public relations damage control to make up for any perceived notions that their companies are in a city with a losing culture. I sympathize with these companies because they are good companies, but they may get a bad rap for their Cleveland connections. I mean, in which city would you rather invest, a winner city or a loser city? As in sports, when it comes to finance, people want to root for and invest in winners, not losers. But even recently, Jim Cramer spoke well of Eaton on "Mad Money"; in mid-November, Cramer was bullish on Eaton. On the topic of Europe, Cramer noted in early November that he would "lump in Eaton (NYSE: ETN) and Parker-Hannifin (NYSE: PH) not seeing much weakness" from problems in Europe.

Perhaps Cleveland companies are detached from the loser-culture of Cleveland sports, but you have to think that the sports malaise in Cleveland translates into depressed productivity in the workplace. After Browns games, Mondays can be rough in Northeastern Ohio. And even as the Browns have struggled, Cleveland companies like KeyBank, Parker-Hannifin, Sherwin-Williams, and Eaton are good companies that have survived the financial turbulence of the recent past. Of course, we cannot forget how Pittsburgh got the upper hand as Clevelanders saw their National City branches turn into PNC (NYSE: PNC) branches.

Nevertheless, if Cleveland had good sports teams that led to a happier air in the city with better productivity, one has to wonder how much better the city of Cleveland would be doing economically. I can remember when the Cleveland Indians were a very good baseball team, and I must say, that the city had a much more vibrant and pleasant atmosphere at that point in time. People wanted to come to the city; there was a good spirit in the air. The city had something to be proud of, something that united the city with a sense of joy, and I think having a sense of pride or joy of that caliber makes an economic difference for anyone or anything.

Either way, I think there is hope for Cleveland, Ohio, and I hope that good things come to Northeastern Ohio in the future. Even so, I am sure that there may be some Clevelanders thinking about moving to Canada at some point in the near future to get away from the dismal, dreary situation in Northeastern Ohio. As the malaise of the Great Recession and the Cleveland Browns cuts to the heart of those in Northeastern Ohio, it makes perfect sense that some would want to escape...perhaps even across the lake to Canada. I would be lying if I were to say that I don't ponder about leaving Northeastern Ohio and moving to Canada every once in a while; Canada is just right across the lake. And on that note, as I wrote regarding the Browns, "There may have to be radical solutions undertaken in order to twist the team out of its funk". Two possibilities that I mentioned include having the Browns play a promotional game as the "Akron Browns" for a week or two and having the Browns play a promotional game wearing uniforms of the Canton Bulldogs. In the alternative, the NFL could expand to having a Canton Bulldogs football team.

There is another possibility that I have read some commentators make and that would be moving the team to Canada -- or having the Browns play in the Canadian Football League (CFL). (Of course, that's assuming the CFL would even permit the dismal Browns to play in the league). As Canadian football fields are bigger than American football fields, I think it would be interesting to see whether the Cleveland Browns stadium would be capable of having space for a Canadian football field -- so as to make one wonder if the individuals who built the Browns stadium contemplated either the Browns joining the CFL or Cleveland having a CFL team in the future.

Given the Browns hopeless chances in the NFL for the next decade or two, perhaps spending some time in the CFL would do Cleveland some good. Heck, maybe the Browns would then be a winner. Of course, having the Cleveland Browns play in the CFL would take some time getting used to, but it could be done. The Browns would then not have a place in Madden video games, but if the NFL then expanded to Canton, maybe there would be a place for Northeastern Ohio in Madden after all.

With the Browns in the CFL, it would give the Browns the ability to reinvent themselves as a legitimate professional football team...that is, well, reasonably capable of playing professional football...with, you know, players that can actually play professional football. It would be quite a change for Cleveland football fans. At the end of the day, there's always next year. When it comes to life in Northeastern Ohio, you have to have hope and patience.

Posted-In: CanadaJim Cramer Psychology Topics Travel Economics Media General Best of Benzinga


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