CLEVELAND — Matt Zimmerman is 48 years old, Cleveland born and bred, and a big fan of the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers.
So when Zimmerman was asked Saturday afternoon while waiting for the gates to open at Progressive Field for the Indians' game with the Chicago White Sox if there has ever been a better time to be a Cleveland sports fan, he just smiled.
CLEVELAND TO LEBRON: Bring us a championship
"I was born in 1966, so not in my lifetime," Zimmermann said. "All I've ever known is losing and ultimately heartbreak when our teams have won. That's why it's so exciting now. There is just feeling around the city that things are about to change. We're no longer going to Losersville, USA."
The Browns haven't won it all since beating the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL Championship Game and have never been to a Super Bowl. The Indians' last World Series title was in 1948 and they lost in trips to the Fall Classic in 1954, 1995 and 1997. The Finals appearances in 2007 was the only one in Cavaliers' history and they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
Yet this is an exciting time to be a sports fan in Cleveland.
The Browns drafted Texas A&M quarterback and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in May. While first-year coach Mike Pettine has gone to great lengths to say journeyman Brian Hoyer is the starting quarterback, no one would be surprised if Manziel is behind center when the Browns open their season Sept. 7 against the rival Steelers at Pittsburgh.
"Everyone is excited about Johnny Football coming to Cleveland," said Aaron Henderson, a Browns' fans from nearby Canton, Ohio. "Heaven knows the Browns need a spark and he's the perfect guy to give it to them."
Yet nothing tops the excitement of LeBron James coming back home to Northeast Ohio to play for the Cavaliers. The Akron native spent his first seven seasons with the Cavaliers from 2003-10, leading them to the NBA Finals in 2007, before jumping to the Miami Heat as a free agent and helping that franchise win two league titles in four years.
"Johnny Manziel coming to Cleveland is great but the LeBron news dwarfs that completely," said Kyle Berry, who lives on Cleveland's West Side. "LeBron is the greatest player in the NBA today. He's a proven commodity. Johnny Manziel was a great college player but who knows what he'll do in the pros? LeBron is the type of player who can win you a championship and he seems more committed and focused and ever to do that."
No city is more starved for a championship.
Indians manager Terry Francona has become quite attached to the city and its sports fans in just two seasons on the job. He led the Indians to their first postseason playoff berth since 2007 last year and would love to see Cleveland end its championship drought.
"The people in this region are good, hard-working people who really care about their teams," he said. "I can't even imagine what would happen in this city if one of us won it all. It would be an amazing scene."
A scene that has played out in the fans' dreams so many times over the last five decades. And a scene that now seems realistic with Manziel in a Browns' uniform, James returning to his home area and Francona the owner of two World Series rings while managing the Boston Red Sox.
"We've had more than our share of frustration over the years, more than any fan base should have to handle," Zimmerman said. "I think we're due to finally have a big party and let go of all that frustration."
CLEVELAND REACTS TO LEBRON'S DECISION