CLEVELAND — Remember LeBron James?
Took the Cavs to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals with a Game 7 against Boston that defied exhaustion: 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists in 48 minutes?
Yes, that guy.
Happened just last year in 2018. But he wasn’t a finalist for the Professional Athlete of the Year Award based on that same calendar year, an award won this time (and probably in perpetuity) by Baker Mayfield.
The moral is that while you can go home again, leaving a second time is asking to be snubbed.
Maybe also that old caveat applies to awards shows: You must be present to win.
The voting showed Cleveland is apparently on to football, with nodding acknowledgement of Corey Kluber (20-game winner and third in Cy Young voting) and Jose Ramirez (39 homers and third in MVP voting). They were finalists along with Browns rookie corner Denzel Ward.
(Given the list of finalists, I would've voted for Jose Ramirez).
But football, we know, is the real King here. And we were reminded of that again when Mayfield took home the trophy.
What Mayfield did in 2018 was impressive but the award spoke more to the hunger for competitive football (not to mention the thirst for locked up coolers of Bud Light.)
It was an extension of the Browns victory over the Jets as the top moment of 2018 in Cleveland sports.
“It shouldn’t be that the whole town goes crazy over one win on a Thursday,” Mayfield told the media while also paying respects to the excitement and passion that accompanied the Browns turnaround season.
Freddie Kitchens seemed equally taken aback (and slightly embarrassed) over the excitement surrounding a 7-8-1 season when the Browns introduced him as Hue Jackson’s permanent successor.
"It drives me crazy that people are happy with 7-8-1," Kitchens said during his opening statement. "It drives me literally crazy, and if I were in a different setting, my vocabulary would demonstrate that.”
Welcome to Cleveland, Fred. Enjoy it.
It won’t be this way forever. But it’s this way now.
The whole town shouldn’t go crazy in bestowing honors on the Browns and Mayfield at the expense of a Cavs team that jumped on James' back and didn’t stop playing until June again.
Or at the expense of the Indians and Ramirez, who came six stolen bases and one home run from a 40-40 season for the division champions. While finishing behind only Mookie Betts and Mike Trout in the AL MVP voting.
But it’s life in a football town. A football town that has lost the greatest NBA player of his generation for a second time and seems anxious to throw the Indians overboard for cutting payroll while extolling the Browns for finally getting something right.
A year removed from an 0-16 parade that some (not me) felt made Browns fans look foolish, the town is seriously strutting over 7-8-1.
Knowing what football means in this city, I guess the only surprise is Mayfield, based on his 2018 season, didn’t get the Lifetime Achievement Award, too.
- We keep asking Mayfield if finishing second in the Rookie of the Year award will motivate him.
As if it can be considered a snub finishing second to Saquon Barkley, who rushed for 1,300 yards, accounted for 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 15 touchdowns.
Finishing second to that isn’t a snub. It’s pretty high praise.
- That’s not exactly the same class of motivating slights as being passed up for a college scholarship.
Or given no chance to win a starting job behind Tyrod Taylor.
Or even being congratulated for beating out Drew Stanton for the No. 2 quarterback job in training camp.
My guess is the media is keeping score more than he is this time around. But at any rate, he’s now won a Greater Cleveland top Professional Athlete Award over more accomplished contenders.
So there’s that.
- Finally, the motivation LeBron James needs to turn the Lakers season around.
- James had the first pick in the All-Star draft and took Kevin Durant.
Who no doubt thinks he should’ve gone sooner.
- Durant had another brush up with the media this week over speculation that he will land with the Knicks in free agency.
"I just don't trust none of y'all," Durant said.
- Nothing suggests the crazy world we live in actually makes total sense than the headline saying, “Rob Gronkowski suffers beer injury during parade.”
It just sounds right.
- The Browns, who ranked 30th in defense, will no longer break the huddle with Gregg Williams favorite slogan, “Come get some.”
And now maybe opposing offenses won’t feel so encouraged to do exactly that.
- We do have short memories. Or maybe when there’s been so much upheaval it's just that we more easily lose track of the past.
But in reading media reports giving Freddie Kitchens credit for not shying from talk of “hoisting the Super Bowl” (actually, it sounded like he said “hosting” it), we forget that Hue Jackson talked that up too.
During a 1-15 season.
The difference is we can actually imagine a path to the Super Bowl now.
One that doesn’t require years of treading water in Lake Erie.
- Jeremy Hill took a shot after winning the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in an Instagram post that read, “Imagine being a Bengals FAN” complete with a string of laughing emojis.
The former Cincinnati running back defended his post by claiming years of abuse from Bengals fans on social media. Those fans responded accordingly.
Everyone else had a different takeaway: Jeremy Hill was with the Patriots?
- Hill showed rare talent. In that it’s not easy to gloat over a Super Bowl win when your contribution to the cause amounts to four carries for 25 yards.
In the opener.
- The Los Angeles market came in below the national average for Super Bowl 53 TV ratings.
Imagine if the Rams hadn’t been in it. The Super Bowl would’ve finished behind reruns of the Rockford Files.
- Bill Belichick credited a NFL writer for suggesting he might want to take a look at a Kent State quarterback named Julian Edelman back in 2009.
"It’s kind of interesting,” Belichick said. “I’ve got to give Rick Gosselin credit on that one for getting us started. I talked to Rick — as you know, Rick followed the draft very closely — and at one point, he said to me, ‘A kid you might want to take a look at is this quarterback out of Kent State. I don’t think he can play quarterback [in the NFL], but I’ve heard he’s a pretty good player.’’
So Belichick checked it out, drafted Edelman in the seventh round and found Edelman could do just about everything except play QB.
Until then, Belichick had only turned to sports writers for fashion tips.
- Have a good weekend.
Or at the very least a 7-8-1 weekend.