Owl: Do You Believe in Curses?

The Owl is sort of like our version of Yoda. He's in tune with whatever the football equivalent of The Force happens to be, and there are those of us on the Bernie's Insiders staff who listen at rapt attention when he gives us wisdom. Now, though, the Owl is telling us things of a mystical nature... how many of us dare to follow where The Owl is taking us? Your metaphysical destiny awaits...

Al Michaels asked "Do you believe in miracles?" 25 years ago and became famous doing so. The Owl wants to know, "Do you believe in curses?"

During construction of Cleveland Browns Stadium in 1998 and '99, a worker grinned and swore he dropped a Steelers' Terrible Towel into the area near midfield below all the pipes and drainage tile. He said the yellow and black towel would work its evil magic until it is unearthed.

There is no other explanation for the last six, going on seven, years.

  • Fans go three years without a team, which in retrospect wasn't that long. When the Al Lerner and Carmen Policy are awarded a franchise in September 1998, they have to scramble to put a coaching staff and front office together and did not have enough time to do it.
  • The Browns make Tim Couch their first draft choice of the new era. They didn't even work out Donavan McNabb, which was just plain stupid. But they aren't the only ones that thought Couch would be a star.

    What followed was more terrible than the towel; he is made to play before he is ready, and on top of that has to play behind a leaky offensive line. He breaks his thumb in practice while colliding with some guy named Ryan Taylor. He suffers a concussion against the Ravens. The P.R. department allows him to talk. He cries. Game Over.
  • Courtney Brown is drafted first the next year - another player every team in the league projected as a star. Instead, he rarely had the chance to shine because he finished the last four years on injured reserve.
  • Next comes Gerard Warren. Okay, you want to bring up the fact some in the draft room wanted to draft Richard Seymour but Butch Davis overruled them, go ahead. Keep in mind most of the people who tell that story are looking for work, but once again, the Browns are not the only team that expected more from Big Money.
  • No one should be surprised if Brown plays 16 games and goes to the Pro Bowl, or if Warren plays like an animal for the Broncos.
  • Center Jeff Faine, the first-round pick from 2003, never missed a game because of injury while at Notre Dame. Put him in a Browns uniform, though, and he can't finish a season.
  • Kellen Winslow, yet another can't-miss star, suffers a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments on an onside kick when a teammate rolls up the back of his leg. That just doesn't happen if there is no curse.
  • Braylon Edwards is drafted, Coach Romeo Crennel rubs his hands in glee as he anticipates Edwards and Winslow together, then bam! He lands in the bushes and then in the hospital when he crashes his motorcycle.

In one respect, the curse didn't do all it might have, because Winslow is lucky he wasn't injured more severely than he was. But according to various reports, Winslow won't play in 2005 because of a torn right ACL. It is the same leg that was broken in Dallas last year.

What we need is an exorcism. Or a big shovel to dig up that Terrible Towel and burn it. Yet because only the perpetrator knows precisely where it is buried, the shovel idea is impractical.

I don't know exactly how those exorcisms work. It's been a long time since I saw the documentary starring Linda Blair.

What I do know is the feel-good atmosphere created by Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel is in danger of disintegration if Reuben Droughns doesn't come to his senses and get back to work, and if Winslow truly is a goner for the season.

Yes, Winslow had horrendous judgment to ride a motorcycle as big as the one he crashed without having the expertise to drive it. It was still daylight when he crashed into a curb and went flying over the handlebars.

But other forces than stupidity are at work here, and for now they are too much for the Browns to overcome.

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