Thursday, January 15, 2015

226. Clinging to the Browns and memories

As I get older, it’s more and more difficult to spend my free time watching sports. It’s not that I still don’t enjoy sports, I do. There is something about competition, training to be the best and working as a team that appeals to me. It is a part of my childhood and something I enjoyed with my family and friends—particularly my father.

Today, you can see almost every game your favorite team plays.  I remember back when not all Browns games were sold out and the games were blacked out locally. I used to spend Sunday mornings with my Dad trying to get our roof antenna, rabbit ears and aluminum foil aligned perfectly to get just some reception out of channel 13 in Toledo.  I also recall staying up late to watch the tape-delayed Ohio State games on the 19 inch television I proudly saved up to purchase.

While I enjoy and supported the Cavaliers, Indians, Ohio State and Duke basketball, the Browns have always held a special place in my heart.

The Cavs have given us some great moments. I recall the Miracle of Richfield, loathed Michael Jordon during the Mark Price era and enjoyed the time LeBron was here. But I readily admit that I am a fair-weather Cavs fan. When they are bad, I do not watch them.

The Indians were special because baseball was the sport I played from little league to college. The 1990s were a magical time—made more special because I got to shared it with my wife. We started dating in 1995 and married in 1997. We spent our honeymoon in Florida at the same time the Indians were battling the Marlins. However, the lack of a salary cap and watching our best players leave year after year wore on my support for the Indians and Major League Baseball. It was too much like real life—the haves versus the have nots. To compete, the stars need to align perfectly for the Indians.

Ohio State may have provided some of my fondest moments as the only home team to win a championship in my lifetime. I watch most of the Ohio State football games, but college sports have become dysfunctional and self-serving in many ways. And Ohio State only plays three to four games a year that they could realistically lose. There are only a couple “big games” each year.

But the Browns, they are the exception. I rarely miss a game—and one of the few times I actually sit still through the whole game. To the annoyance of my wife, I like the pregame shows, watching other relevant NFL games and often listen to the local sports talk shows.

The Browns were special growing up—in particular because they were good in the late 1980s when I was in high school. It was a family affair often shared over mom’s homemade pizza. My Dad and I took a bus to Miami in 1985 to watch the Browns blow a 21-3 halftime lead in Kosar's first playoff start. My brother and I spent the night at the stadium in 1986 to get AFC championship tickets and witness "The Drive." The last game I watched with my Dad was in the hospital, the Browns first victory as the “new Browns”—on a Hail Mary pass.

We have had great moments, and we have had more than our share of heartbreak.  Either way, it was exciting and emotional.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the same since the Browns returned in 1999. Over the 15 years since their return, the Browns have made the playoffs once and have had only one other relevant season.

The consistent turnover of management, coaches and players—particularly quarterbacks—has resulted in nothing but disaster. Each time, fans get their hopes up—thinking maybe things will turnaround.

In fact, in the NFL, it is statistically difficult to be bad that long.

I won’t share the almost unbelievable list of negative statistics. Fans all heard them—the awful second half of seasons, 22 different starting quarterbacks, the terrible drafts. It’s been dreadful, even appalling football at times—when simply completing a pass is a challenge or when coaches can’t figure out the math behind calling time outs.

The way this season ended is indeed “the same old Browns.” The lack of maturity displayed by their most hopeful prospects is disrespectful for anyone who makes a living at a real job, at a real wage. It alienates fans who cannot understand the arrogance.

Jimmy Haslam and the Browns get one more year to turn this around. I don’t need a Super Bowl, but I do need entertaining and competitive football. I am tired of the drama. I’ve been a loyal and faithful fan well beyond the definition of insanity. I’ve done my part; It’s time for them to step up.

My father passed away in 2000 and remarkably, when it comes to the Browns, he has not missed a thing—except maybe mom’s homemade pizza.

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