The Cleveland Browns take on the Chicago Bears tonight, though the product on the field will likely be a far cry from what is generally regarded as NFL-quality football. With many of the first-team players sitting this one out, as is usually the case in the fourth preseason game, this last tune-up before the regular season is nothing more than a cruel joke to football fans.
Of course, the fourth preseason game isn’t exactly worthless. For fringe players, this is their last chance to make a case for a roster spot, and coaches are looking for ways to improve depth at certain positions.
The Browns certainly have a lot of decisions to make, whether it’s patching together a secondary and defensive line or trying to figure out what to do with their four tight ends and two fullbacks. With that in mind, tonight’s game against the Bears – as painful to watch as it will be at times – holds plenty of meaning.
But that doesn’t make the prospect of watching this game any more exciting for Browns fans. Despite the occasional position battle, it’s simply one more obstacle and test of fan patience before the start of the regular season. The prospect of anyone paying full price to see a fourth preseason game seems ludicrous, but the seats aren’t (completely) empty at these games, so some people are finding value in it.
If anything, the much-maligned fourth preseason game at least signifies the end of the preseason. What starts out as a fresh look at the football team soon becomes bloated overreactions during the preseason, with people often losing sight of just how little these games matter.
So watch tonight’s Browns-Bears game, and rejoice, for the next time you see either one of these teams, it will actually be for something. And in Cleveland, which desperately needs a break from the painful summer the Indians have provided, this is sweet relief.