The 2011 season was supposed to be the the year the Browns took great strides towards respectability. It turned out to be another year of humble pie.
The O-line fell apart, leaving Colt McCoy running all over the field trying to throw the ball to receivers who can't get open or drop it when they do. If only Joe Thomas and Alex Mack could play on the right side of the line at the same time.
The D is showing promise, with Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor and Joe Haden leading the way.
If the Browns are on their way, they're just not going to get there this year.
So what to do?
Being a Browns fan (or a Cleveland fan in general) is more than watching the team play. It's a study in endurance, hope, loyalty, faith and all the other ways a person deals with disappointment, frustration and loss.
It's the glue that currently bonds us as community, it's the way we earn our stripes so when that fateful magical season finally shows up, all these memories we accumulate now become the final measurement of how much more we endured than any other fanbase in football.*
By now, it's developed into an art form in Northeastern Ohio. Our team has done it's annual part, falling short of the playoffs, heading straight towards the no-man's land of the draft, reached when you miss the playoffs and still have to wait an hour before your team picks.
So if our team won't create highlights, there's still gotta be something to make this season enjoyable, right?
Since "winning" the cover of EA's Madden '12, Peyton Hillis has gone from our underdog folk hero to slapstick heel.
After getting off to a great start, highlighted by his performance against Indianapolis, Hillis' season has become a virtual comedy noire of errors. Missed a game with strep throat. Then a mild hamstring pull. He even missed a public appearance at a local Boys and Girls Club.
To make matters worse, it's a contract year. You know what that means.
Cleveland's got a history of seeing promising players leave. In my lifetime, I've seen the departures of Joe Carter, Ernest Byner, Bernie Kosar, Bill Belichick, Ron Harper, Jim Thome, Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia and—the masterpiece of them all—LeBron James.
As Pittsburgh radio host Mark Madden said, "All they had to do was get the stench of Cleveland out of their nostrils, and BOOM! They're champions."
We don't wanna say it, but this is looking all too familiar, isn't it? Right down to the Boys and Girls Club, even.
Aside from the actions being similar, there's no other similarities between James and Hillis. It's like we searched for the anitidote for No. 23/6. We found it and..."Oh, no. Again? Really?"
Only in Cleveland could this really gain even a local zeitgeist, where his potential departure would be the complimentary "Fumble" to James' "Drive."
Of course, where Dan Gilbert had only a softer franchise tag to offer more money, Mike Holmgren's got the hard franchise tag that can guarantee him staying. But building on the trust we suddenly thrust upon him hasn't fit very well so far.
We know he's been capable of earning our respect on the field. This would be the perfect time to smooth things over off the field to see if he's really a champion of Cleveland or just trying to win, whether or not it's in Cleveland.
Normally, this is a staple of the Browns season, as it's the genesis of our annual "THIS..could be...the year we finally turn it around!" hype.
However, it just doesn't seem right at this point. Sitting at 3-4, we're currently ahead of nine teams, and tied with three others. So at the rate we're going, we're picking 10th at earliest, 13th at latest. Considering how drafts can be unpredictable with draft-day trades and surprise picks, guessing who we can get has all the accuracy of a roulette wheel.
I'd rather not jump on the "Suck for Luck" bandwagon. First, it's pretty hard to suck more than the nine teams below us. The second or third pick in the draft would be nice, but I don't see it being substantially better than the 10th or 13th pick, especially with the specific—and numerous—needs the team has.
Second, I don't want to see the Browns suck. Been there. Done that. Got the proverbial garage full of rags that used to be the proverbial t-shirts. I'd rather have a 13th pick join a team that tries to win than a first pick join a team who knows how to give up.
This year has already showed us where we need to look. All we need to do is wait, find out where we are and look at who'll be there. So, in the end, it's not that it's not worth discussing, but there's just too many unknowns to get anywhere.
The NBA lockout would not only be a perfect opportunity to give the concept a trial run, but also give the Cavaliers Girls a platform to work.
The outfit (*click, click* Ah. There it is.) Amanda is wearing may not work in the frigid Northeast Ohio winters, but if the Ben-gals and (Buffalo) Jills can figure something out, I'm sure we can figure something out.
