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The final year of the first decade of the 21st Century was, once again, devoid of world championships for Cleveland's teams. But even without trophies ...
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The Top 10 Cleveland Sports Stories of 2009: #7-#5
December 26, 2009 · By Erik Cassano

The final year of the first decade of the 21st Century was, once again, devoid of world championships for Cleveland's teams. The Cavaliers mounted a serious charge, but didn't have the height or muscle to match up with the Orlando Magic, and were turned back in the conference finals.

On December 27, the anniversary of the Browns' victory in the 1964 NFL Championship Game, the title drought will officially reach 45 years.

But even without trophies or rings, there was still plenty to remember from the sports year 2009 in Cleveland. From the good (anything involving LeBron James or Josh Cribbs) to the bad (another Tribe fire sale) to the ugly (Braylon Edwards slugging a friend of LeBron's, then getting traded) it was another eventful sports year on the North Coast.

Between now and the end of December, we'll unveil our top 10 Cleveland sports moments from 2009. Sit back and re-live the year that was. 

The Top Ten Cleveland Sports Stories of 2009: #10-#8


7. Cribbs and defense shine as Browns finally beat Steelers

December 10

If you're going to snap a six-year drought against your arch-rivals, it might as well be a game befitting the rivalry.

Everything about this game was Browns vs. Steelers. The temperature was in the teens with sub-zero wind chills, thanks to a steady knife-like breeze blowing off of Lake Erie. The game was contested on the ground and at the line of scrimmage. It was a low-scoring affair, 13-6.

But unlike so many games between the two teams over the past 10 years, the great individual performances and lucky breaks went to the Browns, and they were on the high end of that 13-6 final score.

It was the Browns first win over the Steelers since October 2003, and their first win over the Steelers in Cleveland since September 2000.

The star of the game for the Browns was, not shockingly, Josh Cribbs. He never found the end zone, but was effectively used as a battering ram out of the "wildcat" formation, taking direct snaps from center and using his fleet feet to slip tackles and gain ground. He carried the ball eight times for 87 yards.

The other star of the game was Rob Ryan's defense. Showing Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh offense different looks and packages, Ryan was able to keep the element of surprise in his back pocket all game, and Roethlisberger never looked comfortable in the pocket. Getting sacked eight times probably didn't help matters for him.

Chris Jennings' second-quarter touchdown was the first rushing touchdown for the Browns all season, and it proved to be the difference in the game.

The loss was the Steelers' fifth straight, dropped them below .500 for the first time all year, and effectively removed them from playoff contention, a year after winning the Super Bowl.

After the game, Phil Dawson - the only Brown who has been here for every bump in the road since 1999 - pointed to the crowd in the Dawg Pound. Later in the locker room, he became misty-eyed. For the city and for some of the veteran Browns players like Dawson and Cribbs, this was more than just another divisional win. 

6. Tribe fire sale: Lee and Martinez dealt

July 29 and 31

In baseball, few things are more troubling as a fan than to know that your team is dumping its best players just to save money.

This summer, facing lagging attendance and poor returns on their on-field investments, the Indians did exactly that, purging themselves of reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee in a July 29 trade with the Phillies, and sending Victor Martinez to the Red Sox two days later.

It was the second straight summer in which Mark Shapiro dealt the reigning Cy Young winner. In July 2008, they sent C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers. Sabathia, however, was headed toward free agency that fall, and it had already become apparent that the Indians couldn't match his salary demands. That wasn't the case this summer. The Indians still controlled the rights to Lee and Martinez through the end of the 2010 season.

The trades effective brought an end to the rebuilding project that started with the 2002 Bartolo Colon trade with the Expos - the trade that brought Lee to the Indians organization.

From a prospect standpoint, the trades did infuse the minor league system with power pitching arms such as Jason Knapp, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price, but they all have several years of development standing between them and a possible big league career. Knapp is also quickly amassing an injury history on his throwing shoulder. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on the shoulder in September.

Justin Masterson, acquired for Martinez, made his way to the Tribe's rotation in short order, and looked good in spurts. He figures to be a key member of either the rotation or the bullpen in 2010.

But the fallout from the trades will still linger long into next year, as the Indians will find themselves with a young roster, a shoestring budget and attempting to climb out of the primordial rebuilding soup once again. 

5. Braylon slugs LBJ's friend, then gets traded

October 7

The door prize for punching a friend of LeBron James outside a nightclub? Being shown the door.

Edwards reportedly punched Edward Givens, an event promoter, outside of View nightclub on Prospect Avenue around 2:30 a.m. October 5, the day after the Browns lost to the Bengals in overtime at home.

LeBron learned of the incident later that morning, and was publicly critical of Edwards' actions, telling the media that "it seems like there is a little jealousy going on with Braylon and me and my friends."

Two days after the incident, Eric Mangini traded Edwards to the Jets for linebacker Jason Trusnik, receiver Chansi Stuckey and draft picks. The incident was the last straw in a tense four-year relationship between Cleveland fans, the Browns and the mercurial, immature receiver from Michigan.

Edwards is a fantastic athlete, capable of making spectacular catches. He's also painfully vain, and very worried about what other people think of him. That vanity likely played a role in his habitual drops and his habitual whining to the media when he felt like he wasn't being appreciated enough.

The trade robbed the Browns of the one receiver who could command double teams, and as a result, the Browns' passing attack has gone from not very good to certifiably awful in the second half of the season. But from a team-atmosphere standpoint, the removal of Edwards was a definite case of addition by subtraction.

The trade to New York hasn't produced any profound revelations for Edwards. He still makes the occasional great play, he still drops passes and, as was the case in Cleveland, he's probably not going to the playoffs. 


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