Its January. The first weekend of NFL Playoff football is upon us. The weather is cold (well, seasonably warm here in Cleveland, but you catch my drift). There is excitement in the air in those cities where the teams have qualified to play in the postseason. The problem here in Cleveland is that once again, another January goes by where the Browns and their fans are watching from home.
Want a depressing stat? Ben Roethlisberger has 10 career playoff wins as QB of the Steelers since he was drafted in 2004 (five picks after the Browns took Kellen Winslow II – who needed Big Ben when we had Jeff Garcia coming in!). The Browns have only APPEARED in one playoff game since 1995. Naturally in that one, the Browns lost after blowing a 33-21 fourth quarter lead to Tommy Maddox and the Steelers.
Yesterday afternoon as my son and I were watching the Steelers/Broncos playoff game, it hit me - these are as close to playoff games as we have these days in Cleveland. Its so sad. I was very invested in this one, much more than I expected to be. Why you ask? Well of course you know the answer – I hate the Steelers.
Its odd. During the regular season, Pittsburgh doesn’t bother me. Hard to have a rivalry when one team can’t beat the other. In fact, I have the utmost respect for them as an organization. Ive said many times in this space that the Rooney family runs a model franchise. What’s to dislike about Mike Tomlin? Sure, James Harrison is despicable and Big Ben, is well, Big Ben, but every single year, they win and reload. Its what the Browns aspire to be.
As the Steelers were making their comeback in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger really turned up his game. His game-tying TD pass to Jerricho Cotchery was an unbelievable play that you just had to tip your cap to. Then on the replay, I see Roethlisberger pointing to the sky. I literally wanted to throw my remote into the TV at him. Is there a bigger phony in sports? Why is he pointing to the sky? Is he thanking God that he isn’t in jail for rape? The whole thing made me sick. In the end, he would get his.
The overtime period began with the Broncos receiving the ball, and it was Tim Tebow time. Unless you were living on another planet yesterday or this morning, you know what happened next.
For many Browns fans, these are the moments that get us through a winter of discontent. I’d rather have this lasting memory than the Mike Holmgren “I’m smarter than you, I know what I’m doing postseason press conference from last week. I go back to the fact that this is sad – games like yesterday’s are as close to a playoff feel as we get these days. We are forced to revel in the misery of other teams. And this isn’t the first time we’ve had this feeling in the past eight months.
Clevelanders felt great this past June as well when
they got their first championship Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks took down the Miami Heat and the three ego-maniacs in the NBA Finals.
Watching Dirk take over in Game Six In Miami (in front of those “real fans” in White shirts) was a thing of beauty. Watching LeBron shrink during the fourth quarter yet again was just icing on the cake. Walking around Cleveland the next day, you would have thought something great happened for our city. Dirk was a hero in this town.
Now here we are on January 9th, and our newest hero is not Colt McCoy or Josh Cribbs or Peyton Hillis, it’s Tim Tebow. I fully expect to see people Tebow-ing in downtown Cleveland today.
Maybe one of these years we won’t be relegated to cheering great moments from other teams to make ourselves feel better. But today, it feels pretty nice knowing that Roethlisberger, Harrison, and the rest of the Steelers won as many playoff games this year as our team did. That would be ZERO.
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)