But sometimes, a number represents something more than a mere outcome. Just ask ESPN producer Jeff Ausiello, whose obsession with Cleveland sports and the number 22 began while he was washing dishes during the 2014 NFL Draft.
“I heard the Browns taking Johnny Manziel with the 22nd pick in the first round,” remembers Ausiello. “It was the third time in seven years they had drafted a quarterback (Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden) with the 22nd pick.”
Ausiello, a math enthusiast, searched for “Cleveland” on the internet. The first item was Moses Cleaveland founding the city on July 22, 1796. He then read about the Cuyahoga River catching fire on June 22, 1969. Ausiello soon gravitated toward the history of the Browns, discovering that Art Modell had bought the Browns on March 22, 1961 and fired Paul Brown 22 months later. He researched the 1986 AFC Championship Game and found John Elway’s longest pass of The Drive was 22 yards, which advanced the Broncos to the Browns’ 22-yard line.
And there was so much more.
“Each 22 I started to find made me more intrigued,” says Ausiello. “At the beginning it was Browns-centric. I let it fade away for a few years until last October. I was driving to work and heard about the Indians losing to the Yankees, how they peaked too early after their 22-game winning streak.
“That was another thunderbolt,” he continues. “It was my Godfather moment. I felt like I was being pulled back in. At that point, I started going full-bore.”
ESPN will broadcast Ausiello’s story Cleveland 22 on Sunday’s 10 a.m. edition of SportsCenter. Even the harshest skeptics will be amazed by what they hear.
“There are very few places I looked where I didn’t find crazy coincidences,” he says. “The basket David Robinson made to beat Cleveland State in the 1986 NCAA tournament gave him 22 points for the game. … In their final season, the Cleveland Barons won 22 games. … The Steve Olin and Tim Crews accident happened on March 22, 1993. … The Browns’ Ernie Davis was diagnosed with leukemia at age 22. … Going into Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, Jose Mesa, who was born on May 22, had allowed 22 earned runs for the season.”
The mother of all 22s came on May 22, 2003 when the Cavs, who had a 22 percent chance of getting the top draft choice, won the top pick and would later draft LeBron James. And when does LeBron’s current contract with the L.A. Lakers expire? You guessed it, 2022.
“I’m a Bostonian,” says Ausiello. “I grew up with the Curse of the Bambino. I don’t believe in cruses, destiny and luck.”
But he does believe in numbers — particularly the one that tells us that the 22nd president of the United States was none other than Grover Cleveland.
4:35 PM EST
July 20, 2018