The most popular sport in America begins its postseason this afternoon, and for the 12th time since their reincarnation 13 years ago, the Cleveland Browns are nowhere to be found. The Browns are once again spending “Week 18″ at home on the couch, their fans already worked up about draft picks and the starting quarterback position next season. At least we know our coach is coming back, which has been about a 50/50 occurrence this time of the year since the Browns returned (a good time to mention Romeo Crennel is expected to get the job in Kansas City).
It’s often the case that Cleveland fans are forced to take in a sport’s postseason without one of their beloved teams involved – especially in the NFL. But this season is made all the more difficult and bitter by the fact that all three of the Browns’ division rivals are still playing for a Super Bowl, beginning today with the Cincinnati Bengals. It begs the question, what are you watching for and who are you rooting for?
When it becomes clear that my team will play no part in a particular sport’s postseason, I always need to find one team I wouldn’t mind see winning the title – or at least, in a more cynical vein, one team I absolutely do not want to enjoy success. For Cleveland fans, it’s usually easy to pick out those teams you’re rooting against – Cowboys, Heat, any team from New York, Lakers, etc. – and commence trolling. When the schadenfreude equation is removed, most ambivalent fans root for good games. But is there anyone in this year’s NFL playoffs you will definitely be rooting for?
It helps to start in the AFC, where it’s a little easier to eliminate some options because you’re so used to rooting against these teams during the regular season. The Pittsburgh Steelers…no. The Baltimore Ravens…no. The Cincinnati Bengals…maybe you married into a family from Southern or Central Ohio that roots for the Bengals so you’ll oblige, but otherwise, they’re a clear number three.
That leaves the Patriots, Texans, and Broncos. You can spend your time rooting for teams led by Tim Tebow and T.J. Yates if you’d like, but it will be just as futile as rooting for the Browns. Can you really root for the Patriots? They are one of those front-running teams I mentioned above, and all their fans are also Red Sox fans who should never be happy about anything in any other arm of life. The AFC is hopeless.
Which brings us to the NFC and your personal opinions. The Giants…no New York teams allowed, even if king troll himself Rob Parker says they deserve to win this weekend because Atlanta has bad fans. I’m partial to the Falcons, for the very arbitrary reason that their quarterback went to my alma mater. The Packers will find quarter in my house, as any small market team from the Midwest with generally likable characters and fans is welcome – even if they’re not “underdogs.”
I find Jim Harbaugh irksome, which is enough here when you’re picking nits. The 49ers can step down, although here’s hoping for good things for Donte Whitner. While we all enjoy commiserating on Rust Wire together, the camaraderie with Detroit begins and ends there – too many wounds on other fields of battle. As for the Saints – amazing city, wonderful food, good people, likable team – I wish them well, they’re just not first in line. They’ve had their fun recently, and here’s hoping Elyria’s Mad Hatter can add to it on Monday night.
I guess that leaves me with the Falcons, followed by the Packers but I imagine I’ll be moved to root against rather than for teams in most games. I love the postseason in almost every sport, even if my teams aren’t involved. The NFL playoff weekends add a level of excitement to an otherwise dreadful time of year. I wish the Browns were involved, but I’ll watch almost every game from beginning to end. Here’s hoping there won’t be any decision this week next year.
Those are just my arbitrary opinions. What are yours?