Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns: Still Crazy, After All These Years

Tom DelamaterAnalyst IAugust 27, 2010

Deja vu: Once again, Jim Brown is at odds with the Browns.
Deja vu: Once again, Jim Brown is at odds with the Browns.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Say the name Jim Brown, and you think of the Cleveland Browns—and vice versa.

The two are practically synonymous; but are they compatible? That’s another story, and has been for decades.

The symbiotic relationship took another odd turn this week when Brown said he would not attend the ceremony to inaugurate the team’s new Ring of Honor.

It’s a shrine at Cleveland Browns Stadium that will recognize former Browns players who are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place at halftime of the Browns’ home opener against Kansas City on September 19.

Brown, who reportedly felt slighted when he was removed as an executive adviser with the team following the hiring of Mike Holmgren as president, raised a few eyebrows during a radio interview with The Score 1260 in Syracuse, N.Y.

Saying that he’s a “very sensitive person” who likes to be respected, Brown suggested he would skip the ceremony, and then added: “I’m very loyal. I like it to be a two-way street.”

“Sometimes when you comment on things, all you do is create problems,” he said, while commenting on things.

Funny, how that works.

“On the other hand, as an individual I have plans of my own….”

Let’s just say he got his point across.

By Thursday, Holmgren was doing damage control at a press conference. Having spoken to Brown earlier in the week, Holmgren said he was “hopeful” that the best player in team history, and arguably in NFL history, would attend the ceremony.

The rift made the evening news and began popping up in newspapers and on the Web, not only in Cleveland but across the country.

It’s reminiscent of the time more than 40 years ago, when Brown walked away from the NFL after being given an ultimatum by then-Browns owner Art Modell. He shocked Cleveland fans, and the sports world, by quitting the game to focus on an acting career.

It seems that the team and the legend are destined to have an uneasy relationship, at least part of the time.

That’s not what I want to talk about, however.

What I want to say is this: I’m not going to worry about whether Brown attends the Ring of Honor ceremony, or not. As great as he was, and as much as he once meant to Cleveland, it just doesn’t matter to me all that much.

Let me share a story with you.

When my eldest son was born, we lived in Texas. Within a couple of years, while on a business trip, I bought a poster that said “The Tribe” and featured a collage with images of Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga and Albert Belle. When I arrived home, I hung it in my son’s room.

It was the mid-1990s, and those three rising stars characterized the resurgent Cleveland Indians. I envied my son; after all, he’d grow up cheering for a dynamic, championship team, something I’d never had the chance to do.

By the time we had moved back to Ohio a few years later, all three were gone.

Lofton returned, but, not long after, Manny Ramirez left. So did Jim Thome.

The harsh reality was that these superstars, who we’d cheered for and adored, simply walked away.

In Northeast Ohio, we got excited about the return of the Browns in 1999. Tim Couch was touted as the face of the new franchise in 1999. We were expected to hitch our hopes to players like him, Dennis Northcutt and Jamir Miller.

Gone, gone, gone, all within a few short years.

As for the Cleveland Cavaliers, need I elaborate on what happened to them this summer?

Lest you think this is another lament about about being a hard-luck Cleveland fan, it’s not.

It’s more of a confession—a cleansing of the soul, if you will.

Brown is going to do whatever he wants, just like LeBron James did, and Thome did, and Ramirez did, and so on.

What I think, or want, won’t affect what Brown chooses to do. If I lose sleep over it, that’s my problem, not his.

In a perfect world, Brown would attend the ceremony, cameras would roll, flashbulbs would pop, fans would cheer, and we’d all have another nice, tidy memory to add to the bank.

This isn’t a perfect world, however.

Brown’s feelings are hurt. That’s between him and the Browns. There’s nothing I can do about it.

If he’s there on the September 19, great. If he’s not, okay. It won’t make a hill-of-beans difference to my life, or yours.

Personally, I’m tired of all the drama attached to teams and athletes and sports legends, and what they did or are going to do next—you know, the Brett Favres and the Albert Haynesworths of the world, that sort of thing.

If it’s happening on the court or on the field, great; I’ll watch, and maybe even comment. Otherwise, what they do is up to them.

If they want to be here—or, in your case, there—fine. If they don’t, good for them.

Otherwise, I’m bored with it all, I really am.

Aren’t you?


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