Aside from the brief time during my youth when Michael Jordan made me a huge Chicago Bulls fan (it happened to all the young basketball fans in my generation–if you deny it, you’re lying), I have been a Cleveland sports fan for all my life. Now, at 23 years old, I realize one thing: Although I love and appreciate all Cleveland sports fans, many of you frustrate me. I tend to be an optimist, but at the same time, I try to not get too high on anything having to do with Cleveland sports. It’s just easier that way. In fact, I have caught a lot of grief from people for a stance I took on the Indians. On July 27th, I wrote an article about how it just felt to me that the Indians were not going to get it done as far as making it to the postseason (if you need reminded, you can read that article here), and at the time, I caught a lot of negative feedback for “giving up” on the Indians too early.
Since this time, I have defended myself by saying I refuse to blindly root for a team that, year by year, stays completely mediocre and seemingly makes no effort to improve. The Indians are not a bad team, they’re just not very good, either, and that, in my opinion, is the worst place to be in sports. Perhaps one could argue that it is a positive that the Indians are playing meaningful baseball during the last week of September, but for me, the pain of being constantly on the verge of real success (“success,” in this case, meaning postseason play) but never being able to get over the hump is weighing on me. I’m just exhausted.
The same people who called me out for giving up on the Indians, however, are the same people who have told me I am institutionally insane for thinking that the Browns could go 9-7 this season. I’m not sure that the Brownies will make that mark or not, but I can say with relative certainty that, even without Josh Gordon, this Browns team is the best Browns team talent-wise I have seen since the team that went 10-6 in 2007 and for once, both the offensive and defensive system fits the players we have on the roster. Sure, the “same old Browns” routine may apply to squandering opportunities to win in the 4th quarter, but if we want to be really honest about it, the Browns have led in the 4th quarter in 2 out of 3 games this season and all 3 games came down to a last-second field goal. As much as it hurts to say this, that’s a great deal of improvement. The “same old Browns” would not have found a way to beat the Saints. The “same old Browns” would not have rallied from down 24 points to tie Pittsburgh in their home stadium. Coach Pettine has said all the right things – including that this is a league where success is measured by wins and losses. There are no moral victories in football, but the Browns’ play is as close to one as we’ve seen in Cleveland in awhile.
As I close my rant, I want to talk about one more thing that often irks me regarding some Cleveland sports fan. This is probably not exclusive to Cleveland sports fans, but it is something I have been seeing a lot lately. Cleveland fans are quick to to put the blame of a loss on one player. In following Twitter, I saw a lot of people say ignorant things about Joe Haden, most specifically in regard to the 32 yard pass play to Steve Smith that put the Ravens in position to kick a game-winning field goal. Has Joe Haden faced struggles this season? Yes. Did he get burned on a play in a big moment? Yes. Is that loss on Joe Haden? Absolutely not. Much of being a successful corner in the NFL is being on a team that can at least make the quarterback uncomfortable. In many passing situations thus far this season, the Browns pass rush either was nowhere in the same area code of the quarterback, or if they were, they failed to bring the QB down when given the chance.
Let’s talk, instead, about not one, but two special teams debacles: a missed field goal (that had a lot to do with a high snap) and another blocked field goal. Let’s also talk about how the Browns offense went three-and-out on back-to-back possessions in the 4th quarter when any type of points or ball movement would have allowed them to milk the clock and perhaps win the game.
My point is this: Rarely can one ever place a loss on the shoulders of a single player. Haden has struggled at times, but I am not concerned about Joe, personally.
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