I’ll Go With Carolina, Thanks

Usually I don’t watch the Super Bowl, because there’s always something about the game that reminds me, deflatingly, of the ongoing dismal state of the Cleveland Browns.

PrintWhen the AFC representative in the Super Bowl is the New England Patriots, I recall that Bill Belichick once was the head coach of the Browns.  When the AFC representative is the Baltimore Ravens, I remember that the Ravens once were the Browns, before they abandoned Cleveland and then promptly won two Super Bowls.  When one of the teams in the game is a newer franchise, like the Seattle Seahawks or Carolina Panthers, I’m reminded, again, that we have reached Super Bowl L and the Browns have never made to the Big Game — not once, in 50 years.  It’s an amazing, seemingly impossible record of ineptitude and futility that saddles Browns fans with an overwhelming weight of despair and crushed hopes.

So, normally I wouldn’t watch the Super Bowl.  I’m not sure whether I will or not, this year, but it’s not hard for me to say who I want to win.  I’ll take the Carolina Panthers over the Denver Broncos any day, for one reason:  John Elway.  He cut the heart out of Browns fans, two years in a row, and if I have to see his chiklet-toothed grin as he hoists the Super Bowl trophy I’m sure I’ll throw up or hurl a shoe at the TV screen.  Besides, the Carolina Panthers have a lot of ex-Buckeyes on their roster, and all of those players have been big contributors to their success this season.  Ted Ginn, Jr., Philly Brown, Kurt Coleman, and Andrew Norwell will remind me that there is at least one Ohio-based football team that I root for that knows what the hell it’s doing on the gridiron.

Go Carolina!  Make John Elway suffer!

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Cleveland Clad

I’ll be leaving in a few minutes to drive up to Cleveland.  I’ve got tickets to watch the Browns today with Russell and two of his buddies.

IMG_7175Here’s an example of how sports fans think:  I’m trying to decide what to wear that might help the Browns win.  And when the opposing team is the Denver Broncos — a franchise that figures prominently in the history of Browns heartbreaks — carefully considered clothing choices are especially important.

I’ve been up to watch a number of Browns games in the new stadium, and for the most part I’ve seen appalling gag jobs and wretched losses.  This means that the Browns haven’t been very good, sure . . . but it also means that most of my Browns gear is now irrevocably tainted.  I’ll give a ball cap or sweatshirt a few shots at bringing home a win, but once they hit multiple losses they obviously can’t be worn again without hurting the team and go into the closet, forever.

As a result of this process, I’ve got no Browns ball cap to wear.  Fortunately, the weather is supposed to be cold, so I can get by with a stocking cap with the Brownie on it.  And my standard sweatshirt has proven to be a dismal failure.  I’ve dug up some vintage stuff that Russell got years ago, reasoning that they not only are weather-appropriate for a chilly day but also are likely to have some good karma still infused into their very fibers.

C’mon Brownies!  I’m running out of licensed gear, here!

Edited to add:  Well, another outfit bites the dust . . . .

Browns Bounce-Back

I wanted to write about the Browns’ improbable — in fact, impossible — come-from-behind overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens today as soon as the game ended, but I was so stunned by the result that my fingers refused to function.

Let’s face it — no one expected the Browns to beat the Ravens in Baltimore.  The last time it happened, George W. Bush was President.  And for the Browns, it was probably 1,000 head coaches and 1,000 starting quarterbacks ago.  But today, they did it.

Russell informs me that the Browns defense has the highest payroll in the NFL.  You couldn’t tell that by today’s game, when the Browns got gashed on the ground and made Joe Flacco and his second-string receivers look like studs.  But the Ravens inexplicably became conservative when they had the chance to score the clinching touchdown in regulation, the Browns D made a stop to get the game to overtime, and then it forced a three-and-out to get the offense the ball and a chance for the winning field goal.  I’ve never seen a defense so soft against the run and so incapable of sacking the quarterback or forcing turnovers — but the Browns won, anyway.

