Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Steelers-Browns: No Longer a Rivalry

When I wrote about the best sports rivalries a few months ago, I received several comments both publicly and privately questioning why I failed to include the Browns and Steelers on the list. Sunday’s game clearly provided the answer. The Steelers have now won eight in a row against Cleveland and 14 of the last 15. Simply put, the Steelers-Browns series is not a rivalry anymore, and really hasn’t been since the Browns returned in 1999. A true rivalry is one where both teams have success against the other. The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry has only been a true rivalry since 2004. Before then, it was just a series of Yankees victories. Similarly, the Browns have to win a few games this decade in order for the rivalry to return.

In addition, I really don’t sense a hatred between Steelers and Browns fans and players anymore. Well, the rivalry still exists from the perspective of many Cleveland fans, but not for Pittsburgh fans. If you ask most Steelers fans who is the team’s biggest current rival, the answers will probably be the Baltimore Ravens or Cincinnati Bengals. Cleveland may even be the fourth choice after the New England Patriots. Gone are the days of Frank Minnifield, Bernie Kosar, Hanford Dixon, Ozzie Newsome, and the scariest player to ever face the Steelers in my lifetime, Eric Metcalf.

To me, the rivalry ended when Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore. The fact that a team with the history and fan support of the Cleveland Browns was taken away from such a passionate football city was inconceivable. There’s very little difference between Steelers and Browns fans, so Steeler fans stood in solidarity with Cleveland against Art Modell. We hated the fact that the NFL allowed the Browns to leave Cleveland. We actually felt empathy for Browns fans, and were happy when the new version of the Browns returned. In terms of a rivalry, how can you hate a team or fan base that had its franchise ripped away?

With all of this written, all the Browns need to do is hire Bill Cowher as its next head coach, and the rivalry will be back.


Archi said...

Who the heck is Hanford Dixon?

Sean said...

Minnifield and Dixon were Cleveland's cornerbacks, who were always mentioned in the pregame as the match-up to watch. They both made multiple Pro Bowls in the mid to late 80s.

I had no idea what Dixon's first name was until I looked it up yesterday.