There are various degrees of awful.
For the last several years, the Cleveland Browns have been so bad that people just scoff and say things like “Oh man, Browns fan? That sucks. They’re terrible.” This is not an exaggeration; strangers have said this to me when they see me wearing Browns gear at various points of the year. I recall a time last year when the security guy at my office told me that the Browns were about five years away. I had to remind him that that’s been the case for about 14 years.
I bring this up because a lot of people have been saying there’s no reason to be looking on the bright side of an 0-4 record. It’s hard to say that it’s been a good 0-4, because that doesn’t exist. I can only speak from the viewpoint of someone who deals with strangers who feel compelled to talk about Browns football and think the Browns are drastically improved.
Someone I deal with at work knows I’m from Cleveland as we’ve exchanged football-related emails. He applauded me for not giving up on my favorite team just because I moved to Chicago (no-brainer), so I send him encouragement for the Bears as well. When we spoke this past Monday, he said something like, “Man…your Browns. They’re good, man. So close. That Ravens team is brutal and I thought you guys had them.”
Another conversation from a Chicago native went something like this: “They had the Eagles. And they had the Ravens. They can play, just bad luck on a few plays. They’re tough.”
Think about that for a second. Have any of your biased, Browns fan friends looked at it from that point of view? Objectively, isn’t this team playing quite a bit tougher than it did last year? It always felt like there was no chance that the Browns could fight their way back into a game, but that’s not the case this year.
This year, I sat at the bar (Red Ivy in Wrigleyville – terrific) with some new friends (I alluded to them in a previous post) as time winded down and the Browns actually still had a shot to tie it up against the allegedly far superior, borderline elite, maybe Super Bowl contender Ravens. I looked at one of them and said, “You know what? Even if/when the Browns come up short, I am having fun watching this drive right now.” It mattered. It was late in the game against a Super Bowl contender, and the Browns mattered.
People weren’t looking away and thinking, “Ugh, there’s no chance. Down 30 again.” Nor were people totally writing off the team as going to blow it. Actually, they probably were, but then that didn’t happen!
You know how it ended. The Browns came up a little short. Or long, if you want to talk about Brandon Weeden’s last throw. But the point is that they were honestly competitive. Think about how many plays the Ravens should have made that would have won them the game more easily. Do any jump out? Now think about how many plays the Browns should have made that would have won – or at least tied – the game. I count two easy ones.
The same goes for the previous three games this season. There’s a chance with this team. 12-4? Well, I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. But if you watched that game last Thursday and decided that the entire regime needs to go, do me a favor and stop reading my articles.