And how about Browns’ quarterback Josh McCown (or, as UJ has called him in moments of weakness, “McClown”)?  He’s put up big numbers in the past three games, he threw for more than 400 yards today, he led the offense on several key drives, he didn’t throw an interception, and he spreads the ball around to skill players who can actually make plays.  The notion that the Browns would score more than 30 against the vaunted Ravens defense is absurd — but with McCown at the helm they did so, anyway.

Of course, Browns fans everywhere are pumped about the victory and are looking forward to more offensive fireworks to come.  I’m going up to the game next weekend, for a matchup against Denver that is perfectly set up to be a horrible disappointment.  Don’t blame me for my pessimisn . . . I’m just a world-weary Browns fan who’s seen the little sparks of hope in seasons past die horrible, soul-crushing deaths before.

So I’m not even going to think about next week’s game.  For now, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.

Randomly Dissing The Browns

The Super Bowl is always a tough time of year for Browns fans. We know that, from Super Bowl I through Super Bowl XLVIII, the Browns have never made it. Not once. It’s an annual source of tremendous embarrassment.

So, it’s just adding insult to injury when people start making fun of the teams actually in the Super Bowl by comparing them to the woeful Browns. Last night a tweet went out from Purell, the soap people, saying that the Denver Broncos could use a “refresh” moment, “because right now they look like the Cleveland Browns.” The Purell people later said they “apologize for the insensitive post.” (Who even knew that soap manufacturers tweet about football games — or for that matter that anyone would pay any attention to them? I’m learning something new every day.)

I’m assuming the Purell people were apologizing to we long-suffering Browns fans, because the apology tweet had the hashtag “#Browns fans.” In reality, though, the apology tweet should have gone out to the Denver Broncos. They may have been getting their brains beat in in the biggest game of the year, but no one — no one — deserves to be compared to the Browns.

Betting On The Browns

The last time the Cleveland Browns were legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl, UJ and I had season tickets.

IMG_3708We sat in the upper deck of old Cleveland Municipal Stadium during the late ’80s and early ’90s.  We watched as the Denver Broncos and John Elway — may he rot forever in hell — broke our hearts with The Drive, and the next year we watched the great team that eventually fell, again, to Denver thanks to The Fumble.  (It’s all part of the immense burden of failure lugged around by Cleveland sports fans, most recently recounted by this piece in the New York Times.)  It was fun going to the games and great to watch good football, but eventually we gave up our tickets as the Browns jacked up prices and other obligations intervened.

But now Russell will be returning to the Midwest.  He loves the Browns, and from the Cranbrook campus in the suburban Detroit area he’ll be within a reasonable drive from Cleveland.  So, we talked about it during Russell’s Mother’s Day visit, and we decided to pull the trigger.  Once again, I’ll be a season ticket holder, taking in the NFL in all its spectacle and wretched excess with Russell as we watch from our seats in Section 536 of Cleveland Browns Stadium.

I don’t think the Browns will be very good this year, but you never know . . . and sometimes you just have to put your money where your mouth is.  This season, we’re betting on the Browns.

Tebow, Schmeebow

Tonight Tim Tebow leads the Denver Broncos in an NFL playoff game against the New England Patriots.  I won’t be watching.

Even though the Drudge Report seems to feature him daily, and others appear to be watching his every move, I really don’t care much one way or the other about Tim Tebow.  I rooted against him when he was part of the Florida team that spanked Ohio State in the national championship game years ago, but now I’m just ambivalent.  I’m not swept up in Tebow Mania, I haven’t “Tebowed,” and I don’t plan to do so.

Tim Tebow isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL, and the Broncos aren’t the best team.  The only reason Tim Tebow is the subject of so much attention is that he is open and demonstrative about his religious faith.  I don’t begrudge him his beliefs, and I don’t doubt that they are heartfelt — but I don’t think they make him a major culture figure.  The fact that Tim Tebow is a devout Christian is about as relevant to evaluating him as an NFL quarterback as a minister’s ability to throw a tight spiral is to determining whether he is a good leader of his flock.

I don’t care whether Denver or New England wins tonight, and I doubt that any higher power does, either.