Believe it or not, it isn’t Pat Shurmur or the Dolans. Nor is it Pittsburgh or Ann Arbor.
The worst thing in the world, without a doubt, is waiting.
Sitting in traffic for an hour on Friday night with a dead cell phone, I thought to myself that this must be what hell is like. If heaven is a baseball field in Iowa, then hell must be sitting in a traffic jam forced to do nothing but wait.
While we wait, we crave any sign that shows us we’ll be moving in the right direction soon.
Since the Browns were reborn in 1999, Browns fans have waited ever so patiently for a winner. Comedian Mike Polk jokes that it is statisically harder to be as bad for as long as the Browns have been than to become good on accident. Over the last 13 years, Browns fans have toed the company line and preached of patience. Patience with players because they are young or inexperienced, patience with coaches who just need to implement their system, and patience with executives who need time to rebuild “the right way”.
Only one real time since 1999 have the Browns given their fans a glimpse at possible future success. In 20071 the Browns won 10 games, missed the playoffs, but gave fans hope that they would be heading in the right direction soon. Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards, and Kellen Winslow were all renowned around the league as emerging talents. Browns fans for once believed the road ahead looked bright.
Fast forward to the 2008 season when those same Browns, that fans felt so encouraged by, finished just 4-12. Everything Browns fans felt good about a season before, had been ripped away in the matter of 16 games. Anderson, once regarded as a pro bowl quarterback, with one of the strongest arms in the league ended up in a quarterback battle with The Great Brady Quinn. Edwards caught the drops, while Winslow contracted a staph infection, and both were out the door before you could say “Kokinis”.
The Browns haven’t been close to winning 10 games since The Season of Dreams, and have been the least watchable football team in the leauge. Stuck in a traffic jam, they have had no real success in terms of wins, however people still feel optimistic about the Browns current future. The Browns are 2-7 , yet most Browns fans are once again optimistic about their future. Despite Weeden’s up and downs, folks believe he can be “the guy”. Despite Trent Richardson’s injury concerns, everyone continues to rave about how great he’ll become. The belief is that this extremely young football team will eventually start winning these close games.
Although there are many positives to take away from watching the Browns’ young team this season, there is one huge negative. This team isn’t winning games. They are contending in every game, but contending isn’t enough anymore. As Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game“. The notion that “at least we’re watchable” is supposed to encourage fans is completely ridiculous. Just because a good song comes on the radio during the traffic jam, that doesn’t mean the jam is clear up ahead. It shouldn’t take a full season to become a “watchable” football team. The season is a little more than half way gone, and this team needs to produce results. How many wins this team finishes with the last half of the season should determine what expectations are for 2013. The statistical achievements, rookie records, and close games are all great to help cope with loss after loss, but no genuine optimism can be felt until the team starts winning. I don’t feel optimistic about the traffic jam until I actually see it moving, and I won’t feel optimistic about the Browns until I actually see them winning.
Year after year we sit and we wait. Patiently and hopelessly we wait. Just as we long for any indication traffic is moving in the right direction, we also long for any indication the team is moving in the right direction. There’s been plenty of time for moral victories and talking about this team taking the next step, but the time has come for this team to start acting and to start chalking up victories.
Mahatma Ghandi is famous for teaching patience and discipline to his followers, but Ghandi never had to watch his team try to avoid their ninth double-digit loss season in the last ten years.
Sarcastically referred to as “The Season of Dreams” [↩]