The Unbearable Lightness of Browns Fandom

Doc Gonzo offers a brief moment of understanding prior to the Browns-Bengals collision...

The usual bright optimism of summer has yet again been shattered against the cruel rocks of reality that is Cleveland Browns football.

But you don't need me to remind of you of that. You saw it yourself, perhaps even in high-definition. Nothing like a crystal-clear, extremely sharp view of a monumental disaster being beamed directly into your living room. It was like watching a non-grainy version of the Zapruder film. For three hours.

Back, and to the left.

Nauseating, no?

Things could be worse, however. Let me be the voice of reason. The denizens of this site's Watercooler forum have not just been spitting out the so-called "optimist's Kool-Aid" this week, they've been projectile-vomiting it across their keyboards and monitors.

I'm just as guilty. In the wake of the loss to the Saints, I truly was disgusted and disappointed. A splash in free agency proved to be less a tsunami than a toddler banging his hand in a rain puddle.

The home opener was more of the same. We've seen this show before. A craptacular offensive line can't block, and the defense makes up for the not blocking by not tackling. Hurried, stupid passes from the quarterback. Drops instead of catches. Boneheaded penalties wiping out big plays.

Been there, done that (See: Browns, Cleveland; 1999-present).

That said, it's still very early in the season. The road game against Cincinnati is a real test of this franchise's current state. I'm chalking the home opener up to being just an all-around bad day, albeit one that did see two second-half touchdowns. Good teams occasionally have bad games. Of course, bad franchises occasionally have good games.

If we dismiss that first half as nothing more than nerves,  rust and a lack of cohesiveness from an uneven preseason, basically a preseason first half, then the optimist in me says today's game will be a continuation of that second half, the two quarters when Cleveland finally showed some life.

Deliver a dud in Porkopolis, and this season teeters on the brink of disaster. Going into Week 3's game against The Illegitimate Entity™ then becomes a must-win. And I'm certain this team doesn't have the mental make-up to be placed in such a position this early in the season.

I wrote two weeks ago that we should give this team until October to pass judgment. But if the results today are like they were against New Orleans, then the sharks will smell blood in the water.

Why the Browns have failed by now to sign a veteran quarterback to provide insurance for Charlie Frye baffles me. Last week proved that he's going to be on the run all season, when he's not buried under a mound of defenders. Odds are he's going to get hurt. The dregs behind him are not going to win games.

Lose Frye, and this team will go winless. It would be a tremendous drop-off in talent, retard the development of Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards. Ken Dorsey and Derek Anderson have a pulse, and little else.

Perhaps Phil Savage is working a deal behind the scenes as you read this. I certainly hope so. There's no excuse, by now, for not being prepared to lose your starting quarterback.

There's a black storm cloud hovering over Berea, ready to break at any moment. I'm trying hard, real hard, to remain optimistic, but it grows increasingly difficult by the hour.

A victory today would be an injection of confidence for players and fans. Until then, we remain on life support.


Former Ohio newspaper reporter and editor Bill Shea pens the Doc Gonzo column at some point each week for The OBR. This will be his sixth season writing about the Browns for the site, and perhaps it will be the season he gets it right (but don't count on it). For details about his disturbing personal life, including photos from his tenure as the last-string quarterback of an indoor professional football team, visit You can e-mail him at

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