Sunday, September 19, 2010

The thinkable has happened

The NFL is eager to increase its schedule from 16 to 18 games. Patriots’ owner Bob Kraft has called the prospect “a win-win all around.” Kraft must not watch the Browns, an organization where the idea of “win-win” goes to die an agonizing demise each and every football season.

Around the league, many players are against making an already grueling season even longer. I’m with the union on this, because it’s two games into the Browns’ 2010 campaign, and I’m already tired of this team.

If anything, the season should be shortened by a few weeks. An eight game format would really ratchet up the tension, I think. Or, instead of even playing a game, players and coaches could vote on some other form of competition to decide that week’s contest: Cornhole, a round-robin style ping pong tournament, or a vigorous debate on a newsworthy topic would have the dual effect of replacing the on-field action with something more interesting while saving Cleveland fans from wasting their autumn Sundays. A true “win-win.”

At this point in the column, I could use a well-worn idiom to describe my current feelings toward the Browns. I could say “I’m at my wits’ end” or use some other stock phrase. To say such would be disingenuous, however, as this sorry franchise has long since taxed my mental resources and nothing the Browns do (or don’t do, more likely) on the field surprises me anymore.

My feelings have evolved into a kind of religious awe of a team that consistently contrives of ways to lose winnable games. Looking larger scale, these last two weeks stand as Exhibit A and B of the “culture of losing” that has latched virus-like to the Browns and seemingly won’t let go. Despite the changes at the top, we’re still watching a boring, mistake-plagued, talent-deprived mess 16 weeks a year.

No intelligent football fan should expect the playoffs in ‘10, but some modicum of mediocrity is not too much to ask. While the NFL schedule makes fools out of many would-be prognosticators, going at least 1-1 against Tampa and KC would have been at least some sign of incremental progress for this franchise.

At 0-2, just like that, the Browns are straddling the icy precipice of another chilling and lonely season on the lakefront. The sickening plunge into lightless oblivion may start next week at Baltimore, and as evidenced by the inconsistent and uninspired ball of the last two weeks, Cleveland is likely looking down the cold caldera of an at-best five win year.

Two short weeks, and the season seems to be over already. The saddest part is how comfortable the feeling has gotten.


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