An Open Letter to the Cleveland Browns

I was born in Cleveland. I’ve been a Browns fan since 1964; the last time they won a national championship. It’s been 20 years since they won their division.

As a kid, I watched all the greats; Jim Brown, Frank Ryan, Lou Groza. 

I lived through the Cardiac Kids, Red-Right 88, The Fumble, The Drive, the Couch debacle, and now it looks like we have yet another losing season to look forward to. 

From what I saw in the first season game, we are in for the same shit, different year.

9 times out of 10 Braylon Edwards cannot catch a pass to save his life. The Defense will hold for a while, then starts to crumble against the opposing team’s running game.  It’s a safe bet the team probably holds the damned NFL record for holding penalties, which negates much of the yardage gained by rushers and receivers.  Everytime they score we always wait to see if a flag was thrown against the offense, before we cheer.

Here’s a suggestion: start handing out fines for each screw up, and you’ll see a drastic improvement in motivation. Joshua Cribbs, Sean Rogers, and Jamal Lewis are workhorses, but their efforts cannot carry the whole team.  We’ve had only ONE offensive touchdown since November 2008, which we finally got in the closing minutes of the 34-20 trouncing by the Minnesota Vikings.  Oh yeah, and don’t be afraid to get rid of dead weight. If the players don’t produce, replace them…ASAP.

On 09 January, 2006, Jim Caple at put together an article called the Misery Index. Guess where we ranked?

As we detailed earlier with the Baseball Misery Index in the spring of 2004, rooting for a team can bring two types of misery.

There is the misery of being so close to a Super Bowl win that you can practically taste the Gatorade in the jug as the players sneak up on the coach … only to watch the football bounce off the upright. And there is the misery of enduring so many losing seasons that not even John Facenda could make the team’s history sound interesting.
Six Facets of Misery
Historic despair: Has your team’s history been so bleak it sells officially-licensed paper sacks to wear on your head?

Recent despair: Do you start looking forward to getting the top pick in the draft … during August two-a-days? Do you spend the last weeks of the season rooting for your team to lose so it can clinch the draft rights to Reggie Bush?

Historic pain: How many season-ending defeats have left you shaking like you just spent an entire afternoon trapped in an elevator with Drew Rosenhaus?

Recent pain: Is the anguish from a big loss so recent that you haven’t repaired the TV screen yet?

Intangible misery: While subjective, this category takes into account misery (as well as apathy) not necessarily reflected in the won-loss record or on “Madden 2006.”

Misery outlook: Are you preparing for the next round of the playoffs or already getting ready to boo the team’s first-round draft pick?

Which is worse, getting left at the altar with nothing but the bill while Owen Wilson walks off with Rachel McAdams OR never even getting a date and spending all of your weekends eating TV dinners in your mom’s house while watching “Supernanny”? Do a few recent years of enormous success overcome decades of attending games with a paper sack over your head? Do a few recent years of losing overshadow decades of riches from covering the spread? Or to put it more exactly to Steelers fans, do four Super Bowl rings in the 1970s offset Terry Bradshaw’s singing “A Hard Day’s Night” during the Super Bowl halftime show?

As Drew Rosenhaus might respond, “Next question, next question.”

Unlike everyone’s favorite agent, Page 2 is determined to answer these questions. To do so, we developed the Misery Index, a 60-point system that measures two types of fan misery — despair (produced by losing seasons) and pain (brought on by agonizing ends to winning seasons). It also accounts for both historical and recent misery (though New Orleans fans might very well ask, “What’s the difference?”).

It’s the same system we used with the Baseball Misery Index, but there was one major obstacle in compiling the NFL Misery Index that we hadn’t faced before. Namely, what the heck do we do with all of the football teams that have moved?

The NFL has hosed fans so often in the past two decades that it’s a tricky issue. Do you consider the Houston Oilers’ woes when calculating the Tennessee Titans’ misery? What about the Baltimore Ravens? Do you count the leftover angst from the Colts’ midnight departure, or do you only consider the pain of dealing with Brian Billick’s ego? And what of the Cardinals? Who is more miserable there? The fans in the city they left (St. Louis) or the fans in the city they moved to (Phoenix)?

The NFL Misery Index
•In the end, we decided to focus on the city rather than the team. After all, it’s not the teams that accumulate misery, it’s their fans (along with mounting debt for personal seat licenses). And that type of misery remains in a city even longer than the exhaust fumes belching from a fleet of U-Hauls putting the pedal to the metal.

So for our purposes, Cleveland’s misery index is based on the current team as well as the old Browns. Baltimore’s ranking is based on the Ravens and the Colts. Houston’s is based on the Oilers and the Texans. And so on.

Detroit’s misery, however, is all its own.

1. Cleveland Browns
Sure, Cleveland once was an NFL powerhouse, winning three championships in the days before Roman numerals. But that was so long ago that America’s heartland actually still manufactured things.

The decades haven’t been kind to Cleveland since Jim Brown retired to the set of the “Dirty Dozen” to pursue his “acting career.” The Browns have had more losing seasons than winning seasons in the past three decades. They’ve lost five games that could have sent them to the Super Bowl, losing three of them in a span of four years. They watched John Elway march the Broncos 98 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes of the AFC championship game on Jan. 11, 1987. They watched Ernest Byner fumble at the 3-yard line. But just when it seemed it could get no worse, owner/Satan spawn Art Modell stole the team and took it to Baltimore — where the Ravens won a Super Bowl. Sure, Cleveland got a replacement team. But it stinks. It was like having someone take your Jim Brown throwback jersey and giving you a Jeff Garcia giveaway T-shirt in return.

Lousy teams, painful losses, a hijacked team. Sheesh. The only thing missing from the Browns’ misery is Kathy Bates’ crushing their ankles with a sledgehammer.

We are the most loyal fans in the NFL.  Our Browns Backers organization has approximately 93,100 fans worldwide, and is considered the largest sports-fan organization in the USA.

We are proud of our history and all of the accomplishments from some of the greatest athletes ever to play the game.

But, after years of frustration because of piss-poor coaching, half-assed efforts, and 4-12 seasons, we are fed up.

We pack that stadium rain, snow, and sunshine.  Those of us who cannot afford the sky-high ticket, food, and beer prices, can be found at our neighborhood pubs and at home, yelling at the TV. 

We’re god-damned sick to death of painful, needless losses, pulling defeat from the jaws of victory, and lame explanations. We deserve better.  We have a right to expect a competitive, winning team, like any other fans.
Take our anger and criticism to heart; make the necessary changes to bring this team back to championship caliber.

A word of advice for Mangini and the team: We can be just as pissed off as we are loyal. Keep testing our patience, and you’ll see a lot of empty seats. 

We’re tired of this shit.

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