If you didn’t know who Earnest Byner was before you saw “Believeland,” well, you definitely know who he is now. The former Browns running back, who infamously fumbled as he was rushing for a game-tying touchdown against Denver in the AFC Championship in January 1988, issued a tearful and heartfelt apology to the city of Cleveland during the documentary, sharing just how much pain and anguish he has felt and endured since that cold evening at Mile High almost three decades ago.
But now that the Cavaliers have won the NBA title – thus bringing a championship to Cleveland for the first time since 1964 – Byner feels much better about his highly scrutinized blunder.
“Actually, I do – but for more reason than probably can be imagined,” Byner said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I’m really thrilled and actually probably more free because a championship is there. But when ‘Believeland’ came out, I think it really started a process. When we did the interview, it started the process of healing that I think has continued through even up until this championship. I think it’s going to continue for the people and fans of Cleveland and the surrounding area.”
The last few months have been a whirlwind for the 53-year-old Byner, who, interestingly, has been helping the Browns get ready for the 2016 season.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Byner said. “Part of that whirlwind has been on the road and going back and forth to Cleveland and being a part of minicamp and the OTA practices. All of this – all of that happened because of ‘Believeland.’ The outpouring of love and affection, even at the premier, was magnificent for me. But I think it probably started a spiritual thing that really cleaned up and opened a way for the championships to start to flow back into Cleveland.”
One did, finally, on Sunday, as the Cavs beat the Warriors, 93-89, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Cavs became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 Finals deficit and the first team to win a Finals Game 7 on the road since 1978.
It was a special night for Northeast Ohio.
“I’m really excited for the people of Cleveland, the fans, the loyalty that they have shown throughout the years,” said Byner said. “The long-suffering has finally paid off for them. I am so pleased that LeBron was able to do what he said that he was going to do for the city and actually get some of the monkey and some of that weight off his back as well. It was a pleasure to see.”