There’s just something impossibly bizarre about the Cleveland Browns franchise since it returned to the NFL 20 years ago. Even in victory, over a long-time rival in an important game, it somehow manages to find a way to embarrass its city and its fans.
Last night’s win over Pittsburgh, and the dangerous brawl and helmet-swinging episode that occurred as the game ended, reaches a new low for the Browns. If the incident weren’t so thuggish and savage and physically hazardous, it would almost be comical — the perfect demonstration of how the Browns inevitably snatch utter humiliation from the jaws of victory.
I have no desire to pile on Myles Garrett, the player who swung the helmet at the opposing quarterback’s head. Garrett has apologized, and I have no doubt that his apology is heartfelt. But there’s a big difference between losing your cool and doing something that could have caused catastrophic injury. Somehow, for some reason, this year’s version of the Browns lacks the discipline to restrain on-the-field behavior and keep it in the proper channels. There have been lots of penalties, and personal fouls, and then last night’s assault reaches new depths of egregious misconduct.
What’s wrong with this team? Is it coaching? Is it lack of leadership, or players who will set the right tone? Whatever it is, something really needs to change. The Browns have more than a week before they play their next game. I hope everyone involved in the organization, from players to top management, are doing some soul-searching today, and giving some serious through to how they can fundamentally, and permanently, change the culture of this team and this franchise. If they don’t, the ranks of Browns Backers are going to grow a lot smaller, and quickly.
In many large cities, public spaces have been modified. Metal bars and blocks and bolts and even spikes have been added to benches and ledges and other seating areas, to make it uncomfortable, or even impossible, to stretch out and lie down. In other places, the public spaces have no seating areas of any kind. The underlying purpose of the additions and modifications seems painfully clear — to keep homeless people from sleeping or otherwise camping out in the spaces.
A recent New York Times article addressed this phenomenon of “hostile architecture” in public places. The article reported that such actions have “increasingly drawn a backlash from critics who say that such measures are unnecessary and disproportionately target vulnerable populations. They have assailed what they call “anti-homeless spikes” for targeting those who have nowhere else to go at a time when many cities are grappling with a homelessness crisis.” The article quotes an NYU professor who says: “We’re building barriers and walls around apartment buildings and public spaces to keep out the diversity of people and uses that comprise urban life.” Supporters of the modifications argue, on the other hand, that this new approach to public spaces is necessary to help maintain public order and safety and security.
So, what’s a city to do?
Most cities are struggling to deal with homelessness. In Columbus, which doesn’t seem to have homelessness issues to the same degree as, say, San Francisco or Los Angeles, it’s not unusual to see a homeless person stretched out on a bench or sidewalk from time to time. No one wants that — including, presumably, the homeless person. Is it wrong to try to discourage that behavior by adding internal armrests to benches that prevent someone from lying down on the bench, but that aren’t going to bother office workers who are sitting outside eating their lunch, rather than trying to sleep? Are we really to the point where taking steps to prevent sleeping and camping out in public spaces are criticized as contrary to “the diversity of people and uses that comprise urban life,” as if dealing with homelessness, aggressive panhandlers, and public sleeping were part of some rich tapestry of city living? Or, put another way, by not taking those steps, are city planners enabling conduct that also interferes with the real, intended public use of public spaces — because most people aren’t going to want to hang out in a square filled with sleeping homeless people and their stuff?
Proponents of “broken windows” theory would argue that allowing public sleeping and camping out creates an atmosphere of disorder and lawlessness that encourages criminal activity and other improper conduct. I strongly support trying to help the homeless, but I also think trying to maintain order and promote the personal security of the non-homeless is an important goal, too.