CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – It’s a phrase that has been branded to Cleveland and it’s sports teams since the Cuyahoga River caught fire in the 1970’s.
‘The Mistake by the Lake.’
But it’s not a phrase you’ll hear actor Kevin Costner use.
Costner, who plays Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. in the upcoming movie Draft Day, has a much different take on the city of Cleveland, the Browns and the team’s loyal fans.
“I watched that organization since I was little,” Costner said on a conference call with sportswriters to promote the film on Monday. “I remember watching Leroy Kelly run…and I remember that team, so I’ve never equated Cleveland to the joke it’s made to be.”
The last time Hollywood centered a movie around a Cleveland team, it was the Indians, who through decades of losing had become the butt of national jokes, in the movie Major League.
And there were plenty of jokes about the Indians and their awful history in the movie.
While the Browns, who have also become a national punch line for dysfunction and the constant losing, aren’t the centerpiece of Draft Day, the team is featured prominently in the film causing fans to hope that it will be able to live up to the standard of Major League.
But comedy or making fun of the Browns wasn’t the goal of the film.
“There was no conscious effort to go, ‘OK Major League did this, so let’s do this,'” Costner said. “This was a movie written completely independent of all movies and it happened to be written really well….There was no thought of Major League. This was a single day in the draft. The humor, the authenticity we tried for, was all important to what we were trying to do.”
December 2014 will mark the 50th anniversary since the last world championship was won by a professional sports team in Cleveland – the Browns. Over 140 combined seasons for the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers have passed since the last title and excruciating heartbreak in the playoffs have followed for all 3 teams since.
Costner sympathizes with the title drought and he does love rooting for the underdog, but also knows the history of the Browns and remembers when the team was dominant, albeit 50-60 years ago.
“I [sympathize] a little bit, but a lot of cities suffer,” Costner said. “Nobody wants to put Seattle’s success in reverse but 4 years ago they were really kinda on the ropes and all of a sudden there was a steady build. I always thought good things would happen with [Mike] Holmgren. If you watch their progress, you look at the Saints, they suffered infinitely more than the Browns.
“The Browns were the pillar of the league for a long, long time.”
While filming the movie last April and May in Cleveland, Costner saw first hand how passionate Browns fans still are despite how bad the team, which has lost at least 10 games in 10 of the last 11 seasons, is. The city and the teams fans left an impression on him.
“A town does kind of rise and fall with the good fortunes of its team – at least some of these eastern cities really, really are into it,” Costner said. “I don’t know about suffering but people, they go, they boo, they cheer, have their beer and they go home. But what they are is loyal.
“I love that they fill that stadium. So yea, I would like to see them win just like I wanted to see the Saints win.”
Draft Day hits local theaters on April 11.
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