Doc Gonzo: World Out of Balance

There is something amiss with the planet today, and that could be a good thing

The universe is out of balance.

There is great disorder under Heaven.

Things just ain't right.

The Boston Red Sox are world champions, and the Cleveland Browns and Indians are not and have not been in 40 years or more.

Under a blood-red moon -- an angry doom-sign of the impending apocalypse -- and amidst a war-torn nation suffering the ugliest election season in modern memory, the Red Sox beat the hollow St. Louis Cardinals to win their first title in 86 years.

Obviously, the forces of evil are afoot. Halloween is near, after all.

Worse yet, no Browns this weekend.

What to do, what to do.

Besides mailing a helping of canine waste to Fenway Park, of course.

It's Week 8 and the Browns are taking their regularly scheduled mid-season siesta. That limits the viewing options in the Gonzo household this weekend. Saturday will be hijacked by Mrs. Gonzo V. 3.0 hogging the television for the Michigan-Michigan State game. She's a Sparty. I, by the grace of God, am not.

Nothing like wasting a perfectly nice fall Saturday watching sloppy football between a school of inbred drunken farm goons and self-absorbed faux-elitist criminal thugs. You decide which is which, not that it matters. Crappy football among atrocious teams remains crappy football. As my faithful Irish Sherpa, Seamus Dharma, once told me, "You can paint a turd pink, but it's still a turd."

Indeed. Well said, Seamus.

Sunday's schedule doesn't involve the Browns, so there's little reason to watch the pathetic line-up of games. I simply will not be party to Mrs. G.'s sad fixation with the Lions. I'd sooner scrub my eyeballs with Brillo pads than witness yet another 60 minutes of Detroit "football" -- something that ranks lower in popularity in this state than the Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers. Tells ya something about priorities in this state, and likely why Detroit is the most dangerous city in the galaxy. It's Star Wars' Tatooine with snow and murder instead of warmth, personality and fun. And the people are less cute.

Worse, all I could expect to see this weekend between games are election commercials and Levitra ads. Hell, I'd sooner watch reruns of Cop Rock than waste time on the rest of these duds.

While I'm plotting my weekend television viewing, let's take a moment to consider the football game we're going to have to mull for two weeks.

There are two schools of thought in the wake of the loss to Philadelphia. One is that the team will build on all the positives, some of which extend back to the Cincinnati game, and use them to carve out difficult victories in the coming weeks.

The other line of thinking is that the team could collapse after expending so much emotional capital in a failed effort to upset Philadelphia.

The offense has made improvements. Of course, much of what we've seen the first seven weeks could have been avoided by giving the offense more time in the preseason.

I was impressed by the game plan for the Eagles. I was not impressed by the Eagle defense. Too soon to say how much of that was Cleveland just overpowering them on the ground, and how much was just an off game by them.

Cleveland's defense is suspicious. Pittsburgh, with a rookie quarterback, was able to exploit it through the air, which led to the run defense collapsing. Most of us chalked it up to a fluke, especially after lowly Cincinnati was slapped around.

The Philly came in and basically did what it pleased through the air. Yes, the Eagles are a pretty good passing team. But it shouldn't be that easy. Donovan McNabb basically repeated his performance from 2000 against the 2004 Browns. That wasn't supposed to happen.

The difference between four seasons ago and now is that Cleveland's offense was able to claw its way back in this game. At one point, the world sat wide-eyed as the Browns -- a team so far under the national radar that you need sonar to notice it -- led the Eagles in the fourth quarter.

Even more shocking to those that dismissed the Browns was Jeff Garcia, the heart and soul of this team, knocking over an Eagle safety to score the tying touchdown in the final seconds of regular.

Of course, any Browns fan with his or her weight in Milk Bones knew that overtime Philly field goal was only a matter of time. Cleveland simply doesn't win overtime games.

Nice effort? Sure. Moral victory? Why not.

But all that matters is victory. This defeat counts the same as the Ravens winning 35-0 in Cleveland last winter. You can take what positives you like from it, and there are positives, but at the end of the day the Browns are 3-4 and one game ahead of Cincinnati in the basement of the AFC North.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I'd rather see the Browns win ugly that lose beautifully.

Meanwhile, Butch Davis, as usual, faces yet another test in getting this team prepared to play at Baltimore in the wake of the emotionally draining loss and the bye. Can he do it? Maybe. If he doesn't, the hounds of hell will be barking for his head. A loss at Baltimore would be the final nail in the fanciful dream of a playoff run.

Since The Return, Cleveland doesn't have enough history to form much of a trend to show how its respond after the bye. Here's a breakdown of the game results coming off the midseason break:

2003: 41-20 loss at Kansas City
2002: 27-20 victory at Cincinnati
2001: 21-21 overtime loss at Chicago
2000: Bye was final week.
1999: Bye was final week.

Discounting the first two seasons, which sadistically had the bye scheduled in Week 17 for an expansion franchise, the team has a bad loss, a win and a narrow overtime defeat that occurred under cosmic bad karma circumstances at Soldier Field.

Of course, post-bye results really aren't much of an accurate measuring stick because you have to take each season individually, especially in light of the significant off season changes made in Cleveland.

A statistic from this season alone we can chew on is Cleveland's 0-3 road record. In the past, it was Cleveland Browns Stadium where the Browns were unable to win. Not this year. Home is home again. But leaving the friendly confines of Alfred Lerner Way has been a recipe for defeat in 2004.

Is there any reason to believe the Browns can beat Baltimore after the bye?

Sure. If the universe realigns itself after this Red Sox nonsense, the Ravens in the meantime should have been pummeled by the Eagles. That would set up a showdown for the Browns to match Baltimore's record at 4-4 and move into second place.

The Steelers, meanwhile, continue to be the most hollow division leader I've seen in a long, long time. When they implode, and they will, it will be a gratifying sight. They will not win the division. They play the Patriots then the Eagles before coming to Cleveland for a beating I hope borders on assault and battery.

I will be in the stands for that game. If there is any justice in this world, that game will be the turning point for this franchise. I pray it's the Sunday that Cleveland tells the world, "We're back, fools."

Former Ohio newspaper reporter and editor Bill Shea writes the Doc Gonzo column for Bernies Insiders each Thursday. Except when he doesn't. He can be reached at Look for him at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Nov. 14 when the man-child Steelers visit.

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