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Browns Browns Archive Some Joy For The Miserable
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Succop missedBad things tend to happen to all of us in this life, at one point or another.  We can't avoid it, and if we somehow do, we're probably lacking something in life.  Sure, for a Cleveland fan, let alone a fan specific to this Cleveland Browns reboot, has had a rough go of things, to say the least.

I mean, we have "Run William Run", two Hail Marys, and about 14 years of Phil Dawson's right leg.  Beyond that, our non-crappy moments are limited to a few token wins over Pittsburgh and some Kodak moments on Draft Day that may or may not have proven themselves worthy of our excitement.  Add in the often gray skies, and you can find always find something to be aggravated or pissed off about.  I'm not going to stare at the TV and tell you it's not on; half-empty glasses are not a precious commodity for the community of Browns fans in general, but we don't have to wear that doom around the clock.

When the Browns kicked off their final game of 2013 in Pittsburgh, the ship had long since sailed on any dreams of playoffs or even progress of any sort.  The whole thing is a mess, but unless you're new to the program, you shouldn't be taken aback by any type of incompetence, dysfunction, or old fashioned bad luck bestowed upon the team with the orange helmets on Lake Erie.  It is just how it goes down; life isn't fair and life stinks.

Life stinks, because the Browns stink.  Life isn't fair, because quite often, the hated Steelers find a way.  That's how it feels on Sundays, even when they aren't playing each other, and it just makes us bitter.  However, it's not petty; it's really just part of being a fan, and I can't believe how many people lose sight of that.  It is quite okay to play the 2 favorite team card, like being a fan of the Browns and whoever the Steelers are playing, for example.  Monday mornings tend to be slightly less awful for supporters of the Browns when those teams go 2-for-2.

There is some joy in Mudville when the Browns lose, if the Steelers also lose, but it's tough to be vocal about it.  None of us want to admit it, but the first part, our beloved Browns losing, it's getting easier to stomach.  We're just used to it; it happens more than ten times a year, and we might be happier in a year where it only happen ten times.  The Browns last won their sixth game of the season on November 18th, 2007, while the Steelers were last handed their ninth defeat in a season on December 14th, 2003.  Since that 6-10 season in 2003, the Steelers have been .500 or better for 10 straight seasons, a run that includes six playoff apprearances, three AFC Championships, and two Super Bowl wins.  I'll save you the trouble of looking it up, the Browns have put up double-digits in the loss column in nine of those ten seasons, and that one bright spot didn't do as much as yield them a playoff spot for their 10 wins in 2007.

The Steelers fans can point to the scoreboard the very second a Browns fan opens his or her mouth to comment on what used to be an awesome rivalry, and we can do nothing but hang our heads in shame.  But, maybe we don't have to let that consume us, and maybe our fans don't have to wear the lopsided losses and pathetic season after season on their chest like a Scarlet Letter.  There's no doubt that the NFL crap flows downhill, and that the Browns tend to draw a post at the bottom of the hill each and every year, but it doesn't require us to abandon all bliss, even if we find it wise to abandon all hope.

We can enjoy them losing and missing out on the playoffs, without coming across like raging assholes.  We don't need the Browns to win the Super Bowl, in order to smile about Pittsburgh not winning it.  And, we don't even need the Browns to have an ounce stability anywhere in the organization to take satisfaction in something being amiss in Western Pennsylvania.  Of course, you'd first need to clarify that Pittsburgh, where the Steelers play their home games, is in the Western half of Pennsylvania to about 85% of their fan base.  Our exuberance isn't about them succombing to the level of the Browns, it's just about them failing, but I've been led to understand the recent failure of the Cleveland Browns requires us to vacate these moments of elation.

The summer before my freshman year in high school, a female friend of mine, one of the few that I ever had, passed away.  It was awful; on top of being a friend to me, she was just a wonderful human being that was stolen for us at the age of 14.  Everyday, for almost a year, I let it make me angry and sad.  I felt guilty about enjoying a Dr. Pepper or playing Sega Genesis; needless to say, that was pretty miserable year, but only because it wasn't okay in my naive mind for me not to be miserable.  I never want to compare a football game, or games, to life and death or existentialism in general, but I was feeling pretty damn miserable on this last Sunday in 2013.

JetsWhile we said goodbye to the Browns hopes of anything good happening a while ago, there's was still a chance for them to do the next best thing, negate a playoff berth for Pittsburgh.  They'd get two cracks at it.  Because of tie-breakers and various algorhtyms, the Steelers needed the Jets, who happened to be playing the Browns in Week 16, to win their final two games, in order for them to stay alive for the final spot in the AFC playoffs.  The Browns failed to achieve victory in that Week 16 contest in New Jersey.  Hell, one could argue that they failed to achieve respectability in a 24-13 loss.  No worries though, the Steelers still needed four things to happen in Week 17, and the Browns had control, on paper anyway, of one of them; they just needed to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2003.

