Cow Patties from Columbus: Week 3

Wherein our hero aggressively re-calculates his "how much I care about this game" ratio, and faces other adventures associated with being a Browns fan in Columbus, Ohio...

Barry,

Greetings from Columbus. I should start by apologizing to you. The Browns' last second loss to Oakland? My fault.

In week two, I happened to be watching the end of the Donkeys-Raiders game. I saw the whole thing go down with Shanahan's timeout on Janikowski's make, followed by Janikowski's upright-rattling on the second attempt. When Denver went the other way and kicked the winning field goal to defeat the Raiders, I said, "That was a total Browns loss."

As the old saying goes, from my lips to the ear of the overworked, chain-smoking angel who answers God's Screw-With-Cleveland-Sports-Fans Emergency Hotline.

When Shanahan pulled the stunt on the Raiders, the national football punditry was unanimous in their contempt for what had transpired. Many have called for the rule to be changed so that inside the final two minutes, only a player can call for a timeout. This is because, in all likelihood, the coach gets to call timeout after the fact and make the opposing team make TWO field goals for the price of one. In other words, coaches get to act like the Grim Reaper playing electric vibrating football in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. ("Best two out of three!")

As I understand it, the coach saunters up to the sideline official and tells him something along the lines of, "I plan to call timeout three-eights of a microsecond before the ball is snapped, so be ready." The thing is, unless the play clock or game clock are about to hit zero, the coach has no idea when the snap is going to occur. Surely what transpires is that the coach calls timeout once he sees the center snap the ball. The sideline official, who had been told that the coach would be calling timeout three-eighths of a microsecond before the ball is snapped, blows his whistle as if that is what happened. Granted, neither of these games involved the New England Patriots, so we do not have definitive videotaped evidence of the coach's hand signals, but I have a hard time believing that Shanahan and Kiffin both pulled this off with such infinitesimal precision. They would need a psychic's prescience and a hummingbird's reflexes.

The only other thing I can think of is that coaches are staring at the holder, and call time-out upon the holder's hand flash signal. Even that would require split-second precision. But if that's the case, I imagine that it won't be long until teams develop fake signals for field goal attempts. In an effort to entice the opposing coach into calling timeout before the ball is ever snapped, we will soon see kneeling punters gesticulating like Peyton Manning running the 60-Minute Drill.

If you can fake out the coach before the ball is snapped, this would turn it into a traditional "icing" situation, which most kickers will tell you is a benefit rather than a hindrance. But based on the last two weeks, it appears that you really can get into a kicker's head, or his team's head, by forcing the flawless execution of two winning field goals when only one is required.

I didn't like it when it happened to Oakland, and I certainly didn't like it when it happened to the Browns, but it is what it is. I am not at all bitter about it, except for two things:

1. I know the Browns will never turn the tables after getting burned like the Raiders did. If the Browns face a similar situation later this year, it will fail because of one of two scenarios:

a.) Romeo would be staring into space as the field goal unit lined up, and the referees don't go around proactively soliciting input like "blink once if you want to ice the kicker, or blink twice if you want to call timeout just before the ball is snapped."

b.) The Browns would call timeout just as the kicker shanks his first attempt. He would then make the necessary corrections and bury his second try. (I base this statement on an actual 1995 Monday Night Football game against the Bills, just a few weeks before The Announcement. One of the Browns' linebackers called timeout a fraction of a second before Scott Norwood flubbed a last-second field goal, Super Bowl style. Given a reprieve, Norwood drilled his second attempt. This happened when I was still at Ohio U. I drowned my sorrows on Court Street, asking anyone who would listen, "Why can't the Browns ever lose a NORMAL football game? Why does it always have to be something like THIS?"…..which is pretty much what I did in Columbus this past Sunday. So… uhh… .three cheers for a dozen years of emotional development!)

2. The other thing that I am bitter about is the following statistic…

Standings For Games Decided On That Sneaky Timeout-As-The-Ball-Is-Snapped Trick

Denver Donkeys 1-0  (1.000)

Oakland Raiders 1-1   (.500)

Cleveland Browns 0-1   (.000)

Twenty years later, the Donkeys are still inventing ways to stick it to us, even if indirectly. Somewhere, John Elway is laughing so hard that he might choke to death in his oat bag.

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Since the Bengals had hijacked the local airwaves, and since I wasn't about to miss the Tribe's division-clinching victory and post-game champagne shower, I managed to "hit for the cycle" in my attempts to follow the Browns game.

I started by reading your Live Feed on the laptop as I watched the scene at Jacobs Field. When that was over, I put Dieken & Donovan on the radio. And then I went to a local dining establishment for the fourth quarter. Internet, radio, and TV…is that the cycle? Or does the cycle require at least one other form of communication, like Morse Code, smoke signals, or stacking gang signs?

Anyway, it's always a weird thing, going to one of these Columbus-area DirecTV-having restaurants to watch a Browns game. Many perils await those who brave the barstools. You always run the risk of:

a.) Sitting amongst rival fans. Columbus-area OBR reader Marc Zody wrote in to tell me that he got stuck sitting between a Steelers fan and a Bengals fan.  This can actually happen. Seriously. One minute you're excited to watch the Browns, and the next minute you're fanning away visible clouds of Arn City belches and Skyline Chili farts.

b.) Sitting near fans of random teams that you had no idea had any fans outside of their immediate zip code. Sunday, a few seats away, there were two excited Panthers fans and one disappointed Falcons fan following the Carolina-Atlanta game. Who are these people? Where do they come from? And how come you never see this with other sports? Where do lonesome Devil Rays and Royals fans congregate for a series in June? Where do fans of the Coyotes and Lightning meet to talk crap on a wintry January night? Do Hawks and Warriors fans sit side-by-side at some Columbus sports bar in February?

c.) Sitting near people who watch eight games at once and scream and cheer schizophrenically based solely upon the needs of their fantasy football team. I would like to hammer these people in the genitals.