I was watching the Indianapolis game earlier this season. When the Browns fell behind, I cynically went to the computer and put "Man of Constant Sorrow" on YouTube.
Since then, I've considered playing it as a superstition. I tried it during the Titans game. Well, that didn't last long.
Part of the game "experience" contains a focus on music. The right song can unify the fans in the stadium in a unique character, enabling them further to be the "12th Man."
The tradition of identifying teams with a certain song began in Denver's city-wide use of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll, Pt. 2." You can put together an entire slideshow about songs connected to certain teams (One of which I'll mention soon), but somehow, Cleveland doesn't have one to rally around today.
Sure, we've had locally-adjusted songs, but most of them had the shelf-life of unstable uranium. This could be a good time to fish around for something that gets fans together in a way that's our own.
I'd love to suggest roughly 50 tunes, ranging from Sinatra to Green Day, but things like that almost have to come organically, and anything I put here would just seem forced. It'd take more than I to make it happen, but in the second half of the season, it'd be a great chance if we keep our eyes—and ears—open to the idea.
I'm a rock n' roll era guy. From Elvis, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly to Pearl Jam, U2 and the White Stripes, my music tastes tend to start in 1957 and end in 1997.
That being said, I don't mind Styx one bit. If someone had a spare ticket, I wouldn't hesitate to go if I had the time.
However, one song will make my blood boil, my face red and my fists ball up to the point where I'd be ready to turn a baby-boomer nostalgia show into a modern-day mosh pit:
If you don't know the history, here it is in a nutshell. The Browns, in the playoffs for the first time since their return, take a commanding lead—IN PITTSBURGH!
Then, someone gets the bright idea to play this song for a second time. Crowd gets pumped, which energizes the team and the "Steeltown Meltdown" commences. We haven't been to the playoffs since.
(And you thought it was "Madden" that cursed the team. Ha! It only joined the crowd.)
This song is now established into the Steeler culture like the Terrible Towel, as it now stands as the second-half intro theme.
One would think that history, letting the song travel along Cleveland airwaves would be tantamount to playing "Tessie" at Yankee Stadium. But it plays—often, as if it they don't understand the Browns fans who make up their listening base don't want to throw their radio into Lake Erie by the time Dennis DeYoung and the rest of the band joins Tommy Shaw in the opening harmony.
You might argue this is as anti-Steelers as it is pro-Browns. You're right. It's both. I don't think we'll ever "take the song back" and re-identify it as "ours." It's "theirs." Let them keep it...far away from us during the NFL season.
There are other songs to play on the radio, even by Styx. Why radio stations play that one during the fall—with the history it has—has never made sense.
It may only be symbolic, but I think it would be something to demonstrate that in our town, our team comes first and while we—as fans—can't do anything about what happens on the field, nor should we show unsportsmanlike animosity towards all the fans, taking one little spoil away shouldn't be too much to ask for.
According to the broadcasting contracts with the NFL, each game must have 10 timeouts per half, and that includes the break between quarters and two-minute warning. Each timeout is between one and two minutes long.
Surely, we can find something to do to keep ourselves jointly involved. Can't we?
Okay, what I put up was a gold standard. Probably won't happen. But you never know. The Dawg Pound made it's mark separating itself from the rest of the old Municipal Stadium. Maybe there's a way to do it again.
And say what you will about soccer. You think they're any less sober or rabid than an "American football" fan?
There's no rule stating fans have to wait for the team to succeed before enjoying yourself at a game. And as each game goes by with more futile success, many Browns fans seem to get more apathetic and grouchy as the season goes on waiting for that success.
Even if you're not at Cleveland Browns Stadium, you got beer/beverages, you got food, you got something in common with the people there, why not have a little extra fun anyway?
Granted, some of us do enjoy and appreciate the fact we have a team in the first place. But this is our chance to do it with style and intelligence.
Remember, we're waiting for a winner. Waiting is the active part of the patience we're proud to hold over other fanbases. So timeouts—a guaranteed wait—is the perfect time to show how much we enjoy our best talent; because right now, we seem to be mourning it.
Besides, it wouldn't exactly intimidate the opposition, but it would stop and make them think as we enjoy ourselves in the face of what should shut opposing fans up.