Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Browns' effort not worth celebrating

NFL Sundays are one of the great communal days of this country. Fans gather hours before games to tailgate and afterward fill stadiums throughout the country to enjoy professional football. Millions pack bars and gather in homes to partake in the shared experience.

For many, football is just as much about community as it is about results on the field.

I have taken to watching the Browns alone in a dark room. Like an addict that needs a fix, I can’t stay away even though I know there isn’t going to be a happy ending.

The easy answer is that the Browns lost to the Chiefs Sunday because two instant replay reviews inexplicitly went against the home team.

A truer answer is the offense once again didn’t move the ball in the second half. Seneca Wallace threw a pass in the flat he shouldn’t have and Phil Dawson missed a field goal he shouldn’t have. As fans, we like how Peyton Hillis rumbles forward and beg for Jerome Harrison to get more touches, but both made some big mistakes. The defense played well enough to win as the offense was no help, but when they needed a big play late, they fell short.

The Browns are exactly what I thought they were — not ready to win. Who are the difference makers? 11 years back and still no quarterback, still no play-making linebacker and little reason to believe either is on the roster in any form.

I became a Browns fan when I was 4 years old. My uncles fascinated me as they surrounded a television at my cousin’s christening. They yelled, they cheered — mostly they swore the refs were cheating for that evil team wearing black and yellow.

Soon after the Kardiac Kids were born, I was hooked. I bought the vinyl record (45) of the Browns 12 Days of Christmas. I cut out every photo from the newspaper and draped my bedroom walls with them.

Brian Sipe was my first hero and later Bernie Kosar replaced him. Two flawed NFL quarterbacks that maximized their God-given talent and left everything on the field.

The Browns have never had a star running back since Jim Brown, but Mike and Greg Pruitt beget Ernest Byner and Kevin Mack. Each of them fought for every yard.

The Browns of my youth were tough, hard-nosed players I could identify with. Both lines were physical.

Jerry Sherk and Lyle Alzado became Carl Hairston, and Bob Golic became Michael Dean Perry and Bubba Baker. Doug Dieken and Cody Riesen beget Mike Baab, who became Steve Everitt and Tony Jones.

The Browns always had linebackers who could play — Dick Ambrose, Clay Matthews Sr., Chip Banks, Eddie Johnson and Mike Johnson.

Since the Browns have returned, try counting on one hand players that fit into the category of those players. A decade-plus with nothing to show for it.

There was a time when the Browns fan base was the best in the NFL. That hasn’t been true for a very long time. Browns games are now more of an excuse to drink and act like idiots in public. As if what happens on the field was of no consequence.

The Browns have mostly only themselves to blame. A series of bad front office hires making bad drafts picks have made for a horrible product. The enemy is now allowed to walk freely among us.

Seriously, what does a young Browns fan have to hold onto other than having a reason to drink on Sunday? They don’t know why they bark.

Hanford Dixon has been retired for 21 years. Frank Minnifield has been retired for 18 years. It is time to take off the masks and quit acting like puppies.

Football should be about more than kielbasa and beer. It isn’t about cornhole and playing dress-up.

As Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game.”

I will forever be a Browns fan. I will continue to watch and hope. Maybe the building blocks are starting to fall into place. The left side of the offensive line is a place to start. Rookies Joe Haden and T.J. Ward have strengthened the secondary.

Browns fans should always dream things will get better, but I don’t understand treating Sundays like Christmas when you know the perfectly wrapped box with the bow is empty.

If Mike Holmgren and by extension Tom Heckert and Eric Mangini are the answer, I understand it is a process and it isn’t going to get fixed all at once.

I have waited a long time for a winner and I can wait a little longer. But I refuse to color my face, douse myself in alcohol and chant, “Here we go Brownies” like everything is OK. It isn’t.

I am not going to abandon the Browns — they are my team, but I refuse to look like an idiot while they continue to embarrass themselves on the field.

To each their own, enjoy your tailgate. For me right now plus much of the last decade, Browns games aren’t kegger parties. They are wakes and it’s silly to have orange hair or a dog mask at a funeral.