The Mr. Hero Curse is alive and well in Cleveland.
The news today that the Browns have released wide receiver Brian Hartline was at first received with managed heartache by fans who fell in love with him at Ohio State. A move like this one by the Hue Jackson Browns was, after all, grimly foretold at the NFL draft, during which the Browns accrued no less than 167 new wide receivers, many of whom have caught footballs before.
But the Hartline dismissal signified something deeper for local onlookers, something more troubling, something frankly almost ghoulish: It's the latest in the alarming trend of local fast food chain Mr. Hero's penchant for hiring, as spokesmen, beloved athletes who are thereafter released or traded from Cleveland.
It's time to call this what it is: THE MR. HERO CURSE.
First it was Brian Hoyer.
"When Mr. Hero first asked me to be their spokesman," said a chipper Hoyer in this 2014 ad, "I said: Good Call."
Bad call, Brian. After his relationship with Mr. Hero, the Browns decided to ink Josh McCown as starting QB and let the balding hometown hero, a St. Ignatius alum, drift away in free agency. Hoyer signed with the Houston Texans and went 5-4 in his 9 starts in 2015.
Next it was cherished Cavaliers' big man Anderson Varejao, the soul of the franchise, a man who stuck with the Cavs even after LeBron's departure and proclaimed that his heart's one true wish was to stay a Cavalier forever.
But Andy, Cleveland's Wild Thing, made the mistake of allying himself with hometown burger chain Mr. Hero, home of the Romanburger. Here's Varejao in a 2015 advertisement, palling around with Mr. Hero corporate chef Jim Cox.
"Muy bueno," says Varejao, offering up a Romanburger to the camera while smiling for the city that he loved.
No bueno, Andy. No bueno! The warm and frizzy grandfather of the modern Cavaliers was unceremoniously booted to the Golden State Warriors at the trade deadline this year. And though the Cavs acquired Channing Frye in return, a stretch big man who's proven valuable in the postseason, the trading was nonetheless a blow to the fan base and an arrow to the heart of Andy.
Next it was Hartline himself, the Ohio State standout and veteran free agent signing in 2015.
"Did you hear the Browns signed Brian Hartline," a Mr. Hero patron asks in this 2015 ad (featuring easily the most committed performance by a athlete-spokesman in Mr. Hero's history). "Yeah, so did Mr. Hero!"
"He catches everything," says a charming cashier (including the hot, low-cost Chipotle Chicken meal).
You know what Hartline didn't catch? The memo that Cleveland athletes who sign with Mr. Hero are destined for short-lived Cleveland stints.