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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Perhaps the Browns Now Understand What It’s Like to be a Cleveland Sports Fan

Posted By on Wed, Jan 2, 2008 at 2:48 PM

The Cleveland Browns were eliminated from playoff eligibility on December 30, when the Tennessee Titans claimed the final post-season spot with an ugly 16-10 victory over the mostly second string roster of the Indianapolis Colts. This event elicited this response: It’s never easy selling silver linings to cynical folks, and after four decades of futility, it’s hard to blame us Cleveland sports fans for being a stubborn lot. Nonetheless, as the sun went down on 2007, and some guy named Jim Sorgi solidified his place forever in local folklore, I couldn’t help but find some consolation in the fact that, at long last, for at least one night, a Cleveland sports team understood what it means to be a Cleveland sports fan... For three nerve-racking hours, our beloved, tattooed heroes of the gridiron were reduced to helpless, hopeless couch potatoes like the rest of us — teased into daydreaming about miraculous scenarios, slamming their remotes into the wall, vicariously living through men they’ve never spoken to or even heard of. For one night, the Cleveland Browns were able to learn a lesson not included in any training camp drills or riveting Romeo Crennel monologues. They discovered that the agony of defeat comes in many forms, and that it might sting even a little more when you don’t have the talent or the opportunity to prevent it. Titans 16, Colts 10. See you next year. Do Cleveland sports fans invest too much time, money, and energy into their teams? Of course we do! Is it all a bit silly in the grand scheme of things? Yes, very much so. Still, 2007 should stand as a testament to the fact that being a Cleveland sports fan, in its own twisted way, is something to take true pride in. It is not and never has been the easy option. We all have friends who gave up and started wearing Yankees hats or Patriots jerseys. We all know people who “came to their senses” and stopped watching every week. But for those of us who’ve stayed true — through every errant Derek Anderson pass, ill-advised Larry Hughes jumper, and ugly Casey Blake at-bat — the victories have been far sweeter, and the defeats, in all their Shakespearian scope, have only strengthened our resolve and passion. Only in Cleveland — in a year in which the football team narrowly missed the playoffs, the baseball team blew a 3-1 series lead in the ALCS, and the basketball team got swept in the NBA Finals -- could we realistically say this may have been the best sports year of our lives. It’s the randomness and beauty of a seven-foot tall Lithuanian, a big-haired Brazilian, and a nice kid from Akron celebrating together like brothers. It’s the idea that those in the lower economic classes (the Cleveland Indians) can rise up and outperform the obscenely wealthy (the New York Yankees). And it’s the sight of the guy nobody believed in (Derek Anderson) proving that he belongs. We relate to these stories because they’re part of our culture not just as Clevelanders, but as human beings. Of course, a lot of sports is also about commercialism, fighting, drinking, bragging, and being an idiot — just listen to a few minutes of sports talk radio for confirmation. Still, as brutally cynical as I might be most of the week, I still look forward to watching those poor, pathetic Cleveland Browns every Sunday, escaping my own life for a little bit and entering into a much simpler world of instant replay, safety dances, and clearcut winners and losers. I’ll be missing that for the next eight months, just like a whole lot of other Browns fans whom I might not otherwise have anything in common with. And when we finally do gather together again in September, we will be fully prepared for the usual heartbreak, but also a little hopeful that — after spending a day in our shoes -- the Browns will have gained the extra poise they need to keep their fate in their own hands this time around. -- Andrew Clayman

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