The Cleveland Browns are 2–10, having scored 216 points and given up 347, both among the worst in the league, and lead the league in innovative ways to blow football games. They’ve lost seven in a row and are circling the proverbial drain.
Again. This isn’t a new thing.
What is new is a subtle change in how the team is perceived, with even long-term fans walking away and the team’s status as a national joke being codified.
Just this week, the team has been memorialized in a video about the Browns sadness set to an Adele song, an NFL.com video “memoriam” about their quarterbacks, Bart Scott laughing about avoiding signing with the Browns by hiding in a bathroom, the infamous quarterback jersey got another name, our fandom was eulogized by Browns sypathizer Peter King, and much, much more.
The word is out. No one has it worse than Browns fans.
But you and I have known that for years.
We no longer have much in common, the Cleveland Browns and I.
Maybe we never did.
I should have known it when future vintner Carmen Policy arrived in town with his San Francisco cronies, PSLs, security guards for the Dawg Pound, bans on signs, and Dwight Clark in tow.
Back then, my friends and I were aghast at how the Browns were effectively pricing most of their old fans out of seats with $1000 Personal Seat Licenses and the like. “You are replacing fans with spectators”, we warned the team in 1999, “and when things go south the Stadium will no longer be full”.
Things did go South. The Stadium is no longer full. The bar has gone down so low that tickets can’t even be given away, and the Stadium can be easily taken over by a lukewarm fan base located five hours away by car.
While true fans have hung in for a long time, a lot of them are now walking away. The Browns’ strange brew of arrogance and ineptitude, which goes all the way to the top, has driven away even the hardest of hard-core fans, and a lot of them aren’t coming back.
I don’t think the Browns know this, as they don’t lack for self-assurance, but I do. I’ve been up-close and personal to see some of the most devoted fans on the planet turn their backs on this franchise over the last three years.
Most of their management is from out-of-town and don’t really understand Browns fans. They think that shoving five hours of team-controlled programming down our throats each week is a brilliant business idea and that all we need to do is just win a few games and everything will be hunky-dory.
But it won’t. The foundation of the Browns has always been their fan base, not cartoon dogs or uniform tweaks, and the team has converted that rock solid foundation into one built on sand.
The core of the Browns business asset has been squandered by people who didn’t know what the hell they were doing.
They will never get it back. The best possible fate for this team would be a triumphant redemption story, but that appears to be years away, and it will be a smaller, less-devoted, and far-more-fickle group of fans who will be left.
But, first, Haslam will import another group of outsiders, and we’ll be back to another four-year plan.
And it’s going to get worse before it gets better, folks.
We haven’t hit rock bottom yet.
Trust me on that.