The Tears Won't Flow

BTNG Founder Art Bietz talks about his emotional reaction to the turbulent week in the history of the United States and also, as a sidenote, in the history of BrownsTNG. More used to talking about spice-less Buffalo Wings and foam Bonehats, Art turns inward in this very personal commentary. You can contact Art at

I haven't cried since Tuesday.

Years of male conditioning have taught me to refuse the tears when they come. My family has endured the loss, one physically and one through Alzheimers, of both of my Grandmothers in recent months. The memories of both are still fresh. Still, the tears won't flow.

They've welled up in recent days at times expected and unexpected. When I read of the sacrifice and bravery of Flight 93 passenger Jeremy Glick. When I hold my three-year-old daughter in the air and hear her giggle. When I imagine the last moments of terrified passengers careening into the doomed World Trade Center. When I watch my oldest daughter talk to her friends, secure in the safety of our home.

They welled up when I told my son of the tragedy and saw the look in his eyes. They did again when I talked to Kosars Friday about how we can do the right thing by the fans with this trivial web site.

They are welling up now, as I write this. But they still won't flow. They haven't in years and years and years.

Perhaps it is because I'm confused. Perhaps I don't have the clarity I need.

In recent days, I made the sudden decision to shut down a web site into which I had poured myself for three years and which had become an increasing financial drain on myself and my family. As it reopened, I received email scornful of the decision to reopen the site with a premium area, as well as an outpouring of support for whatever I decided to do. Emotionally, I didn't know what to do with the feedback I received. I still don't. I just woke up everyday and threw myself into whatever things had shown up on my to-do list. Mechanical. Turn it all off.

As I was beginning to recover from my confusion, I watched in horror as we all have, the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings and the attack on the Pentagon. Suddenly, the events of the last week teetered all my self-centered worries into irrelevancy. But I still don't get it. I view the images and they are unreal. The plane heading inevitably towards collision. The people who chose to plummet to the ground rather than burn in the air. The final collapse of both buildings. My mind still can't wrap itself around these images.

I am a very, very lucky man. After fifteen years averaging two flights a week or more, I pulled myself off the road in June because I felt a need to be more available to my family. My eldest is heading toward her teens and our youngest will be the last. I refused to miss a large block of another childhood, enough so that I tossed myself into the toughest job market in over a decade. I've enjoyed a Summer with my children, and have taken another job where my greatest travel hazard will be fighting the evening rush hour. It looks to be a good job, with a lot of responsibility. It pays me less money, but affords me a richer life. I haven't looked back for a second.

I've flown in planes over the World Trade Center many times, circling Manhattan on the way to LaGuardia or heading south to Newark. I've flown into and out of Logan and Reagan Airports more times than I can count. I've been in every terminal where the terrorists slunk, hiding behind the skirts of anonymity. In my adult life I have been a Road Warrior, hurling myself through the air to wherever my skills were needed.

I was those people herded into the back of airplanes by cowards afraid to face armed men on equal footing.
I was the businessman whose mind was racing with ways to get back to his family as the plane sharply turned.
I was the person in that Manhattan tower, stunned by the unexpected sound above them. Or below them.
I was those people. I am those people.

My family has gathered and hugged and told ourselves that it was fate, or God, or whatever, that kept me out of those planes and out of those buildings. But still the tears won't flow.

No one cares about football now. I don't. I will again, but I don't. Even though our move to a new server has made it undercount, our Dawgs Online counter has registered 100 people online all the time. I think I know why.

As Browns fans deserted the football forums, we've headed en masse to "Worldwide Rants" - a forum I was strongly considering closing - to talk, to share emotions, to trade information. On Tuesday, as CNN, FoxNews and others surrendered to levels of traffic they couldn't handle, it was the only place where I could find information beyond the blaring radio and television. We huddled around our computers as our grandparents huddled around radios, hearing echoes of the world around us. As the world broke apart around us, we kept each other informed.

I have learned a lot this week. I've learned how much respect and care I need to give to a thing which pulls people together. I learned that friendships formed here extend beyond football.

I learned a little about myself, about how this web site provides me an emotional outlet and catharsis that I deny myself in my non-digital life

I've learned, at long last, how much we need each other. Because still the tears wouldn't flow.

Until now.

- AB




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