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Posted by Nov - 19 - 2011 0 Comment

I have been a Browns fan for more than 30 years. I, like many of my friends and family, am at least a second if not third generation Cleveland sports fan. I grew up watching the Browns with my father, and my kids are the next generation of fans watching the games with me. It is this passing down of fan-dom to our progeny that has kept alive this undying love for teams. A word tossed around in that conversation is ‘tradition’. The traditions of our teams, their ballparks, and their fans has helped define Cleveland as one of the great sports towns in the country. We appreciate when the current manifestation of our beloved ballclubs not only recognizes the history of their existence, but embraces and celebrates it. But sometimes in making an attempt to honor they past, they end up doing the exact opposite, and the 2011 Cleveland Browns are a perfect example of that.

This year, the Browns decided to wear their white-on-white uniforms exclusively at home to honor the rich, winning tradition of the Browns. This was described rather eloquently in a piece penned by Steve King for the Browns 2011 Season guide that season ticket holders received this year. Mr. King has long scribed about the Browns in times of both good and bad, and has done so as well as anyone I can recall. So please don’t think this is directed at him in any way.

Not only have the Browns failed to imitate the winning tradition associated with the all-while look original Brown coach Paul Brown envisioned, they have sullied the image associated with that uniform even beyond my personal disdain for it. [Sidebar: I hate the white-on-white uniform of the Browns, or any team for that matter. To me, they look like numbered soda jerks in them. When you are at home, and another team invades your home to take what is rightfully yours (say home-field advantage and a win) you don your battle colors and fight! For me as a child of the 70’s and 80’s that would be brown jerseys with orange pants, or at the very least, with white pants. Enough with the antiseptic home uniform!] The way these Browns have gone out on the field and looked as unlike a football team as one possibly can, the attempt to acknowledge and honor the teams of the past has not simply fallen short, but in my opinion, been counter to that concept in every way possible.

Right now the great Paul Brown is not just rolling over in his grave at the idea of this team plundering his winning tradition in all-white unis, he is doing barrel-rolls in his casket. As Mr. King had said, Paul Brown wanted the Browns to look and play like “the New York Yankees of football”. In 2011, the Washington Generals or Bad News Bears would be more appropriate. Yet in the midst of all this pigskin waxing poetic by the current regime festers the long lingering issue with this team. They cling to and make constant reference to the team’s past and honor it in every way excpet the one that not only matters most, but would genuinely connect the post-expansion Browns with the team that left in 1995 – winning. A lone Wild Card game appearance in Pittsburgh (of all places!) and a non-playoff 10-win season in ’07 are mere blips on the flatline EKG that is the Browns football pulse since ’99. [Sidebar #2: If I hear one more Clevelander tell me or call a radio show and say the real Browns are in Baltimore and they feel closer to that team than these Browns, I am going to shoot someone’s kitten in the face. As fans in ’95, we rallied together and galvanized ourselves into an undeniable force that made the NFL right its wrong in allowing Art Modell to move the franchise to Baltimore, and kept out team name, colors (including the brown freaking jerseys!) and heritage. If you live in Cleveland and find yourself aligning with the freaking Ravens, pack your crap, get on a one-way Greyhound to the land of crab cakes, and don’t ever come back. Ever.]

This year’s team hurts worst of them all so far because it’s more than obvious that winning has taken a back seat to development, and this staff will flatly deny that at the post-game  podium yet emphatically reinforce the idea from the field. They took a young, promising rookie in Colt McCoy and hollowed him out into a skittish, inconsistent player who lacks confidence in the heat of battle. They are paying players like Evan Moore to sit on the sidelines, yet say he’s integral to their future. And they have low-balled arguably their best player in Peyton Hillis in a contract dispute that has turned the Northcoast into Jersey Shore. They have told us that they were happy with the guys they had at wide receiver, yet lament the lack of playmakers in the offense, and then cut one of them to create a roster spot for essentially a 5th string running back! I may not have started a tree of NFL head coaches like Mike Holmgren has or was born into a family of football coaches as Pat Shurmur has, but I am college educated, street wise, and have a modicum of common sense.  Yet while this team walks like a duck and talks like a duck, they want me to believe its a bald eagle. Sorry, not buying it.

All of this is not to say that I lack faith in Holmgren and Heckert to build a solid, winning franchise here eventually. But here and now, in this season, you can’t sell me a bill of goods advertised as pro football that is attempting to win and expect me to believe that is what I have seen for the past two-and-a-half months. Maybe the growing pains we are enduring right now will pay off in 2012, and the trials these young Browns have experienced will manifest themselves in winning seasons for the foreseeable future. I certainly hope so! ‘Cause this season’s serving of Browns football tastes like a steaming bucket of certified pre-owned kimchi. I’d like to believe in Holmgren. I want to believe in this team. I am teaching my children by example to support this team no matter what. But in all of my 38 years, it has never been this hard. Never. But, alas, in the words of another suffering (yet much more famous) Clevelander, I’ll see ya Sunday.

Categories: Cleveland Browns, Featured

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