A look back at the Cleveland Browns first episode of Hard Knocks and reminiscing on why this team is an easy one to root for
*** Warning: Do not read this article if you haven’t watched HBO’s Hard Knocks Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns – spoilers and show-references included. ***
Why on earth would anyone be a Browns fan?
Why would any sane person actually believe that a football team that’s just gone 1-31 has a legitimate chance to make the playoffs this season?
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Why would any human wear orange and brown and be proud of it?
I’ll tell you why I do it.
In 1973, my father got an engineering job in Cleveland and moved my mom, my three sisters and me to the east side suburbs. The Browns had gone to the playoffs in seven of the previous ten seasons, so as a foolish seven-year-old football fan I jumped on the bandwagon of these sure-fire orange-helmeted winners.
And every August since I’ve been convinced that the Browns (and therefore me) are about to be winners again.
I watched the first episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns and like the gullible old fool I am fell in love with my Brownies all over again.
Besides all the live scrimmaging, here are a few of my favorite moments:
- Watching head coach Hue Jackson be a man of his word as he and his staff do “The Cleanse” together in Lake Erie and put all that losing behind.
- Seeing starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor driving so early to training camp that it’s dark outside, and hearing from players that he’s “first to arrive, last to leave.”
- Watching first-round draft pick Baker Mayfield get swarmed by fans and media while arriving at the airport while HBO keeps cutting to quiet Nick Chubb waiting awkwardly alone for his luggage next to a few Clevelanders who have no idea who he is and yet still tell him, “Welcome.”
- Getting to watch Mayfield sign his contract with general manager John Dorsey, who’s so desperate to get it done that he practically shoves a pen into Baker’s hands.
- Taking a tour of the QBRV, the recreational vehicle that Mayfield bought for the Browns quarterbacks (it automatically expands wider with the push of a button) and watching undrafted rookie Brogan Roback trying to keep it stocked despite Drew Stanton’s hilarious “high expectations.”
- Hearing the relentless training camp Browns fans barking and shouting to players while wearing team colors, painted faces and in one sharply dressed fan’s case, a tailored orange business suit.
- Learning about the accumulated value of compound interest from defensive end Carl Nassib, and then watching him get busted at a team meeting with a slideshow picture of him hanging with Taylor Swift.
- Hearing defensive coordinator Gregg Williams inspiring his squad by begging them to not force him to be an “a$$hole” like he was last season, then losing his voice by the third day of camp as usual and rudely ‘refusing a lozenge’.
- Watching wide receiver Jarvis Landry catching balls one-handed and training himself by standing one-legged on a mini-rounded-balancing platform while bouncing and one-handed catching a basketball.
- After a weak practice, hearing the normally religious Landry tear into the receivers room with a barrage of f-bombs telling them that poor effort is “contagious” and no longer welcome there, then leading by example by making a crazy one-handed grab in the closing scrimmage.
- Seeing the team come together around coach Jackson after his mother passed away only two weeks after his brother died, allowing him to grieve, being his family.
- Watching Browns legendary linebacker Willie McGinest use his aggressive hands to give All-Rookie defensive end Myles Garrett quarterback-hunting advice after an interview.
- Hearing gruff offensive coordinator Todd Haney have “an opinion” on keeping players out of practice for “preventative measures.” Haney calls it “living in our fears” and demands they get mentally tougher and fight through the “$hit we have to fight through” only to have Jackson basically cut him off with “when it’s your team, you can do whatever the hell you want with it.” (Cue the foreshadowing music)
- When linebacker Christian Kirksey, who earlier showed off his mad drumming skills, stands boldly in front of the team and asks each of them to write down their “why”, their main reason for playing professional football and tape it over their bed. And these men do.
Maybe it’s the intimate behind-the-scenes look that Hard Knocks provides, or maybe it’s the energy Dorsey brings to this franchise, but this 2018 Cleveland Browns team is special and they truly look like winners.
And I’m not just saying that because it’s August.
Why are you a Browns fan?