Another Browns National TV Debacle

The Cleveland Browns were on national TV last night, taking on the Washington Redskins on ESPN.  Why not check out my team?  After all, they’ve got a new coach (an annual occurrence), lots of new players (ditto), there’s a quarterback controversy (ditto ditto), and there’s hope for the future (the horrible, crippling curse of all deluded Cleveland sports fans).  Russell and I had our cell phones handy, ready to text our thoughts on the game and share some positive vibes.

Alas — as is always the case with Cleveland sports — it was not to be.  The Browns defense, at least, looked like an NFL-quality team.  Other than the fact that they were mysteriously penalized on every play, the D got decent pressure on the quarterback, forced some turnovers, and had a nice little goal-line stand.  There seems to be some depth there, too.  When the regular season arrives and the refs swallow their whistles a bit, the defense might even be good.

ESPN photoThe offense was another story.  It started with a botched snap count, a blocking breakdown, and an uncontested sack on the first play, followed by a penalty on the second.  At that point, how many Browns fans thought:  “Uh oh, same old Browns”?  And they were right.  Words like putrid, awful, and embarrassing don’t begin to describe the futility the Browns starters showed in the first half last night.  Brian Hoyer, the quarterback who is coming back from surgery last year, was 2-6 for 16 yards, blew an easy TD throw, and was off on almost every pass.  Johnny Manziel was 7-16 for 65 yards, but even those lame stats were padded by a second-half series against second-teamers.  The Browns eked out a miserable 3 points after a turnover.

Fortunately for me, I decided not to watch the second half when the scrubs took over.  I therefore didn’t have to watch Manziel distinguish himself by flipping off the Redskins bench on national TV.  So, Johnny Football looked like Johnny Asshole.  Browns teammates say Manziel takes a terrible riding from opposing players and fans.  No surprise there!  Manziel is just a kid — people tend to forget that — but his antics on draft day, and his insistence on acting like a big shot when he hasn’t proven himself at the pro level, are bound to attract that kind of attention.  If he can’t keep his cool in a meaningless preseason game, how is he going to stay level-headed during a crucial play with an important game on the line?  Manziel’s stupid middle-finger salute tells us something about him, and it isn’t good news.

There’s some value in a game like this.  It was such a colossal failure that it’s bound to crush any lingering optimism that the Browns have turned a corner and smash the rose-colored glasses of the glass-half-full fans.  The rest of us Browns Backers will approach the start of the regular season with a wary attitude, like a cornered animal with its foot caught in a trap, and grimly determined to bear the impending pain for as long as we possibly can.

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Marcus Hall’s Middle Fingers

During last week’s Ohio State-Michigan game, a brawl broke out after a kickoff return.  Senior OSU offensive lineman Marcus Hall participated in the melee and was ejected.

Frustrated because he wouldn’t be able to play in his last game against Ohio State’s arch-rival, Hall threw his helmet, kicked the Ohio State bench, and was escorted to the locker room.  While still on camera as he entered the tunnel — and no doubt being booed and razzed by Michigan fans — Hall suddenly flashed the middle finger from both hands.

The reaction to the double-barreled gesture has been interesting.  The next day Hall apologized to “The Ohio State University, The University of Michigan, my teammates, my family, the fans and the TV viewing audience for my behavior during yesterday’s game.”  Hall said “I let my emotions get the best of me and didn’t conduct myself properly in the heat of the moment” and added:  “From the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry and hope everyone can accept my sincere apology.”

Hall properly recognized that making an obscene gesture on national TV doesn’t reflect well on him as a person; to his credit, he apologized and took the blame.  Other Ohio State fans, however, seem to be celebrating Hall’s obscene gesture.  You see some fans chuckling about it, saying it captures their feelings about Ohio State’s great rival, and people have even made Hall’s gesture into their computer screensavers and, apparently, shirts where Hall’s upraised arms and fingers as he left the field form the “H” in the familiar “O-H-I-O” Buckeye salute.

This sort of crass fan reaction is embarrassing to me and should be embarrassing to other members of Buckeye Nation.  Hall’s actions were improper, but they were the impulsive act of a young man whose emotions were running high.  There’s no similar excuse for fans who are acting like Hall’s gesture was a great moment in Ohio State history.  I was taught that obscene gestures — whether flashed from a driver’s seat or on the football field — reflect ignorance, lack of self-control, and inability to express oneself in an acceptable way. The right way to root against Michigan is to cheer like crazy for the Buckeyes and boo the Wolverines — not get into fights or launch obscenities or obscene gestures.

I believe in sportsmanship.  The one-fingered salute is not funny, or “edgy.”  It’s pathetic, and the positive reaction to Hall’s conduct by some Ohio State fans makes them look like  ill-educated jerks.  I’d like to think that the Buckeye Nation is better than that.