We’ve all heard of things like the “eye test,” where something is visually appealing and thus worth taking more interest in. Whether this comes in the form of a team, a movie, or a classmate, it’s a real thing that people really do take into account.
Are the 2011 Cleveland Browns passing anyone’s eye test?
Conventional wisdom says no. But dig a little deeper…and the answer still seems to be no. I base this theory on a few criteria.
Criteria #1: Ability to be side-tracked while watching.
It’s one thing to watch the game with friends and occasionally get mired in a riveting conversation about fantasy football, barbecue, or John Coltrane, but it’s quite another when there’s nothing distracting you and you seek out something to distract you.
This Sunday I was comfortably in my bed around the time kickoff rolled around (don’t judge me) and realized that I didn’t have it in me to travel to a bar – especially since I wasn’t sure my friends would be there. I found a completely legal/ethical website to stream the game for me and stayed cozied up in my bed. The feed cut out a few times so I had to try a few different links. One of them, during every commercial, featured an NFL Films-style documentary on Charles Woodson. Suddenly, the game became secondary to this fascinating doc. I was basically more interested in the Woodson story than I was in watching an atrocious offense and a solid defense play losing football.
Criteria #2: Offensive output.
The NFL has effectively turned into an offense-dominated league. Every rule change of the last few years has had a positive effect on the way teams play offense. The defense has nothing left – you’ve got to be substantially better on defense than on offense for it to be an even match (try to wrap your head around that). As such, in the majority of games, one team is going to score a bunch of points. That’s what the NFL wants, that’s what its fans want, and that’s what is going to happen.
If you don’t feel like you fit into that category, I’m sorry, but the NFL doesn’t care. It’s not going to lose the hardcore fans who want to see big hits, it’s going to gain the fans who want to see touchdowns. Clearly, the Browns do not pass this part of the test. (Speaking of tests, Woodson was tested often as a rookie and earned the honor of being Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1998!)
Criteria #3: Retrospective willingness to talk about it.
This might be the biggest shortcoming of them all. When the game ends, does anyone feel good about going back and talking about what just happened? Some people don’t mind looking at another solid defensive performance and saying “Okay, we did some good things,” but most are in the vein of “Man…that sucked. Again.”
In this regard, I’m not necessarily talking about this past game (although I kind of am), but how far removed from the game do you have to be before it’s worth talking about? Most weeks, that day never comes. We talk about it anyway and get frustrated and irritated, so why not just ignore it? Would that make us bad fans? It seems that some people think so, and that’s just silly. (Speaking of silly, Charles Woodson originally refused to play for Green Bay. How zany!)
The question of “how do we fix this?” is clearly not an easy one to answer. My big fear is that even if our Lord and savior, Mike Holmgren, takes the Browns out of the basement and into relevancy, it’ll still be with a boring team. Remember when his Seahawks lost to the Steelers in the Super Bowl? Did you know anything about that team other than Shaun Alexander running the ball and Jerramy Stevens’ legal troubles? We just aggressively rooted for them because they were playing Pittsburgh, and that was okay.
The point is that it would be fun if, you know, it were fun. But hey, good things come to those who wait, right? Patience is a virtue? There’s always next year?
Call me crazy, but a team can be competitive and not be relevant. It happens and it’s not that bad. Remember LeBron James’ first year with the Cavs? They missed the playoffs, but we were watching. People started showing up to the games again, wearing Cavs gear, and cheering for/yelling for/supporting players like Luke Jackson. (Speaking of Luke Jackson, Charles Woodson has a winery!)
What I’m getting at is that, as if you weren’t aware, the Browns aren’t very good right now. (But there’s this cornerback for the Packers…)