The Family Curse

The Cleveland Browns lost today . . . again.  The team is now 0-14.  Last year, the Browns were 1-15.  Can it get any worse?  I guess an 0-16 season is worse, so that’s what I’m expecting.

sadbrownsfansBut that’s not what really bothers me.  Frankly, the Browns have been so putrid for so long that it’s impossible for me to get emotionally invested in the efforts of this horribly mismanaged, poorly coached band of losers.  In fact, I don’t even watch the games any more.  When Sundays roll around, I just check my ESPN app to see whether the Browns have lost, and when I confirm that they have turned in another dismal performance, as they did today, I move on.

No, what really bothers me is that I have infected Russell with the scourge of Browns fandom.  Before today’s game, he texted me, with the eternal optimism of youth, that he “had a feeling” about the Browns’ chances against the Ravens.

Of course, he should have recognized the feeling as one of impending doom.

Russell, I am sorry that I infected you with the family curse!

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Brown Thoughts After Another Brown Year

Today the Cleveland Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It’s a dog bites man story, a result that follows the chalk.  The Browns ended the year 3-13, which is their worst record in a while, and I didn’t watch a game after about week six.  I doubt that I’m alone.

So now we’ll go through what has become an almost annual Browns rite.  Where other teams focus on the playoffs, the Browns undoubtedly will be cleaning house, canning their head coach and probably their GM, too.  I’m sorry Mike Pettine was a bust, but I have to laugh when I remember owner Jimmy Haslam saying how the Browns were “thrilled” to have Pettine when they hired him only two years ago.

1557-mNo doubt the Browns were “thrilled” to hire anyone, because no rational person who wants a future in the NFL would want to be head coach of the Browns.  It’s a death wish writ large, because the Browns have had almost as many head coaches as they have had starting quarterbacks.  Does anybody remember Pat Shurmur?

So the Browns probably will once again hire a nobody, and they’ll get a new GM who will want to remake the team in his own image, and they’ll squander another high draft pick.  We’ll have a wholesale turnover of players, and the new guy will promise that we’ll be “exciting” or “tough” or play nails defense.  It never happens.  The franchise is cursed — cursed with stupidity.  A revolving door of coaches and front-office personnel, an owner who doesn’t know what he is doing and won’t hire somebody who does, and a list of failed first-round draft picks that were complete busts are a recipe for failure for any franchise.  The Browns have made that recipe into an art form.

This year there will be a bunch of really good Ohio State players in the draft.  Joey Bosa.  Ezekiel Elliott.  Normally I’d want them to play for my team — but now when my team is the Browns, because that inevitably means they will be injured or put into a scheme that fails to take advantage of their talents or otherwise converted into marginal players.

What should the Browns do?  I say clean house, top to bottom, and hire Jim Tressel to run the organization.  Why not?  We know he’s competent, he can recognize talent, he’s won at every level he’s tried, and his offensive scheme is pretty close to what the NFL does, anyway.  He knows the Browns tradition of success — unfortunately, only older guys know that anymore — and he resurrected the Buckeye program after the Cooper era.  Browns fans would give him a nice long honeymoon, which means he might actually last longer than the last few Browns coaches, who’ve been there for no more than a cup of coffee.  Maybe he’s not the answer — but does anybody trust this Browns organization to actually find somebody who is?

I say hire Jim Tressel.

Edited to add:  The Browns have, in fact, fired head coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer.  According to ESPN, they are interviewing former Buffalo coach Doug Marrone and Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase.  Romeo Crennel, anyone?

April Showers Bring Positive Personality Powers

Some of the “scientific” studies being publicized these days seem decidedly . . . unscientific.  For example, a recent study by scientists in Budapest concluded that the season in which you were born has some influence on your adult personality.

The scientists took 400 people and tried to match their personalities to their birth season.  They determined that people born in the summer are more likely to experience mood swings, people born in the winter are less likely to be irritable, people born during the fall months are less likely to be depressed, and people born in the spring are more likely to be relentlessly positive.  Why might there be some significance to your birth season?  The scientists say the seasons may affect the body’s production of certain mood-related substances, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Four hundred people seems like a pretty small sample to draw sweeping conclusions about a previously undiscovered relationship between birth season and mood, and if sampling is done incorrectly it’s easy to mistake correlation for causation.  Having known people with birthdays throughout the year, I haven’t noticed any connection between birth date and bitchiness.  In my family, all of the five kids were born in the spring and early summer, and our personality types vary pretty wildly, from sunny optimist to gloomy gus.

And how do you account for the undoubted impact of life lessons on personality?  You could be a positive spring baby, but live for decades as a Cleveland sports fans and you’ll soon shed that cock-eyed optimist for relentless, crushing pessimism.  Budapest scientists can’t possibly understand the well-known Cleveland sports effect on mood.  If all of those summer babies grow up to be Browns fans, it’s bound to skew the results.

Theodoric Of Cleveland (Cont.)

Today Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam announced that President Joe Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi are leaving the team. The decision to sweep the front office clean, Haslam said, will allow the organization to become more “streamlined.” Ray Farmer will become the team’s new general manager.

