|The irony, she is cruel.|
It’s said that holding a grudge is like taking poison and waiting for the other guy to drop dead. That must be why I feel a twisting in my guts when regarding this year’s AFC playoff picture.
For a Cleveland fan, watching this post-season is a form of cruel and complicated calculus. Do we root for “Hated Rival X” to beat “Depressingly Successful Former Cleveland Franchise Y?” And how do we choose between “Despised One-Time Brown A” and “Stone-Faced Super Bowl-Winning Ex-Coach B?”
These are equations I find difficult to solve, although keep in mind I did go to Stupid School for 9th-grade Algebra – a class taught during that long-ago summer by the lovely if undertrained Ms. Cmok - where more time was spent watching movies (including, of all things, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) than learning about intercepts and value expressions.
Back on point, the 2010 AFC playoffs have been an envy-inducing exercise of “Who Do You Hate Less?” My personal low point was pulling for Baltimore over Pittsburgh. The logic was that Art Modell doesn’t even own the Ravens anymore, which allows me to pretend that this numbingly solid and well-run club didn’t once reside in the cold and windy confines of that gorgeous dump known as Municipal Stadium.
Furthermore, and perhaps much more importantly, there are very few visible Ravens fans in Cleveland. When it comes to the locust-like swarms of Steelers’ bandwagoners in the area, however, you can’t turn around during football season without bumping into some Cleveland-bred black-and-gold leech whose only tie to the Steelers is that his great uncle saw Mean Joe Green on an escalator in St. Louis in 1976. The last thing Cleveland fans need is for these contrarian front-runners to have another championship to brag about.
Jets vs. Patriots, meanwhile, presented another dilemma for Cleveland’s rooting interests. On one sideline you have Bill Belichick, that fun-loving friend of Bon Jovi’s who learned from his many mistakes here and became Vince Lombardi once he hit Foxboro. Not only has Belichick won multiple Super Bowls, he’s done so for a spoiled, obnoxious New England/Boston fan base that had the stones to cry about “The Curse of the Bambino” when the Celtics, Bruins and later the Pats were raining down rings like parade confetti.
Unfortunately, cheering for the Jets is equally difficult with Braylon “New York essence” Edwards on the roster. The former Browns’ wide out is what my late Aunt Alice would have called a “piece of work;” what with his shenanigans both on the field (season-changing drop against the Ravens in ’08) and off (claiming Cleveland fans hated him because he played for Michigan; allegedly punching a Numbah Six crony at a downtown club). No doubt the man has playmaking ability, as emphasized by his touchdown catch against the Pats on Sunday, but he’s such a clueless “look-at-me” diva that it would pain me to see him hoisting any sort of shiny trophy.
After noodling it for a spell, the Pats won my fandom by default. It helped that Tom Brady is historically a match-up nightmare for the already AFC-title-game-bound Steelers, but by virtue of the Pats’ falling to the Jets, Pittsburgh will probably represent the conference in the Super Bowl once again. Damn…
Believe me, I see the futility in this line of thinking, and there’s no doubt my actions are fueled by jealousy of fanbases with consistently winning programs. Truly, the saddest aspect of this football post-season is that it stands as a reflection of how little Cleveland fans have to cheer for these days.
We are four years removed from 2007 – a year that CST columnist SamVox once called the “Golden Age” for Cleveland sports. During that all-too-short time span, we had three viable playoff teams. By 2010, circumstances, poor management and plain ill luck had plummeted the fortunes of all three franchises into the deepest cumulative depths my generation had ever witnessed. Ricky Gervais has a better chance of hosting the Golden Globes next year than a Cleveland team does of making the playoffs in 2011 (That’s what you call topical humor, folks).
We as C-town fans are currently so bereft, we’re left with nothing but unhealthy emotions toward other cities that have it better. All I can say is ugh…and Go Packers!