The date was Aug. 18, 2008, a Monday night. The site was the Meadowlands, NJ. The dulcet tones of Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen filled the crisp Jersey air, along with an assortment of smells that can not be legally described in this public forum.
It may have been exhibition season, but it was time for Monday Night Football. It was time for a matchup of two of the NFL’s most historic franchises, the defending NFL Champion New York Giants and the up-and-coming Cleveland Browns. It was the Browns' first close-up with a national TV audience.
Things had been set-up excellently in the week before in Cleveland.
Overshadowed by the pseudo un-retirement and subsequent trade to the New York Jets of iconic, Wrangler-jeans wearing quarterback/Madden cover boy/flip-flopper Brett Favre, the Browns were once again flying under the radar, even in their own hometown.
On the Jets’ opening drive, the Browns’ defense, playing without NT Shaun Rogers, who was held out of the game as a precaution because he has indulged in “Fourthmeal” one or two times too many, snuffed out a Jets’ QB sneak on 4th-and-1.
This was after purposely allowing the Jets’ to convert a 3rd-and-1 on a fullback dive because they felt bad that Favre was relegated to listening to Gnarls Barkley and Fall Out Boy on the sideline.
The Browns' offense came out, guns a blazing, firing six and seven-yard missiles down the field to get down to the Jets' two-yard line.
Then, in a moment reminiscent of the incomparable Bernie J. Kosar drawing a play in the dirt of old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, quarterback Derek Anderson and wide receiver Braylon Edwards conspired to script a play for the ages.
Anderson would deliberately throw the ball as far away from Edwards and as close to the sideline as possible, in order to set up a third down for the outmanned Jets. But as Edwards turned around—while giving his best impersonation of Lee Trevino holding his arms out after he had failed to catch a scared Chubbs Peterson after Chubbs fell out of the second-story window when Happy Gilmore presented him the head of the alligator that bit Chubbs’ hand off—and the ball inadvertently stuck in him left hand for a touchdown.
Thankfully, God intervened and caused a massive thunderstorm and an hour delay, and the Browns' starters were done for the night. The Jets were saved, Brett Favre had cured John Madden’s erectile dysfunction, and the Browns were on top of the world...
...until that fateful night on Aug. 18, 2008, when a fashion designer, public-relations personnel, and a marketing director conspired to sabotage the Browns' season. Their weapon? Brown pants. Not just any brown pants. Solid, bland, poop-brown pants. Yes, I said poop-brown. With solid, poop-brown socks.
Some of the players knew ahead of time. Some of them did not. Edwards knew, and to get out of wearing them, he had teammate Donte Stallworth intentionally spike him in running drills after practice so he could miss the rest of preseason.
The Browns were so physically ill and mentally stressed over the incident they were down 30-3 in just under 16 minutes of play. Penalties, blocked punts, a safety, and a kick-off returns for touchdowns occurred effortlessly, and the poop-brown pants proved to be Cleveland's kryptonite.
The pants were so bad players started faking injuries just to get off national TV. Josh Cribbs feigned the dreaded “high-ankle sprain” on a kick-off after he saw his reflection in one of the ESPN TV cameras. Jamal Lewis pulled up lame with a hamstring injury in order to save face.
Derek Anderson took it a step further and asked the offensive line to forget to block Osi Umenyiora, so that he could be concussed, and he wouldn’t even remember wearing the brown pants.
The Browns crumbled under the weight of the public backlash over the fashion faux pas of the brown pants. They fell to 0-4 in the preseason, looking absolutely dreadful in the process. All looked lost for this once rising team...
...but fret not, Cleveland Browns fans. There is one thing that could save this season. In one of life’s great ironies, the only thing that can save the Browns season is orange.
Yes, the only thing that can cripple the chaotic karma that the poop-brown pants generated is the orange pants that graced Cleveland in the late '70s and early '80s, and they also made a few cameos in the early 2000s.
Think about it. The orange pants that were synonymous with the Brian-Sipe-led "Kardiac Kids" merging with the most exciting team the Browns have fielded since their reincarnation. The beautiful, bright orange pantaloons with the brown and orange stripes.
Something to be proud of that matches the most brilliantly simple and beautiful helmet in the game. Not plain, poop-brown pants that make the uniform look like Neapolitan ice cream with orange sorbet replacing the strawberry flavor. Orange pants, dammit!
But only with the white, road uniform. A brown jersey is beautiful, but only with white pants. We don’t need to go back to the '70s completely, we only need to assimilate a portion of what was good then and make it good now.
Unless, in a moment of brilliance, the orange pants are combined with the Browns' alternate orange jerseys to create the ultimate in sports oxymorons, the Cleveland Browns clad completely in orange.
The competition would be stunned. The NFL experts would be floored. Kevin Shaffer would actually look like a human parking cone instead of just playing like one on the field of play. Five words: fat guys in all orange.
There is still hope for 2008 Browns fans. It doesn’t hinge on the offensive line’s health, poor linebacker play, or an inexperienced secondary. It’s doesn’t hinge of younger players stepping up and developing, or coaching decisions, or protocol. It all hinges on one thing...Orange pants. Orange F’N pants.
The only thing more guaranteed is that if Steely McBeam were to quit his job and become a civil servant, his occupation of choice would be manhole inspector.
Orange pants. It’s so crazy, it just might work.