Just when you think the Browns can’t become more of an object of ridicule, something like this happens. Of course, the Browns’ front office, with Banner and Lombardi apparently involved, hired a new head coach just a few weeks ago. If you were going to axe your front office, why wouldn’t you do so before you hired a new head coach and let Farmer take the lead role in deciding who he wants in that crucial position?

I’m not defending Banner and Lombardi. I saw nothing from them that suggested the capability to lead the Browns back to respectability — much less contention for that elusive spot in a Super Bowl. In fact, I saw nothing from them that suggested basic competence. I can’t imagine that Farmer could possibly be any more inept than Banner and Lombardi were, and the fact that two failures have been pitched from the front office can’t hurt. But this latest housecleaning just reaffirms the prevailing view that the Browns are the worst managed, most bumbling franchise in the NFL — which is not exactly the reputation you want when you are looking to recruit free agents, encourage fans to shell our their hard-earned dollars for season tickets, and retain the handful of truly talented players that are currently on the Browns roster.

I’ll always be a Browns fan; it’s my cross to bear, one that also is borne by Browns Backers around the globe. I’m not expecting a winner. I just wish this once-proud, well-run team would stop being a laughingstock.

Testosterone Time

On Sunday, as Russell and I watched the Browns first soar then sickeningly crash and burn, I was reminded again of how many men can be, well, assholes.

Detroit is only a few hours away from Cleveland, and there were a lot of Detroit fans at the game.  Many of them came by bus, decked out in their jerseys and headpieces and other Lions finery.  In the municipal lot, where the buses park, there was some good-natured ribbing between the fans, and Browns and Detroit supporters posed for friendly pictures.

IMG_5088But then, a few beers later, the game started, and for some fans the good-natured veneer boiled away.  Some Detroit fans were seated in the row behind us, and the men among them started to get into it with the Browns fans below.  When the Lions grabbed an early lead, the Detroit fans started taunting about the game and the Indians, then when Cleveland grabbed the lead Browns fans responded with insults and celebratory dances calculated to provoke — which they did.  By the time more beers had gone down and the game started to go south for the Browns in the second half, one-finger salutes were exchanged, fists were shaken, and the escalating situation seemed one swing away from a melee.

I looked at the men involved.  Each of them was with his wife, and the women were cringing with embarrassment at their middle-aged husbands acting like stupid adolescents.  No doubt they also worried that they might be trapped in a brawl and then have to worry about their spouse being arrested or injured.  I felt sorry for the women — and also felt sorry for the rest of us who had to witness the absurd, testosterone-laden tableau.  Fortunately for everyone in the vicinity, the situation was defused when the principal Browns fans involved meekly stumbled down the stadium stairs after a bonehead play by Brandon Weeden put the game out of reach.

I was glad no fighting occurred, but I found myself wondering:  do those guys, Lions and Browns fans alike, have any perception of how imbecilic they look?  When they wake up the next morning with a hangover, do they burn with shame at their behavior and apologize to their long-suffering wives?  Or is self-awareness and contrition simply inconsistent with acting like a complete jerk?

Send In The Clowns — Don’t Bother, They’re Here

The Browns sucked in their first home game, and they sucked even worse in their second game.  After starting the season 0-2 and scoring precisely one touchdown, the Browns today traded their only legitimate offensive skill player, running back Trent Richardson.

When I heard about the trade on the radio driving home tonight, the announcers acted surprised.  They shouldn’t have been.  Trading Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round draft choice means the Browns have given up on the season after only two games of futility — which is just a little bit earlier than in past seasons.  This week they will start a third-stringer at quarterback, cast-offs and nobodies at running back, and receivers who can’t catch the ball.  They’re clearly aiming to break the Seattle Seahawks’ record for fewest points scored by an NFL team in a 16-game season — 140 points.  Does anyone honestly see this Browns team scoring 140 points?

This Browns organization is laughable, but the real joke is on me, Russell, and the rest of the poor diehard fans and Browns Backers who shelled out for season tickets this year.  What fools we were!  We should have realized what everybody else knows — this franchise is the most inept, dysfunctional, pathetic, mismanaged team in the history of professional sports.  It’s appalling that they’ve taken the money of season ticket holders and given us a product that could well be the worst offensive team in modern NFL history — and then driven home the spike even farther by trading away the one player who gave us a glimmer of hope.

The Browns organization and front office could not have done more to completely crush the hopes and aspirations of Browns fans than making the trade they did today.  They clearly are counting on the loyalty of Browns fans, who have patiently endured season after season of train wrecks and stuck with the team because it’s in their orange-and-brown blood.  I’m one of those poor, hopelessly hooked fans, and in the past I’ve shook my head and laughed off the blunders and the mishaps and cursed bad luck.  But not today.

The trade today reveals a team that doesn’t give a shit about its fans, or the money they’ve spent.  The way this team is treating its loyal fans is unconscionable.  The Cleveland Browns organization just sucks.

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.