by Anthony Lima
Listen to Anthony on The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima, weekdays from 6 am-10 am
If there is one truth about the sports identity in Cleveland, Ohio that has been beat into my sensibilities over the years is that this is a “Browns” town. The term has been driven home so many times that it has become almost commonplace in those dreaded water cooler conversations that it comes up almost as often as the weather and gas prices — almost rivaling the frequency of a good Jimmy Dimora joke. This city’s sports consciousness has long been tied in with the wins (and more often) losses of the local tackle football team. But sometime funny happened this past June:
The Cavs won the title. And things may never be the same in Cleveland again.
Believe me, nobody is insinuating that the Browns have been banished to the back page(s) of the local paper. The Browns will always be a vital part of the fabric of this region. Memories of Jim Brown, Paul Brown, Vinnie/Bernie and wasted money on Personal Seat Licenses are all synonymous with the Cleveland sports embodiment. If this training camp showed us anything, is that regardless of how bad the roster is perceived,
delusional Browns fans will show up and somehow expect big things.
Only this year is starting to feel a little differently. For the first time since the launch of our station five years ago, fans have had no issue bragging about season ticket non-renewels. We have had calls that Saturday will be the big football day in the family as the Buckeyes remain national title hopefuls. I have had friends that have told me they have cancelled their yearly “Browns trip” to a rival location. Even worse, one buddy declared that he would not be camped out at the Muni Lot illegally the night before the home opener — which means he might actually spend the following night in his own bed instead of a holding cell for once.
The times are a changin’.
On the air in recent weeks I have used the term “Browns vacation” to describe the relationship many of you might have with the team this season. Some have taken it to be negative connotation. To me, it is human nature to take some time off after a quarter century of bad football. The analogy I have used is the young married couple that takes their first respite from the daily grind of taking care of their young children. Eventually, the couple needs a break. So when they book that overrated, pricey cruise during hurricane season, it is not out of a lack of love for their kids. It is a time to get away from the horrors back home, if only for a little bit.
Maybe it is unfair to equate the horrors of child rearing to watching the Browns in 2016. But let’s be honest here, they are considered by most around the league to have the worst roster in the NFL. The trade of Andy Lee (a darn good move) signifies that winning is as high a priority for them as sobriety is for Johnny Manziel.
If you think I am crazy that Browns fans would take any kind of a hiatus from the team, you have not been really paying attention lately. The last few seasons have taken its toll on the fans. Sparse late-season crowds have become the rule, not the exception. There have been weekends when the Buckeyes TV ratings have outdrawn Browns games in Clevleand. Buckeyes and Cavs stories have generated more clicks on some of the local sites than the once proud Browns. The days of the Browns just trotting out their hapless rosters while fans unwittingly show up in droves were bound to end sooner than later.
Who knows how long such a theoretical vacation would last. Eventually the kids need to get fed and eventually you need to get back to work to afford your Browns habit. Either way, the bar is at an all time low for the Browns and it is up to you to process the aforementioned “horrors.” Just remember, if you are that devoted to your team and decide against a vacation, the time doesn’t accrue. Essentially it is time you will never get back.
Sounds a lot like the last 25 years.