Coming off a disappointing season in which many fans hoped the Cleveland Browns would finish something like 8-8 and they instead finished 4-12, it felt like the same old story for the perpetually disappointed fanbase, whose team's achievements never seem to quite live up to the expectations levied upon them.
Realistic or not, front office and strategic organizational changes for the Browns in recent years gave fans a renewed sense of hope and allowed them to believe that the team was on its way to something big.
So far the biggest thing the Browns have managed to offer their fans was a 5-11 season after which the head coach was fired followed by a 4-12 season under his replacement. This and the many problems for the team that caused it have subdued some fans' optimism, but most of the fanbase remains undeterred from ceasing to spend on the Browns what might be the city of Cleveland's most valuable currency: hope.
Believing in the Browns is, from an intellectual (or statistical) standpoint, a fool's errand. Common sense as well as cold hard facts suggest that if you believe the Browns will succeed, there is roughly a 100 percent chance that you will be wrong and roughly a 100 percent chance that every other fanbase in the league thinks you're an idiot. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 46 times, call me a Browns fan.
And yet none of us seem to show any interest in throwing in the towel. Is this because we're all really as dumb as history seems to indicate we are, or is there perhaps, at long last, real reason to believe that the Browns are moving in the right direction?
Or maybe we've merely tempered our expectations such that it's easier to be optimistic about our goals because we've lowered them to a more attainable level. I have certainly heard the phrase "I'd be thrilled if we went 7-9" thrown out there pretty frequently.
Perhaps I've just drank too much of the Kool-Aid, but I certainly believe there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Browns in 2012.
Does this mean they could be Super Bowl-bound, or even playoff-bound? I very much doubt that. But it does mean that in amongst all the problems still plaguing the team, there are also many reasons to realistically hope that we might expect more—significantly more—out of them this season.
I don't know that this will manifest in much change in terms of record (though I certainly hope it does), but I do think we'll see noticeable improvement this season in other ways.
Following are five reasons to be optimistic about the Browns in 2012. Be sure to add your own reasons for optimism for next season in the comments below!