God help me — I think I’m catching Browns Fever! Because the local TV station has chosen to broadcast the Bengals-Steelers game, I’ve gone to a local bar to watch the Browns play the Chargers.
That means I’ve changed my schedule and activities specifically to watch the Browns. That means — gulp! — I’ve effectively declared that I’ve once again been sucked in.
Oh well! Go Browns! Feel free to crush my spirits again!
The Cleveland Browns won a football game on Thursday night. Seriously! An actual, regular season NFL football game. And they even came from behind to do it. The result was so wildly unexpected it’s taken me more than a day to fully process it.
And I’ve also been considering the profound implications of a Browns victory. It makes me wonder: if the Browns can somehow be victorious on the gridiron, it basically means that nothing is impossible. And we all need to brace ourselves, because who knows what might happen next! In the interests of enhancing public preparedness, I came up with a list of some of the other events that would rank right up there with the Browns winning a football game on the improbability scale:
- President Trump is awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his Twitter feed
- The French Minister of Culture admits that Americanized words like le supermarket are perfectly OK
- A scientific study shows that Facebook political postings actually cause people of opposing political views to change their minds
- Yankees fans concede the singing Sweet Caroline during the 8th inning of baseball games really is a pretty cool tradition
- Kim Jong Un decides to grow his hair out and go with a ponytail
- The Grand High Council of Vegans announces that eating an occasional cheeseburger is acceptable and tastes awfully darned good, too
- The Ohio State Marching Band misspells Ohio during the performance of Script Ohio
I’m sure there are more, but you get the idea. Be wary, folks! If the Browns can win a football game, all bets are off!
Are you having a bad day? For that matter, are you having a bad week, a bad month, a bad year, even a bad two years?
Here’s a thought that should make you feel much, much better — you could be Cleveland Browns’ head coach Hue Jackson.
Hue’s a guy who came to Cleveland with a pretty good reputation. Since he’s started coaching the Browns, however, the team has gone 1-32-1. That’s not a misprint. He’s won precisely one game, and lost dozens. And yet, he keeps coaching, and losing. And to make matters worse, every bad thing that could possibly happen has happened to the guy, and undoubtedly will happen again in the future. That’s just the way it is.
Today the Browns outplayed the New Orleans Saints on the road, but they lost because their kicker missed two field goals and two extra points. That’s right — he missed two extra points. Some NFL kickers go their entire careers without missing two extra points, but the Browns’ kicker somehow found a way to miss two in one game. It’s so absurd that even ardent Browns fans can only shake their heads in wonderment at the sheer folly and futility of it, and wonder what happened that caused the football gods to cruelly torment the Browns and their fans week after week.
But poor Hue Jackson can’t laugh it off. He’s got to stand on the sidelines every week as his team finds new ways to lose winnable games, looking resolute in his headset, all the while knowing that when crunch time comes he’s going to get punched in the gut and kneed in the groin by the fates. Deep down, is Hue Jackson hoping he’s get fired, just to end the onslaught and let him escape the nightmarish horror?
So if you’re feeling down because things are tough, cheer up! You could be Hue Jackson, the most cursed coach of the NFL.
Yesterday, the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers played to a 21-21 tie. It’s noteworthy, not because ties in the NFL are as rare as hen’s teeth, but because the Browns somehow didn’t find a way to lose.
That means that, for the first time in 17 games stretching back to the 2016 season, the Browns didn’t end the game by chalking another one up in the loss column. It also means that, for the first time in the collective memories of every member of Browns fandom, the Browns won’t be starting the season 0-1. (For the record, the Browns had lost 13 straight season openers before yesterday.) And, as anyone who watched the game yesterday saw, the TV commentators repeatedly listed, with an air of wondrous amazement, other ongoing records for futility that the Browns have been setting — like the fact that it has been more than 600 days since the Browns won on a Sunday. Because we’re talking about a tie game, the non-winning streaks continue, but at least the losing streaks have been snapped.
It was a sloppy, poorly played game that occurred in a rainstorm. The Browns had a game-winning field goal blocked, were repeatedly penalized at key moments, at times looked like they couldn’t block the Little Sisters of the Poor, and failed to take full advantage of six turnovers by the Steelers — and yet, still, they didn’t lose. It’s not exactly progress, but at least it’s not more of the same steady diet of outright failure.
They say that a tie is like kissing your sister. For Browns fans, a kiss — any kiss — is preferable to the normal punch to the face when autumn Sundays roll around.
Russell and I have watched a few episodes of HBO’s Hard Knocks, which promises to be an insider’s look at pro football training camps, coaches, and players. Since this season is features the Cleveland Browns’ training camp, it’s a natural for us.
But after watching last night’s episode, I realized that the show is . . . well, boring. The fact that the exhibition game that was featured in the episode was a 5-0 snoozer didn’t help, but, really, watching a “reality” show about professional athletes isn’t any different from watching a reality show about real housewives or the Kardashians or ice-road truckers or any other group or occupation. After a while, you’ve seen everything, and it all seems pretty rote.
So assistant coaches in the NFL cuss a blue streak? Is anybody really surprised about that? Or about learning that pro athletes often act like adolescents or macho jerks? Or that head coaches are more like politicians than Xs and Os guys? And the “human interest” stories about guys who might not make the team and their families candidly just aren’t all that interesting.
Maybe the Browns are just intrinsically boring, as well as historically inept — or maybe the Hard Knocks concept has run it’s course. Whatever the reason, Hard Knocks is a big ho hum in my book.
Yesterday about three thousand people attended a parade in Cleveland on one of the coldest days of the year. The parade was to commemorate the Cleveland Browns’ 0-16 season — only the second time in NFL history that a team has accomplished that dubious record.
The Browns’ players and, no doubt, the team’s inept management were embarrassed by the parade. One player, Emmanuel Ogbah, tweeted: “That parade is a joke don’t call yourself a true browns fan if you go to that thing! Going 0-16 was embarrassing enough as a player. That is like adding fuel to the fire and it is completely wrong!” Other players argued that the parade might discourage NFL free agents, or draftees, from wanting to play for the Browns, and that the team shouldn’t want to be known for going 1-31 over the past two seasons.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to play for a team that loses every game, and often found inventive and absurd ways to do so, so I’m sympathetic to the players. But does having a tongue-in-cheek parade really send a bad message, and does it really discourage players who might be considering the Browns more than, say, the 0-16 season itself, and the obvious disarray in the front office and on the field, and the fact that the head coach for next year has to win 31 consecutive games to even reach a .500 record with the team? Or does the parade, instead, send the message that notwithstanding years of futility and a horrible product on the field, there is still a solid core of Cleveland Browns backers who will freeze their butts off to try to send a demonstrable message that they still support the team and hope that this awful season marks a turning point?
I’ll be honest — I’ve been a Browns fan for as long as I can remember, but the years of failure and egregious ineptitude have caused me first to lose passion, and then to lose interest. I tip my cap to those rugged and dedicated fans who still care enough to make a public demonstration of their commitment to the team on a frigid day. If NFL players won’t come to Cleveland because of a parade, I think that says something about the character of the players, not the quality of the dedicated fans.
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.
But 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!