Will there be a happy ending?
It is has been a long time since it was fun to be a Browns fan. Honestly for me it dates back before Bernie Kosar got cut. The playoff run in 1994 wasn't fun for me because of the bitterness of Belichick cutting so many veterans including how Kosar's exit was handled. The playoff team of 2002 wasn't really that fun either. The Browns sort of sneaked in the playoffs and that whole year was filled with tense games. There was still anger about the team moving and the mishandling of the expansion. Truth is that 2002 team didn't really deserve to make the playoffs and I often wonder what would have happened on that goal line stand if the Falcons had not just moments before found out they had clinched a playoff berth.
But this year has been great fun. It has been so unexpected. During the first Bengals game, I never believed the Browns would really win that game until the final second ticked off. After that game I was shocked. The next week after the Raiders game- I figured it was back to normal. The Ravens game opened my eyes some but still I doubted the Browns would sniff .500 much longer. It was the Patriot game when I first really started to believe. The Browns were in that game almost the entire time- they showed me that were not cellar dwellers but the playoffs still seemed a pipe dream. After the Dolphins win and the bye, the Browns started out slow against the winless Rams and then the offense really started to click. In that second quarter, I sat stunned-this was an offense I never thought was possible in Cleveland. They looked scary good and Braylon seemed poised to be the next big thing then it took his helmet off. It was a reminder nothing comes easy in Cleveland. What followed was a comeback against Seattle, a perfect first half then heartbreak against Pittspuke and then after the Browns seemed to choke against the Ravens -- a bad call was fixed and dreams of the playoffs became real.
And now this weekend presents to us - a chance for a real Christmas miracle. The Browns can clinch a playoff berth with a win over our dysfunctional cousins the Bengals. The sad sack cats started this run this season and it seems fitting that a second win can complete this amazing and unexpected trip to the postseason.
I have followed the Browns since I was six years old. I remember small bits of 1979 but I started following every game in 1980. I can count on one hand the number of games I have missed since then. There were a few games in 80s blacked out that I had to listen to but I still followed every play of almost every game. I know there was one game in college that I missed because a girl asked to go to the park with her and I boycotted the first half of the first game after Bernie got cut and the last two games that Jeff Garcia started.
And now with biggest game since the return on tap this Sunday- I will not be able to watch it. My nephew is being baptized on Sunday in Wisconsin and I am the godfather. One would think I could find a way to watch the second half but alas my brother in-law does not have NFL ticket and in the city of Waukesha there is nowhere to watch an NFL game that takes place the same time as a Packer game. Believe me in past trips, I called or checked every bar in the county. Sure there is a Browns bar in Milwaukee and a BW3 somewhere but I can't see finding an excuse to drive a half hour away and not be missed from the party. In the past, I drove around listening to WTAM fade in and out. But I can't really see that as an option on this day.
Hopefully the story will have a happy ending that I can share with my nephew years later when he made me miss one of the best wins ever in franchise history. I thought it was fitting this week that the Browns-Jets playoff game was shown on TV. That was the Browns first playoff win in long long time. I still remember the feeling of pure joy. And this season is much the same way. It has been so long since the Browns were something we could be proud of-- it is like everything is happening again for the first time.
Here is to my nephew growing up in a world where being a Browns fan isn't a curse but a blessing.