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The Win Tax: Political Stunt or Decent Idea?

The Win Tax: Political Stunt or Decent Idea?

| On 10, Jun 2014

It’s either a brilliant, long-overdue idea, or a politician grandstanding as he seeks higher office. Or possibly a little of both.

Last week, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald pitched the idea of a “win tax,” where a portion of the tax revenue generated by the sin tax for upkeep of the city’s facilities – Progressive Field, Quicken Loans Arena and Cleveland Browns Stadium – would be distributed based on the team’s on-field performance.

It’s worth noting that FitzGerald is running for governor this year. And he’s got my vote if for no other reason than he’s running against John Kasich, a Steelers fan who likened defeating the referendum on Senate Bill 5 to Bernie Kosar rallying to lead the Browns to the Super Bowl.  He was right, in that neither actually happened.

FitzGerald pointed out something anyone who’s spent more than 45 minutes in Cleveland knows: The city has gone nearly half a century without a championship of any kind. From the heartbreaking defeats of the Shot, the Fumble, the Drive and the 1997 World Series to the years of lack of talent on the field or court and lack of competence in the front office, being a Cleveland fan is not for the faint of heart.

Of course, the plan was a thumbnail sketch and not long on details yet. For the idea to pass, it needs the approval of Cuyahoga County Council. But FitzGerald suggested a fan advisory council, open to Cuyahoga County residents (damn. I live in Lorain County) to help decide how to disburse the money, because not all playoff berths are created equal. A wild card in the NFL is different from one in MLB. In baseball, five teams in each league make the playoffs. In football, it’s six per conference. In the NBA, it’s a total of eight per conference.

The Indians are the best-run team in the city, and that’s not a compliment. They win by default. The Browns are going through the worst stretch in NFL history, with six straight seasons of at least 10 losses. The parking spot for the head coach in Berea is no longer reserves; it saves time from repainting over it. Jimmy Haslam, who took over as Browns owner from the indifferent Randy Lerner, is currently being investigated by the FBI. And since LeBron James left the Cavaliers, they’ve been an absolute dumpster fire. They’re on their third No. 1 draft pick, and have two other top-five picks. Dan Gilbert has fired Mike Brown twice and Byron Scott once.

And unfortunately, that’s the real legacy of Cleveland sports in the past half-century: completely inept ownership. For 30 years, the Indians were a hair away from moving. And as bad as Dan Gilbert is, he’s still a marked improvement over Ted Stepien, whose decisions were so bad, the NBA stepped in and had to approve his trades – and implemented rules to ensure that owners couldn’t damage their teams like that in the future. And if there’s any justice in the next life, former Browns owner Art Modell is roasting on a spit in the ninth level of hell.

So the win tax might never come to pass. And it might not work. But it taps into the overarching emotion of Cleveland fans: a mixture of resignation and desperation that I can’t explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it.