It’s been said that the Cleveland Browns foster a culture of losing. People imply that after losing so much and so consistently, it’s in the collective DNA to sort of be okay with it. Obviously, that’s an insane concept. Nobody in the NFL – a league where people get paid millions of dollars to compete – is okay with losing. It might not be as clearly passionate as college (or in some cases, high school), but it’s also a different reality; we all know that the NFL is a business and is treated as such by its employees.
The culture of losing does not really exist for the players. It exists a little bit in the fans, but it goes beyond that. What really exists is a culture of fear.
For instance, I don’t believe that the Browns will be bad this year, I fear it. There’s a difference. I don’t want to have to deal with another losing season. I fear that boredom, discontent, and general unhappiness that goes along with it. I fear that I’ll have to write weekly columns about a team that I stopped caring about, because passionless writing is not interesting to me.
But it’s deeper than that, isn’t it?
I just jumped on ClevelandBrowns.com to see if I needed to know anything that was going on that I should know about and I see links (as I’ve been seeing) that mention Brandon Weeden impressing people at minicamp. I see links about Trent Richardson being an all-around great rookie, player, and person. I see links about everyone doing and saying the right things over the last month - Phil Taylor notwithstanding, which sucks and deserves its own column. And what’s my initial reaction to all of this happiness and upbeat talk?
My immediate reaction was to think “Man, there’s going to be all this talk and everyone is going to get all excited again about having a good team and then they’re going to lose again and everyone’s going to be miserable. Then people will call for Mike Holmgren’s head, claim it was stupid to not trade up to get Robert Griffin III or Ryan Tannehill - one of whom will have a decent season in a completely different situation than this one – and moan about things that they will never have a say in and simply serve to perpetuate this broken system that has no signs of slowing down anytime soon.”
Really? I neglected to think “Oh, cool, Richardson is looking good.” Or “Weeden’s arm isn’t a figment of everyone’s imagination? That’s great news.” Or even “I bet these guys will stay healthy.”
Nothing. My instinct is to fear the worst and cautiously hope for the best. I’m not proud, but that’s the reality that I’ve been raised on. And if you try to invoke a “historical franchise” argument about the Browns, shut up. I do not care if they won NFL Championships before the real NFL existed. That does not count. That counts for your grandfather, not me. I’m 25 years old. My memories of a pre-move-to-Baltimore team are sparse, if they exist at all (I wrote about this at-length here). As such, this is the way it has always been for me.
Please, I implore you…help me change.