The three faces of Cleve(land)
I was thinking about the owners of our three major sports teams recently, and how the perception of at least two of the ownership groups has changed significantly over the past year or so – at least from my perspective. The third was never all that good to begin with and remains that way five years later.
Let’s begin with the most obvious of the three: Larry and Paul Dolan, the father-son team who own a majority interest in the Cleveland Indians. Anyone out there who has read my column for any length of time certainly knows I’ve spent a great quantity of ink bashing the Dolans over the fiscally-cautious manner with which they’ve run the Tribe for the better part of the last two decades. In fact, I think I can attribute the nasty case of carpal tunnel syndrome I’ve acquired largely to the columns I’ve written about those guys over the years.
Granted, it’s true that they recently sold a small share of the team to a minority partner, allowing you to make the argument that they still aren’t parting with any of their own dollars. But honestly, who cares? They paid quite a bit (by their standards) for the services of Andrew Miller, and quite a bit more (by anyone’s standards) for Edwin Encarnacion. Suddenly, they’re not regarded as “cheapskates” anymore by most folk, and that includes me. Subject to change, of course.
Next, we move to the Browns. Years ago, I remember telling anyone who would listen (which was pretty much limited to the picture of Leslie Nielsen which hangs on the wall above my computer screen) that anybody would be better as owner of the Cleveland Browns than Randy Lerner. A-N-Y-B-O-D-Y. Never thought I’d have to eat those words.
Sure enough, my prayers for a new owner were answered in 2012 when Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns after five years as a minority investor with the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. His experience with the Steelers would benefit the Browns in many ways, right? Well, I don’t know if the Rooneys imposed a Vulcan mind-meld on Haslam right before he left for Cleveland, but whatever the witchcraft employed, it worked.
Haslam has succeeded in turning a bad franchise into an awful one. I never thought I’d miss 5-11 football, but somehow Jimmy’s convinced me 5-11 is not all that bad. Because … 1-15? Now that’s bad. Come back, Randy, we hardly knew ye.
That leaves us with Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cavs. I’m fairly indifferent about Gilbert as an owner, because without LeBron James, the franchise – under Gilbert’s direction – has been horrible. With James, it’s been tremendous. Some people maintain Gilbert has been great for the city of Cleveland, but I’m not quite sure where that comes from (outside of being the owner of the reigning NBA champions, of course).
It seems to me he’s gotten quite a bit back in exchange for all that he’s supposedly put in. If you take the stance that his mortgage company’s practices reflect Gilbert’s overall business philosophy, then you need question his primary objectives in this city. Time will tell if he’s truly a do-gooder or in reality a carpetbagger. You can probably guess in which direction I'm leaning.
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!