Boohoo Brownies: What's at Stake for the City by the Lake
Whether Browns fans appreciate it or not, there is a lot on the line for the Browns on Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, and the impact could possibly reverberate throughout Northeastern Ohio.
The blogosphere has been abuzz recently regarding the unfortunate state of the Cleveland Browns. Commentators have suggested the Browns could be setting themselves up for a fan revolt or a fan exile. According to an article written by Paul Rados from Yahoo! Sports, the Browns must win against the Rams or face a fan exile. Rados: "When the Browns take on the 1-7 St. Louis Rams on Sunday, November 13, they will almost need to play the game of their lives. McCoy will need to give a Pro-Bowl caliber performance and Chris Ogbonnaya will need to run the football like he is Adrian Peterson. Anything less the Browns will have a full-scale fan riot on their hands to deal with." A full-scale fan riot? The thought reminds me of the one Browns game where fans were throwing bottles on to the field.
The Bleacher Report recently published an article from Joe Hunley questioning whether there would be a fan exile or fan revolt in Cleveland. Hunley: "The Browns offense has mostly been dysfunctional, non-productive and at times played as one would expect on a high school level (I apologize to all local high schools)." Even so, Hunley suggests that Browns fans are more loyal than to be discouraged by the current state of the team. For Hunley, even when the Browns lose and fans are disappointed, come Monday morning, he is still a Browns fan.
Recently, Tony Rizzo, host of The Really Big Show for ESPN Radio Cleveland, nearly had a total breakdown over the air regarding the plight of Browns fans. If you listen to Rizzo's rant, you can get an idea of how frustrated Clevelanders are over the Browns. Rizzo: "I'm the Cleveland sports fan. I'm the kid with no toys at Christmas, and I'm sick of it! Every Christmas!" And that was before the Browns lost to the Houston Texans. As you can hear from Rizzo's rant, frustration regarding the Browns seems to be evolving into a spiritualistic, metaphysical issue...and perhaps even a health issue.
To say that Cleveland fans are getting discouraged would be an understatement. Even in Northeastern Ohio, I have noticed that it is not uncommon to see many wearing Steelers jerseys and clothing. It would appear that the Cleveland Browns have become the jester in the court that is the NFL. As such, it is becoming harder and harder for fans to take the Browns seriously. According to several comments on blogs and articles, even some loyal fans are beginning to reject the team.
Being one from Northeastern Ohio, I have personally battled with this football dilemma for some time. I grew up rooting for the Browns just like the rest of my family, but when the Browns left for Baltimore, I chose to temporarily adopt the Green Bay Packers as my football team until the Browns returned; it was different-yet-nice rooting for a football team that won games. Where I have rooted for the Browns since their return, I must say that the situation has become quite desperate -- in particular, in consideration of the Browns' hopeless playoff chances in the years to come.
As the Browns are in the AFC North Division, the competition is stiff. While the Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers each have six wins, the struggling Browns have three. Given NFL playoff rules, it would appear to some fans that the future is hopeless for the Browns' making the playoffs anytime soon. But in fairness, despite Rizzo's rant, the Browns are only 3-5 currently; things could be worse. Nevertheless, given the hapless product that Cleveland fans have to witness every week during football season, fan frustration appears to be reaching a fever pitch.
Of course, the Browns have had a history of disappointment for a while. Even in NFL films and highlights, it seems that whenever the Browns make an appearance it is to highlight the victories of the opposing team. But now in this time period, where the Browns' hopelessness has been going on for years even since the expansion, fans are starting to get sick of it. Fans are starting to call it "Brownhog Day" in reference to the repetitive movie "Groundhog Day".
And I mean, with all due respect, to give you an idea of the desperate situation of the Browns in the grand scheme of things it's starting to look like some sort of Judeo-Christian apocalypse or finding evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence is more likely to occur in the near future than the Browns winning the Super Bowl. The apocalypse or finding extraterrestrial intelligence appears closer in time than the Browns' winning the Super Bowl? Now that says something.
The crux really does come down to the Browns' apparent lack of winning seasons and a lack of playoff chances for the next seven to ten years. Even in my own personal battle, in the video game Madden I've recently stopped playing as the Browns whereas for me winning as the Browns has become an unrealistic phenomenon. Even when I won as the Browns in Madden, it felt too much like a fantasy-land game; I like realism in my football games. I felt that winning as the Browns even in Madden was not giving due justice to the game of American football. I take football seriously, but playing as the Browns in Madden and beating teams like the Bengals or the Steelers by seven to ten points? I can't take that seriously anymore given the reality of the Browns' situation.
