This Browns fan has been let down too many times

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The Reel Deal – By Dedra Cordle

I’ve been thinking about a conversation I overheard recently that left me feeling unsettled – so much so that I decided to step out of my Reel Deal comfort zone to share what had occurred. While there was nothing unfriendly or threatening about this exchange, I was so overwhelmed with pity for these individuals for what I assumed was their naïve enthusiasm regarding the topic at hand.

What follows is the conversation in question, relayed to the best of my ability. I ask you, dear reader, whether I am being unfair to these people and those of a like-mind.
Individual A, who will henceforth be referred to as delusional person one (DPO), glances at a hat being worn by another and offers a compliment.

“Hey man,” said DPO, “That’s a great hat you’re wearing.”

“Thanks,” said Individual B, who will henceforth be known as delusional person two (DPT).

“I’ve been a fan of the Cleveland Browns my entire life.”

“Me too,” said DPO. “It’s so exciting that they made the playoffs this year and finally won a game.”

“More so because it was against the (Pittsburgh) Steelers,” said DPT.

“It feels like a new era,” said DPO. “What do you think of their chances next season? I think if we get all our guys back, we can make it to the Super Bowl.”

“I think so too,” said DPT. “I think we’re gonna win the whole thing. We’re gonna be unstoppable.”

My immediate reaction to this conversation was that they were joking. After all, I too love chanting “Super Bowl” when this team does something that vaguely resembles competency. With slowly dawning horror, however, I realized they were being serious.

Against my better judgement, I closed my gaping maw but offered a silent prayer for their wayward minds.

“To whatever is out there, please guide these poor souls,” I said. “For at their age, they really ought to know better.”

As the weeks wore on, I kept coming back to this conversation, especially as the chorus of high expectations for the 2021 Browns spilled out the mouths of professional sports analysts. I began to question my skepticism, wondering whether I was being too harsh on the admittedly improved Brownies. Upon reflection, I realized I may be acting unfairly toward my beloved team but I just cannot give them my whole and hopeful heart – not yet at least, for they have crushed it many times before.

I was indoctrinated into the Browns fandom at birth. Part of it was due to my father, a rabid fan, and another part was due to the lulling effect the orange painted walls of our living room had on my psyche. It was oddly soothing though I wasn’t sad to have painted over it in the future.

I was very young when the Browns were in their competitive 80s era, but I do remember how their losses (especially “The Drive” and “The Fumble”) impacted my father. He was absolutely crushed and though I may have been too young to understand what all was going on, I knew that he was hurting and thus I was too.

Wanting him to be happy, I cheered on the Browns and cursed the teams they battled. Then I would turn coat and root on those teams, but only if their win would improve the Browns’ standings. This went on until The Betrayal, which was a dark time for fans throughout the country.

I don’t want to rehash their revival era, mostly because it is sad and depressing. But I will say it gave me some great opportunities to laugh, especially when one of our many quarterbacks became trapped under a giant American flag.

Having given up expectations for this team a long time ago, I did not have much optimism for the reign of General Manager Andrew Berry and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski though it felt like adults were finally in the room. But then something bizarre started to happen – they overcame challenges (in an odd turn, most not self-imposed) and started to win.

When they made the playoffs for the first time since 2002, it was a pleasant surprise – even more so when they thrashed the Steelers in the Wild Card game and made Ben Roethlisberger cry. They gave us hope in the second round against a tough opponent in the Kansas City Chiefs but ultimately came up short.

With the entire coaching staff returning, the entire starting offensive returning, and a “re-vamped” defense led by Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward and veteran newcomers Jadeveon Clowney and John Johnson III, it is no wonder why fans and pundits alike are abuzz with positive chatter as the start of the 2021 season approaches. Though I want to hold hands and join in on this peculiar sensation, I can’t – I just can’t.

For me, there is a cloud of strangeness that always hangs over the Browns (case in point, promising rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah dropped a weight on his head and can’t put on a helmet because of his stitches) and I cannot in good faith believe in good things to come. I hope that good things happen; I begrudge none of you who can believe, but I do so wish you could keep it to yourself. You may have overcome the past, but what you are saying is scary and unfamiliar and we have enough of that in the non-sporting world already.

(The Cleveland Browns begin the 2021 season at Kansas City on Sept. 12 at 4:25 p.m. They have not won a season opener since 2004.)

Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.

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