There are moments in a life that stand apart from all others. Your wedding day. Your first legal drink. And watching the Steelers get thrashed by the Browns. A national TV audience got to experience the epiphany back in Week 5, when the Browns dismantled the Inbred 33-13 in a Sunday night tilt in Pittsburgh. Nearly two months later, the Yinzers are back for more.
Even worse for the Steelers, Butch Davis has finally discovered the formula for success in Cleveland. Just days after firing leading receiver Kevin Johnson, the Browns tore through the Arizona Cardinals like a Ravens fan through government cheese.
The solution is so obvious that Davis starts firing guys left and right. He fires Offensive Assistant Mike Sullivan for sleeping during a coaches meeting. He fires Assistant Strength Coach Rob Phillips for wearing yellow during Steeler week. And when Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson leaves the coffee pot empty for the third time in four days, Davis has him escorted out of the Berea facility under armed guard.
And still, it is not enough. William Green, clearly distraught over the lack of attention since the whole Kevin Johnson deal went down, is making a grab for the headlines again. Green's fiancée Asia Gray obliges with a patented Glenn Close moment, taking a knife to the troubled young running back and all but ensuring that Green will be atop the radio talk show hot list for another week.
Until, that is, Butch Davis fires Carmen Policy.
No one is really sure how it happened. Business associates say Carmen simply stopped answering the phone on Wednesday afternoon. Randy Lerner is also suddenly absent and unreachable. Things reach a climax just before the game, when Davis holds a brief press conference at the stadium wearing an ornate crown and holding a jeweled scepter. Davis offers a single statement before leaving the room: "My business is to succeed, and I'm good at it. I create my Iliad by my actions, create it day by day."
Browns beat writer Lane Adkins almost immediately recognizes the statement as a quote, from none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. Butch Davis, it appears, has crowned himself Emperor of Cleveland.
And you know what? He's good at it. The Browns come out of the locker room absolutely fired up. On the first play from scrimmage, Jeff Faine buries Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton and freight trains right through inside linebacker James Farrior, springing James Jackson for a 22-yard run right up the soft and chewy center of the Pittsburgh D. It takes three more plays—all hand-offs behind Faine—for the Browns to score their first TD.
The crowd is going absolutely bananas. Davis orders stadium security to hand out boxes of Milk-Bone brand dog bone treats to fans in the Dawg Pound. Less than five minutes into the game, a sustained hail of treats has darkened the south end of the stadium. Officials call for the stadium lights to be turned on as the flying bones eclipse the sun and blacken the afternoon sky. CNBC reports that shares of Kraft Foods—maker of Milk-Bone dog biscuits—jumped 25% on the news of events in Cleveland.
In a stroke of marketing genius, Emporer Davis armed the local fans with enough dog treats to feed an army—and drive up Kraft Foods' stock price.
It takes six skid steer loaders and a heroic effort by grounds keepers to keep the end zone clear of debris. At halftime, local animal shelters pitch in by releasing dogs onto the field to eat the remaining snacks. Predictably, the skid steer loaders are soon busy scooping hundreds of pounds of fresh dog poop.
The Bobcat Company would soon market its Model 463 skid steer loader as the world's first motorized pooper scooper.
In a final stroke of genius, Butch Davis holds an extended halftime extravaganza. The skid steer loaders are at work again, this time trundling out hundreds of garish orange football jerseys and shiny orange football pants into a pile at midfield. The crowd goes into a frenzy as Davis, still wearing his imperial crown, walks from the sidelines with an enormous can of lighter fluid and a torch. Davis soaks the pile of clothing, raises the torch, and shouts: "We're the Browns, dammit!"
There's a sound like thunder as 80,000 fans roar their approval into the chill autumn air. An instant later, the ugly pile of cloth is an inferno. The flames climb high into the sky as the smoke of Carmen Policy's ill-begotten legacy drifts south and east in the direction of Youngstown and, ultimately, Pittsburgh.
The events set the stage for the greatest second half in Browns history. The Browns defense dominates the Steeler offensive line so completely that fourth-string quarterback Antwaan Randel El is the only healthy signal caller with 10 minutes still to play in the third quarter. In his first sustained action at QB, Randel El would give up six interceptions and four fumbles, while losing nearly 100 yards on a series of ill-advised scrambles.
Courtney Brown has a monster day. He records six sacks, two fumble recoveries, and an interception in the third quarter alone. Just after the half, he collides with Steelers running back Jerome Bettis so hard that the collision produces a shower of exotic sub-atomic particles known only to be produced in high energy particle accelerators. Six months later, Brown would accept the Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of the Top Quark. Jerome Bettis would be listed on the Steelers injury report the following week as "Missing".
Mid-way through the fourth quarter, the Browns have mauled the Steelers so completely that Steelers coach Bill Cowher simply can't find any healthy bodies to take the field. When Cowher tries to send out Ariko Iso—the NFL's only female trainer—to play cornerback, the umpire has had enough. With six minutes left to play, he calls league president Paul Tagliabue and gets permission to call the game.
And that's the way I see it. GMD