I found in switching to a different football team (the Cincinnati Bengals) that the game is different; this has happened to me before in previous years, but this time the difference seems more profound. I thought to myself while playing as the Bengals, "Wow, a real-live football team." With a football team other than the Browns, the game of football is different; the quarterback can throw, the wide receivers can catch, the defensive linemen can sack, the offensive linemen can protect. I think this subtle difference in the game (even in light of Madden) is telling for the plight of Cleveland fans; we want a professional football team that can actually play football.
Frustration regarding the current state of the Browns hearkens back to thoughts about the financial impact of losing Lebron James. Where Cleveland comedian Mike Polk once said in a fake Cleveland tourism video, "Our economy's based on Lebron James".
Now, Polk has called Cleveland Browns Stadium a "factory of sadness" in a recent video. The Plain Dealer's Bill Lubinger claims that "injuries, an impotent offense and a lack of depth have some fans fed up." As such, some Browns fans may be approaching their limits.
The Plain Dealer reported in 2010 that in losing Lebron James Cleveland businesses expected to lose $48 million over the course of a season. The figure increases in light of playoff games and taxation. Where downtown Cleveland businesses took a financial hit with the loss of Lebron James, the hopeless state of the Cleveland Browns highlights socio-economic struggles in Northeastern Ohio.
Suffice to say, it is as if the situation with the Browns is analogous to Northeastern Ohio's financial issues. Even so, there may be great hope in Cleveland companies like Eaton (NYSE: ETN), KeyBank (NYSE: KEY), Parker-Hannifin (NYSE: PH), Sherwin-Williams (NYSE: SHW), and American Greetings (NYSE: AM). Unlike the Browns, in some ways, these companies give Clevelanders something to be proud and happy about. Nevertheless, one living in Northeastern Ohio cannot help but notice a dark, cloudy malaise hovering over the area...and to say the least, the Browns are not helping the situation. Could Cleveland companies be adversely affected by societal malaise in the area owing to sports disappointment and the pathetic state of the Browns? Perhaps.
Yes, fan frustration in Cleveland appears to be hitting a fever pitch this football season. Why? Maybe it's because of the economy, maybe it's because of Occupy Wall Street, or maybe it's because of an evolving collective consciousness in Cleveland that Browns fans are sick of their team being the jester in the court of the NFL. And in all honesty, I think many fans have already jumped ship to root for other teams like the Steelers or the Cowboys.
Regarding the Cleveland Browns, there may have to be radical solutions undertaken in order to twist the team out of its funk. One possible solution that I suggested years ago is having the Browns play one promotional game in Akron, Ohio. Make it a highly-publicized event where the Browns play at the Rubber Bowl for one week or maybe a handful of weeks...and for that game or series of games, rename the team to being the Akron Browns. Renaming the team is key here. Sell T-shirts, merchandise, cups, etc. to fans to market the event. "Come see the Akron Browns". Not a permanent move, just a temporary move for one week.
When I initially brought up the idea of the Browns moving to Akron temporarily, some of my friends brought an interesting thought: Knowing the Browns, the team as the Akron Browns would destroy the other team on the field...and then the Browns and Browns' fans would want to keep the team in Akron.
An alternative would be to have the Browns suit up as the Canton Bulldogs for a promotional game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Akin to throwback uniforms, in order to honor the establishment of the NFL, you could have the Browns "move" to Canton suiting up as the Canton Bulldogs for a week.
I would even go so far as to suggest the NFL expanding to have a team in Canton called the Bulldogs -- so as to give the Browns competition in Northeastern Ohio fandom. At one point in time, there actually was a professional football team in Canton called the Bulldogs. And I must say, had I the choice between rooting for the "Canton Bulldogs" or the Cleveland Browns, I might be tempted to root for the Dogs over the Dawgs. Key word "might".
Either way, some fans seem to be suggesting that the Browns should change the name of the team until they get better -- so as to give due justice to the coach Paul Brown from whom the team gets its name. I'm sure other Browns fans are like me and considering rooting for other teams. Where many in Northeastern Ohio are now rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I think I would rather root for the Cincinnati Bengals. I've been to Cincinnati once, and it seemed like a good city -- and their stadium is named Paul Brown Stadium. Don't get me wrong, I'm still rooting for the Browns; I'm still a Browns fan at heart...but even loyal fans have their limits. And if I'm approaching my limit in considering rooting for a different team, I'm sure I'm not alone.
All in all, I think there is a lot on the line with the Browns game Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. In Northeastern Ohio, football is nearly a religious phenomenon; we take football seriously. But as many have stopped taking the Browns seriously, fan frustration appears to be near the point of boiling over. Let's be honest though; this situation has been festering for years. If the Browns lose to the Rams, I think it will be interesting to see what happens in Northeastern Ohio the day after. It's ironic to think that the Rams were once a Cleveland team. If the Browns lose to the Rams, there could very well be a fan revolt or a fan exile. Dare I say it, the result could have strong implications for the financial future of the city of Cleveland.
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