For most fans of most teams, Thursday’s game would be considered and good first look at what a team hopes is their future and the first good win in a long time. For the Cleveland Browns fans, it was much much more than that. More to come on the official TNF reaction article yet to come. There are some things to consider when reflecting on what this means to a Browns fan. The director of the documentary “Believeland” made one remarkable yet obvious observation that will ring true in the VAST majority of Browns fans. I’m paraphrazing but it was something to the effect of,
“If you meet a Cleveland sports fan know that they were born into it. No one is born into another fandom and then chooses to be a Cleveland sports fan. You’re either one of us or you’re not. And if you’re not, you’ll never understand.”
From really Belichick discarding Bernie Kosar, Browns fans have been suffering since 1993. Now the obvious woe is us take would be to say Browns fans have been suffering since 1986. Its not that I don’t categorize the Drive and the Fumble as anything other than agony and suffering, its just that when compared to the teams of 1999-2017, its just not the same to me. Whether fans want to accept it or not they would have loved to have 1986 and 1987 to replace 2000 and 2015 (for example). And that’s not even considering what they just lived through from 2016-September 16th 2018. Now sure you’re going to have fans of say the Lions, Dolphins, and other long suffering teams and suggest its the same. Differnece is those cities also had the Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Pistons, Heat, Marlins respectively. Let that sink in. Its not that the Browns haven’t won a championship in 54 years. Its not that the Browns haven’t had a double digit win season since 2007. And its not that the Browns seem to be snakebitten as a returning franchise. Its not completely about the Browns at all. Its that the city of Cleveland hasn’t won anything of consequence for any team at any point in 52 years. Make no mistake about it, some of us suffocated ourselves in the 2016 Cavaliers Championship almost as if it were therapy for the Browns. I covered Lebron for the first 4 years of v1.0. Basketball was the sport I excelled in. Yet, as a Cleveland sports fan, everything perils in comparison to the Browns exceeding at the highest level.
That TNF game was much more that how the media saw it. The only thing that comes close is the imagery of Joe Thomas working the game for NFL Network and seeing him ‘experience’ the win. Joe Thomas’ reactions in that game deserve an article of his own. One show captured in the video above suggests that maybe we as a football watching audience (Browns fan or not) might be making too much of this win. Again, I submit those people just don’t understand and no number of words in any order you choose can convey what it really was. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t incredible. It was euphoric. I’m not joking in the slightest. Euphoric by the literal definition. People have watched for 18 seasons plus 2 games of watch a revolving door of players (short of Joe Thomas, everyone has come and gone), seeing the same mistakes over and over, going for 5 yards when the first down mark is 8 yards, settling for field goals, and of course getting screwed and finding new creative ways to lose. As a fan it begins to feel like you’re the innocent kid getting beat up and trying to hide in the corner crying out, “please stop hitting me”. Check any message boards or social media forums, there will be no shortage of conditioned Browns fans talking the same doom and gloom as if its a self preservation defense mechanism.
This game was so much more than just a much deserved win for team in desperate need of a win. This was not that and to reduce it to that is disrespectful to everyone involved from the owners to the fans. The first half proceeded as we’ve become accustomed to. A good play surrounded by bad ones. Big Hyde run followed by Callaway needing a chair to sit on while he waits for Tyrod’s pass to get there. A Garrett sack followed by two sacks given up. Then regrettably Tyrod to two shots to the head, one looking rather intentional involving a defenders forearm. The buzz began after realizing Tyrod had been taken to the lockerroom. Then naturally, you’re brain says, “who’s the next man up”. BAKER FRIGGING MAYFIELD. The stadium lifted a few inches off the ground the moment he ran onto the field. But we’d been here before. Many times. Sure, the anticipation for Couch, Garcia, Quinn, Manziel were all more intense that seeing Frye, Anderson, Hoyer, or Kizer. But we’ve been here before. I’d be lying if I said my excitement didn’t grow beyond that threshold just watching Baker approach the line. There was a body language and intent that was different. It wasn’t “let’s see how this goes” it was more “oh I came here to do only one thing, strap in boys”. So to all the long suffering Browns fans out there, enjoy it again. Enjoy it as often as you’d like. Everyone else will think it was just a good win. The rest of us know better.