BerniesInsiders.com, in its current and previous incarnation, has always been a mixture of a bunch of different things: Fans talking about the Browns, a portal to all the Browns news on the web, and our own original reporting. We've added the analysis of players and credentialed reporters since 2001, making the whole thing a hopefully unique and subscription-worthy gumbo of Browns goodness.
There's an inherent conflict within the mix that has caused us trouble in the past, though, and may again in the future. That's what seems to be a never-closing gap between some in the media and Browns fans.
I'm lucky to work with a bunch of great guys who also work in the media. So, you probably won't ever find me tee-ing off on "the media" as a whole. They're as diverse a group as any other group of people. They just happen to all do the same thing for a living.
But, sometimes, like all fans, I read things in the newspaper that just tick me off. In my case, they usually involve journalists inferring that Browns fans are all a bunch of idiots.
Here's a case study. Get a load of what Bud Shaw writes in the Plain Dealer this morning:
"Tickets were cheap for this football 'friendly' The difference in turnout between yesterday and the recent soccer match-up that drew mostly out-of-staters to the stadium is that this brand of football offered the opportunity to boo Tim Couch. "
Riiiight. I suspect Bud needs to actually get out amongst the fans at some point.
If he does, he'll discover that fans are a pretty diverse group, with a lot of different opinions and reasons for being there. Reading the posts in the Watercooler, for instance, one would discover Couch backers, Holcomb backers, folks who went to the scrimmage because it was an inexpensive way to treat their kids to the gameday experience, and even people who wanted to see the new linebacking corps or the undrafted free agents.
Mr. Shaw continues vent his view of the great unwashed:
Evidence of the other came when Couch fumbled an early snap and when Kelly Holcomb, throwing against the No. 2 Bills' defense, give or take a starter, threw a touchdown pass. Couch got booed. Holcomb heard the chants of "Kelly, Kelly" and called them "odd."
There's no doubt that Cleveland loves an underdawg. But I also put faith in those in our forums, who tell me that the Couch boo-ers and Kelly chanters were largely scattered groups and certainly not unanimous. It reminds me a bit of that fateful Sunday night game against the Ravens, when "cheers" for Tim Couch's injury so vexed him and the press.
No one in my distant area of the upper deck was cheering for Couch's injury. But it sure sounded like a majority when you read about it the next day in the papers. Of course, I sit out in the stands and pay for my tickets, so what do I know?
Perhaps due to my lack of journalism experience, I have come to believe that Browns fans are no more a single-minded group of football-ignorant drunks than the media is a bunch of grumpy know-it-alls with no clue about what fans are thinking. But, most certainly, you can find examples of such in each group.
Diversity is one of the things makes this country great, and it exists in every group. Even in the press box and the stands at a football game.
* * *
If there is a real eye-opener in this morning's papers, it's this quote:
"Kelly is a teammate, so I want to see fans cheer for him," Couch said. "But I am mentally ready for this thing. I think the fans here just want a winner. I think they just want a championship. I know if I make a bad play and I'm the starter, they're going to boo me. But I know if I make a big play, they're going to cheer me. I know that coming in. The fans just want a winner, and me and Kelly both want to be the guy to do it."
That, to me, is the sound of maturity.
The Tim Couch who took things so personally last year and before seems to be getting replaced by a more realistic and understanding young man. He took yesterday's situation in stride and is moving forward.
Sometimes, I think we forget how young these men are when they are pulled out of college and hailed as saviors.
Speaking for myself, I was acting like a complete idiot when I was Couch's age when he was drafted in 1999. Back when I was 20 or 21, I had unrealistic expectations for myself and the world. I was making all kinds of horrible decisions, but thought I was invincible.
I still make horrible decisions and act like a complete idiot, but at least now I know there will be a price to pay.
I look on Tim Couch as someone who is still growing and finding his way in the world. I know I was when I was in my mid-20s.
I'm occasionally asked my opinion on Couch vs. Holcomb, although most folks here wisely ask analysts who understand the game better. Like many fans, I think that both men have strong attributes, and that which one is better may very well depend on the offensive scheme which is being used and the circumstances on game day.
But I won't deny that I personally like Tim Couch. I've never met him, but I appreciate the way he has faced the press, day in and day out, unlike some other high-profile draft choices. I can relate to the way he puts his emotions right out there for everyone to see. He not only showed his emotions after the Baltimore game last year, but also when he plays well or snidely waves to Ravens fans after an ensuing victory.
I can relate to that.
We fans are a diverse lot, but we largely don't work on creating a cynical detachment from the personalities in the game. Couch's persona makes some fans mock or dislike him. In my case, it makes me pull for him that much more
Unless he puts on a Steelers, Ravens, or Bengals jersey, chances are I'm going to be a Tim Couch fan for a long time to come.