The Long, Dark Night Of The Soul

If you are a Cleveland Browns fan, you know how I feel. If you are not a Cleveland Browns fan, imagine every happy thought, every sunny day, every warm, decent feeling you’ve ever experienced, ripped painfully away as you are thrown headlong into the blackest pits of unending despair.

The Browns continue to find new, unimaginable, impossible ways to lose. Today was, perhaps, the most ridiculous yet. And each time they do, their cadre of loyal, ever-hopeful fans go with them, thrust into hellish depths of failure. Even armored with the most resolute pessimism, Browns fans allow themselves to experience a glimmer of hope and a brief taste of potential victory, and inevitably, again, and again, and again, find their hopes crushed.

What can you say? It’s the Browns. The Browns are the dark side of sports fandom.

A Long, Long Line

Something pretty extraordinary–by modern standards, at least–is happening in the U.K. Thousands of Brits, from sports stars like David Beckham to the common folk, are lining up to wait for hours to file past the casket of Queen Elizabeth as she lies in state.

The lines are so tremendous that the BBC is writing articles about them, and the British government has established a live “queue tracker” on YouTube so that people can keep tabs on the line as it snakes past landmarks like the Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament to Westminster Hall. The maximum length of the line is 10 miles, and the government is warning people who would join the line that they will have to wait, and stand, for hours, without a chance to sit down. People are flocking to join the line, anyway.

We’re used to seeing people leave flowers and notes at places when a well-known person dies, but this situation is different. The people waiting in this colossal line are spending their precious time and voluntarily inconveniencing themselves to pay their personal respects to the Queen. Those of us who don’t quite get the British monarchy have to admit that, in the modern era of frequent self-absorption, this demonstration of devotion sends a powerful message. The British people are voting with their feet, with their hearts, and with their time. It’s an impressive testament to their love for someone who sat on the throne for 70 years.

It makes you wonder: would the death of any American figure provoke this kind of showing? I can’t think of one, can you?

77

Ohio State played the Toledo Rockets, one of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference, last night. The Buckeyes were a heavy favorite, but this season many college football favorites have gone down to ignominious defeat at the hands of an underdog–and for a time, shifty and speedy Toledo quarterback Dequan Finn gave the Buckeyes’ defense fits. In a normal game, his playmaking ability would have been a cause of concern.

But this was no normal game. Finn’s heroics didn’t really matter, because the Ohio State offense played about as close to perfection as human beings can get. They scored 77 points against a pretty good team, and their offensive metrics were unbelievably gaudy. The team racked up more than 760 yards in total offense, including 482 yards passing and 281 yards rushing. The Buckeyes scored at least two touchdowns in every quarter–including four touchdowns in the first quarter and 42 points in the first half–and responded to every great play by the Rockets quarterback with another score.

If I recall correctly, the Men of the Scarlet and Gray scored on 10 of 12 possessions, with the 12th possession focused on running out the clock at the end of the game. None of the touchdowns were on fluke plays or short fields; the team repeatedly put together long drives and chunk plays that shredded the Toledo defenders. The offensive line opened big holes for Ohio State running backs, protected their quarterbacks, and had only a few modest penalties. The Buckeye starters looked great, the back-ups looked great, and the back-ups to the back-ups–including freshman running back TC Caffey, pictured above, who kept his legs moving, escaped the pile, and took a 49-yard carry to the house–looked great. Coaches always find some flaw, less-than-stellar blocking technique, or missed assignment to coach up, and I’m sure the Ohio State offensive coaches will, too–but they are going to have to truly scour the game film to find much to discuss.

The Wisconsin Badgers come to town next Saturday, and with that game the Big Ten season will begin. Playing sound defense will be a lot more important, touchdowns will no doubt be much harder to come by, and last night’s performance against Toledo will fade into the background. But while the memory is fresh, I hope Buckeye Nation pauses for a moment and appreciates just how amazing last night’s offensive performance was. It truly was a game for the record books.