The Cleveland Browns will be seeking their second Super Bowl title on Sunday.
I know, fans of the ''real'' Cleveland Browns don't think so. And neither does the NFL.
However, the Baltimore Ravens were the Cleveland Browns before they moved to Maryland in 1996. Even though they changed their name to Ravens and the NFL ruled that the Browns' records, colors and team name would stay with the new Cleveland team established in 1999, it actually was the former Cleveland Browns that were on the field as the Ravens when they won the Super Bowl for the 2000 season. And among those Ravens, three were on the Browns' roster in 1995 before the move.
Since the Super Bowl was first played in 1967, Cleveland has never taken part. The Browns came close in 1968 and 1969 when they lost in the NFL title game. Then they moved away in 1996 and within four years they were in the Super Bowl as the Ravens.
It isn't the first time that loyal fans saw their team relocate and then win a championship soon after leaving.
Staying in the NFL, the Houston Oilers were one win away from a berth in the second Super Bowl, but lost the 1967 AFL championship game. They also lost AFC championship games in 1978 and 1979. After coming close numerous times, their loyal fans saw the team move away in 1997 and then as the Tennessee Titans they finally made it to the Super Bowl in 1999.
An example of a championship season for a team soon after it moved that always stood out to me happened in Major League Baseball. The hapless Washington Senators hadn't been in the World Series since 1925 when they moved to Minnesota in 1960. However, those Senators had been improving and it showed five years later when they played in the World Series as the Twins.
Similar to the Browns' situation, the Washington team was replaced with a new Senators expansion squad in 1961 and like their predecessor, they were rather hapless and moved to Texas in 1972. Then as the Rangers they finally made it to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.
The Philadelphia Athletics were a powerhouse when they won the World Series in 1910, 1911, 1913, 1929 and 1930. They were the opposite in the years that followed and moved to Kansas City in 1955. After finishing in last place in 1967, the Athletics moved to Oakland in 1968 and won the World Series in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
Those loyal Kansas City fans probably wished the Athletics could have stayed a few more years to enjoy the success. Instead, they suffered through the early years of the expansion Royals until they became a contender in the 1980s.
The NHL has a few examples of teams winning the Stanley Cup or reaching the finals soon after moving.
The Quebec Nordiques began in the WHA in 1972 and won the Avco World Trophy (the WHA's Stanley Cup) in 1976-77. They then became one of four WHA teams to join the NHL in 1979. Quebec had success in the NHL, but never reached the Stanley Cup finals.
The Nordiques moved to Denver for the 1994-95 season, became the Colorado Avalanche and won the Stanley Cup the following season.
I wonder how many former Nordiques' fans were celebrating back in Quebec?
The New Jersey Devils lost in the Stanley Cup finals last season, which they also did in 2001. The Devils won the cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003. But before they were the Devils, they were the expansion Kansas City Scouts and then the Colorado Rockies.
The Scouts joined the NHL for the 1974-75 season and remained there for only two seasons in which they won 27 of 186 games. They moved to Denver (sound familiar?) and became the Colorado Rockies. They played there for six seasons and made the playoffs once, then moved to New Jersey in 1982 and eventually Stanley Cup titles for the Devils became a fairly common occurrence.
There are also a couple of NBA examples.
The Seattle SuperSonics were established in 1967 and won the NBA championship in 1979 and lost in the championship series in 1978 and 1996. In 2008 they moved to Oklahoma City, became the Thunder and reached the NBA finals in 2012.
The Chicago Packers joined the NBA in 1961 and changed their name to the Zephyrs in 1963. They moved to Baltimore, where they became the Bullets, in 1964 and lost in the NBA Finals in 1971. Four years later they moved to Washington D.C. and lost in the finals again in 1975 and won the NBA title in 1978 before losing in the finals in 1979.
At least their former Baltimore fans were only 60 miles away and could still follow the team.
In contrast, there were a couple of teams that relocated after winning a championship and both were in now defunct leagues.
The Dallas Texans won the 1962 AFL championship game, but the next season they were playing in Kansas City.
In the inaugural 1967-68 season of the American Basketball Association, the Pittsburgh Pipers won the championship. But they moved to Minnesota for the second ABA season.
To make things more confusing, the Minnesota Pipers moved back to Pittsburgh for the third season of the ABA and became the Condors.
Sometimes you need a road map to keep track of where professional teams are each season. And I don't know which is more painful, to see your team come close to success and then see it obtained after relocating or winning a championship and then moving away.