Oh, To Win The First Game

Next Sunday, I’ll be up in Cleveland to watch the Browns play their first game of the season.  They’ll match up against the Miami Dolphins, and I’m expecting a Browns loss.  It’s not because the Dolphins are world-beaters — last year they were a mediocre 7-9 — but rather it’s because the Browns always lose their first game.

It’s astonishing, really.  Since the Browns have come back into the NFL in 1999, they’ve consistently flubbed their first game.  In those 14 years, their opening game record is 1-13.  They haven’t won their opener since the first term of the Bush Administration.  Betting that the Browns will somehow find a way to lose their first game is one of the safest bets in sports.  Other teams recognize this fact and relentlessly lobby NFL schedule-makers to let them play the Browns the first week in the season.  Last year, for example, the Browns offense was inept and the defense finally buckled and gave up the winning score against the awful Philadelphia Eagles. It put the team on the road to an 0-5 start and an early exit from playoff contention.

I’m not expecting a better result this year.  The Browns have no depth at running back and their offensive line seems incapable of effective run blocking.  You have to score to win, and that means the Browns are counting on QB Brandon Weedon to make plays.  Given Weedon’s iffy play last year, that approach doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.  The fact that the Browns just cut a bunch of players and picked up a slew of castoffs from the waiver wire also doesn’t say anything good about the team — although it might just mean their coaches and front office recognize the talent deficiency on the team.

I’ll enjoy watching the games with Russell this year but I’m not going to believe things have changed — unless the Browns somehow figure out how to win that first game.

Remembering Why We Celebrate Labor Day

Today Americans — well, most of us who aren’t working at stores that have big Labor Day sales, anyway — get the day off.  Why?

IMG_4844Labor holidays were the idea of trade unions in America’s large industrial cities.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, the first labor day celebration, on September 5, 1882, occurred in New York City, and by 1885 the idea had spread to many urban areas.   Labor Day was recognized as a holiday by some states in the 1880s, and the federal government followed suit in 1894, declaring that the first Monday in September would be celebrated as Labor Day in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Interestingly, unions developed the idea of Labor Day during a period of some of the worst clashes between unions and management in American history.  For example, the Pullman railroad workers strike in 1894 — the same year the federal government recognized the Labor Day holiday — caused a number of deaths and was broken only after President Grover Cleveland called out the Army.  Although most people focus on such strikes, the union movement also was responsible for pushing many of the work day, safety, and wage laws that Americans take for granted today.

The basic idea behind Labor Day, of course, is to give American workers a holiday from their labors.  Of all of the three-day weekends we receive during the year, therefore, Labor Day is the one best suited to commemorate with a simple day off in all its glory, from sleeping in to lounging around to grilling a brat or two as the day winds down.  Happy Labor Day!