by Anthony Lima
Listen to Anthony Lima on The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima weekday mornings from 6 am-10 am
If there’s one thing Cleveland fans are pretty adept at identifying, it’s when a season has officially gone off the rails. The Browns have had many of those seasons since ’99, almost too many to count.
While the Browns have long since been eliminated from postseason play, there were still some fun adjectives to ascribe to an otherwise lost season of football. Those that have unbridled faith in the organization’s outside-the-box approach have used phrases like “still working hard;” “not giving up;” and “the culture is changing” to re-affirm that this isn’t your older brother’s rebuild.
But there I am on Sunday afternoon after the Browns 17th straight loss watching as fans, media and even draftniks all went after each other in one battle royale on twitter. Ahhh yes, that familiar point in time that’s almost like a rite of passage in Browns fandom.
When the team is so bad that everyone turns on each other. We’ve seen it before. We’ll probably see it again.
I’ll attempt to explain the rift I’ve seen play out every day these last few months between the fans and the media as simply as I can.
This is going on everyday and it’s exhausting for all parties involved. Trust me, this season has been anything but fun. The week-to-week analysis of a historically bad season has become a grind and both the media and fans are feeling it. It’s causing resentment and in-fighting. It then gets personal (thank you Twitter “mute” button).
But here’s a little dark and dirty secret about the media in a provincial town like Cleveland where 95% of the local media is from Northeast Ohio: We are all rooting for the Browns. In fact, if they win it helps everyone.
The Browns being bad doesn’t sell papers. It doesn’t help the TV ratings. People aren’t listening to sports talk as much. Journalists, like any those in any other profession, prefer to act in their own self-interest.
Cavs be terrible. They’re actually probably too busy counting those royalty checks from their book deals to answer your question in the first place. Do you even understand what this town would look like with a winning football team? I’m old enough to remember the late 80’s and the Browns mania. It was surreal. I can’t even explain it to those younger than me. The whole town was wrapped up all things Orange and Browns, and if blogs existed then, the Browns would have the most coverage of any NFL team ever. EVERYONE was invested, and EVERYONE was loving it. From the media to the fans, it was a sports utopia.
So let’s step back and take a deep breath. Everyone knows this was a complete rebuild and the results on the field were NOT going to look pretty. Jimmy Haslam himself admitted you weren’t going to see progress on the field in the way of wins. He knew many around the league weren’t necessarily buying into this experiment. The jokes were going come barreling in and for once, we all were OK with it.
But what nobody saw coming was 0-14. An inescapable fact that a calendar year without a win in today’s NFL is almost impossible, regardless of the roster. The expansion Browns won two games that first year. Last year’s train wreck team won three. Bad teams win games in this league by accident. Everyone wins except the ’08 Lions and THIS team. The team we all grew up rooting for. And if they go 0-16, it’ll be the longest off-season of our lives and there won’t be a day that goes by that you won’t be reminded of it. 0-16 is the type of stuff that stains careers and something that will outlive everyone.
That is unless things get turned around. Then it becomes a quirky footnote and an example for all desperate teams to point to if any other team is so brave as to emulate this model. A model so tough on the fans that everyone has turned on each other in 15 week’s time.
It’s been a long 15 weeks.
Thank God there’s only two more.