A Baltimore win in Cincinnati, a Miami win at home against the Jets, or a San Diego win over the Chiefs at home all could have done the trick, but seeing the Browns handle this one thing to close the book on another miserable season would have been just what the doctor ordered.  Of course, you could see that it wasn't in the cards for the Browns today, even without the aid of corrective lenses.  Now, the end-game for the Dolphins and Ravens wasn't just about curbing playoff enthusiasm on the banks of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, but for their own playoff prospects; ditto for the Chargers in the late afternoon slot.  The Bengals toyed with the Ravens for a while, before imposing their will on them in the second half, and that almost seemed okay; Browns fans didn't really care to see the Ravens in the playoffs for a sixth straight season either, and there's more than one way to skin a cat.  I don't actually know why anyone would want to skin a cat, let alone present multiple options to carry out the act, but Miami erased themselves as an option by laying their own egg at home.

That meant three more hours, and suddenly all of our eggs are in one basket on the Left Coast.  It's been a few years since Peyton Manning handed Jim Sorgi the keys to the vehicle that drove the Browns playoff hopes in 2007 right into the ground, be we fans won't soon forget the name or the day.  Lo and behold, a Kansas City Chiefs team with positively nothing to play for, except continued health and prosperity, stood across the field from the playoff-hopeful Chargers.  Many of the names on the Chiefs roster ended up on the list of Inactives, so only a miraculous win from a Kansas City taxi-squad could steal the playoff dreams from these mighty Chargers and hand them to Pittsburgh.  Well, it was a lot scarier than it should have been.  The Chiefs backups went tit for tat with these San Diego jerks (they aren't really jerks, but I started to wonder if a few of them weren't lifelong Steelers fans willing to cut off their noses to spite their faces).  The fine athletes in Southern California did put it together, well enough to wipe out a 10-point deficit to tie the game at 24, but left some time on the clock.

SuccopSure enough, the plot thickened and this Browns fan was watching the same awful movie I've been watching since 1999, and the Chiefs were as set for a game-winning field goal as they'd ever been without the aid of Dwayne Rudd's helmet.  To be fair, it was a 41-yard attempt and Phil Dawson is not the Chiefs placekicker, so it wasn't exactly automatic.  I'm not going to say that I cried, but for a few seconds, I might admit that it was a good thing that 2500 miles separate me from the Valley View Bridge on I-480.  In the moment, not only was I sure that Ryan Succop would make the kick that meant nothing to anyone but the Chargers and Steelers, nightmares of the Steelers winning their seventh Super Bowl danced in my head.  And, he missed!  We were headed to overtime!  I didn't have to break anything expensive in my home!

Overtime was nerve-racking too, but the Chargers won the toss, received the kickoff, and chewed up 9:30 of clock, before settling for a 36-yard field goal to take a 27-24 lead.  Of course, it would have been just like fate to find a new way to screw the Browns with the recently implemented overtime rule that eliminates the sudden death aspect of overtime, in the event of a field goal on the bonus period's initial possession?  Okay, so this game had nothing to do with the Browns at all, but screwing the Browns and helping the Steelers qualifies as a "six of one, half dozen of the other" situation in my eyes.  A negative offensive play for Kansas City on 3rd down set up a 4th and long, out of Succop's range, thus eliminating the joyous possibility of a 27-27 tie, which also would have sunk Pittsburgh.  At this point, that was all that mattered, and our prayers (maybe not actual prayers, but consenus desires) were answered when Chase Daniel's illegal forward pass fell incomplete to end the game and Pittsburgh's season.

I celebrated without shame, and only regreat that I didn't get to see the Steelers watch their season end. If you ask me, this moment of absolute pleasure salvaged a piss-poor Sunday.  It took me back to Pittsburgh's 0-4 start, which I refused to enjoy while waiting for the other shoe to drop, and brought a smile to my face, as I was now allowed to enjoy that month after the fact.  It even numbed me up, when wild internet rumor turned to fact, when the Browns threw gasoline on the fire of their 20-7 loss in their season finale by pink-slipping their head coach, an Ohio native and lifelong Browns fan, after one 12-loss season.

Because of the Browns, life still stinks and it obviously remains far from fair, but those moments of delight, for whatever stupid reason, made everything okay in the world, even if it was for a very brief period of time.  Why would anyone want to take that away from me?

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