This is going to take a lot of courage for me to say, but: Hi, my name is Kevin L, and I’m a Cleveland Browns fans. I have been a Cleveland Brown’s fan all of my life, including the dark times of 1996-1999. And much like any Cleveland fan will tell you, it’s not possible to be anything less than a huge Browns fan. For us, everything goes to 11. Need examples? Every day, the first three hours of my morning are spent reading Cleveland Sports sections looking for promising news bites. 90% of my daily attire features either Chomps the dog or Brownie the Elf. And, I apologize to whoever may be my future ex-wife, but my first son is going to be named Colt and that is non-negotiable. (I also apologize in advance to his younger brother McCoy Lutz, but I promise we’ll try to come up with a good nickname).
I can’t stress enough that I bleed Orange. That is why I feel the need to confess: earlier last week, I looked at my first mock draft. Yes, a full five months before Commissioner Goodell will call the first name of the 2012 Draft, I looked to see who the general consensus was saying the Browns would take with their two first round picks. I’m not proud of this, though I’m a little surprised that it took me so long this year to advance this far in the Browns Fan’s 5 Stages Of The End Of A Season.
1.) Denial – “Alright, well the Browns still have a chance for the playoffs. We just need to beat the Ravens, and have every team in the league lose three times this weekend.” For Browns fans this stage usually comes around Week 6 or 7. Realistically we might have no shot at the playoffs, but mathematically if we are not eliminated then you’re telling us we have a chance. And therein is our tragic flaw: hope. It takes at least a week or two past the official “eliminated from the playoffs” tag in the standings for us to even begin to admit things are over. And that’s when the second step commences.
2.) Anger – “How is he a starting wide receiver? Did he win a reality show?” When denial is no longer an option, anger sets in, usually following a blowout or after losing to a previously winless team. When in this state, sometimes we do and say things we wish we could take back, whether it be booing our heroes, leaving the stadium early, or throwing things at the TV. I will be the first to admit, Browns fans are no fun to be around when this stage begins. Luckily, like our offensive coordinators, it doesn’t last long in Cleveland. Which quickly brings us to our next step.
3.) Bargaining – “If the Browns win out, I swear I will buy season tickets next year.” The logic is simple: My team needs to win, so I am going to make some concessions to help them out. Unfortunately, there are 53 men on an NFL roster, and I am not one of them. For some reason though, I am convinced that I can somehow affect the outcome of the game from my couch. But no matter how many times I read The Secret, the power of positive thinking will not put Phil Dawson’s kick through the uprights. Sadly, the moment Browns fans realize that is the moment we enter:
4.) Depression – “What’s the point in watching the game? How soon until pitchers and catchers report?” During the fourth stage, the Browns fan begins to understand the certainty of the season. Because of this, we may become silent, refuse to watch the game, and spend much of the week crying about saving time outs for the fourth quarter. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up a Browns fan in this phase. It is an important time for grief to be processed. We all know the night is darkest just before the dawn, and a Browns season is its gloomiest right before the final step.
5.) Acceptance – “It’s going to be okay. Hey, it could be worse; I could be a Colts fan. Go Browns!” It is at this stage that we begin to come to terms with where the Browns are. This year might not have gone as planned, but there’s always next year. This is when you begin to check Mock Drafts – and in the case of 2011, root against the Atlanta Falcons so that our traded pick improves.
There is a feeling amongst Browns fans that we are perpetually “waiting for next year”. This is true. We’re waiting because we are loyal to the end. If the definition of insanity is indeed doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results, then color us crazy. No matter how the Browns are doing, we still love them. Which is why, even though we are 4-8 and gave up 200 yards to Ray Rice last week, I am still going to make tonight’s game appointment viewing. The Browns may not be a very good team this year, but they are still – and will always be — my not very good team.