In the end, I lucked out. There was one open bar stool, directly in front of a TV showing the Browns game. I had Browns fans on either side of me. The bartender was cute. Everything was great until Winning Kick, Take Two, when the left side of the Browns' line pulled the greatest "olé" routine in Cleveland sports since Roger Dorn took infield practice and had his contract peed upon by Lou Brown.

A few other thoughts from my haphazard attempts to follow the game on internet / radio / TV……

* When a team faces 3rd & 40 (ahem), the announcers always say, "The coaches don't have a play for 3rd & 40." I assume this means the offensive coaches. When the other team faces a 3rd & 23, the announcer always say, "The coaches don't have a play for 3rd & 23." I assume this means the defensive coaches.

* I must admit that I have had some nagging concerns about the defense, especially about their ability to stop the run. But then I heard Andra Davis on the radio, and he assured everyone that the defense was going to "regroup as a group." What a load off my mind. The last time I slept this soundly, I was undergoing surgery.

* Aside from Scott Player's Hulktastic Blonde Fu-Manchu, my biggest regret about missing most of the game on TV is that I never got to see if any of those GWAR impersonators in the Black Hole put their tongue in Braylon's ear before the game or after he scored that go-ahead touchdown.

* I cannot tell you how excited I was to see the Browns wearing their real uniforms. For a couple of years, the pants stripes were in the wrong order. (Brown-orange-brown instead of orange-brown-orange.) It irked me to no end. Thankfully, that got corrected last year. But the Browns still persisted in destroying their classic look by wearing solid brown socks with their white uniforms. Stupid as it sounds, it made my blood boil every time I saw it. So to see the Browns in their classic white uniforms and the white socks with the striping that matches the shirt sleeves…beautiful. A timeless classic. (My friends marvel that I care so much about something so stupid. In my regular life, I am fashion unconscious, bordering on fashion deceased. But when it comes to my teams' uniforms, I'm "Queer Eye for the Sports Guy." Don't even get me started on how the Indians abandoned their traditional navy for a weird shade of mismatched blue.)

*  Jim Donovan is effervescent. Irrepressibly effervescent. Ever since I was a kid, I've always enjoyed Donovan's enthusiasm for his assignments, but sometimes it makes me laugh. He seems incapable of scorn or disgust. Even when things go bad, there's still a happy-go-lucky buoyancy in his voice. When I was listening to the first half, there was a play in which Derek Anderson apparently tried to hit Winslow in quintuple coverage. Donovan was unfazed….("There were FIVE defenders there, Diek!")….he seemed excited to have witnessed such poor decision making, and couldn't wait to share that excitement with the listeners.

Sometimes I like to imagine Donovan calling famous news events, like, say, the Hindenburg disaster:

Donovan:        And the Hindenburg is now up in flames! Boy, you'd think that filling a blimp with seven million cubic feet of highly flammable hydrogen would not seem like such a good idea, but that's what they did, and it's REALLY burning now, Diek!

 

Dieken:            (gravely) I think a lot of people have just lost their lives today.

 

Donovan:        The luminous fireball has just crashed back to earth! So it's back to the drawing board for Luftschiffbau Zeppelin! And now we'll see if the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company can capitalize with its fleet of helium-based dirigibles!

 

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One last story before I go. The Michigan fan who sits next to me at work is also a "Raiders & Bengals" fan. That's right, I sit adjacent to a sports bigamist. Growing up in Columbus, he liked the Bengals, but he also fell for the Raiders because "I loved the way Marcus Allen and Todd Christensen and those guys played the game." (I'm going with a hunch and pointing out that in 1983, Marcus, Todd and the rest of the Raiders played better than everyone else in the NFL.)

Here's where it gets tricky. In the last two weeks, the Browns beat the Bengals and lost to the Raiders. It would seem like a wash, right? One up and one down for each of us.

But wait! What if he likes one team more than the other? I asked him if his support was 50/50, and he told me it was 80/20 in favor of the Raiders. Crap! I like the Browns just as much as… uhh… just as much I like the Browns. That means I was .500 over the last two weeks. But since he is 80/20 in favor of the Raiders, he was really .800 over the past two weeks. Right? Therefore, I couldn't talk any smack about the Bengals or I'd get some sort of "the Raiders game was the one I really cared about" response.

I was screwed. UNLESS…..was I at least 81/19 in favor of division victories over non-division victories? At least 81/19 in favor of home victories over road victories? At least 81/19 in favor of the stat "the Browns are 1-0 when allowing at least 45 points" over the stat "the Browns are 0-2 when scoring fewer than 51 points"?

If so, I think I can win .810 to .800. Or something.

The point is, you have it easy up there by the lake. Everything about the Brown and Orange is black and white. Living in Columbus, I am confronted with NFL bigamists, meaning I have to calculate decimals while reflecting upon some sort of eHarmony 29-inner-dimensions analysis just to determine whether or not I should talk crap about a football game. It gets to be tiring, Barry. Not a "Ted Washington putting on his pants" kind of tiring, but more of a mental exhaustion.

Well, that's all for now. I am strangely optimistic that the Browns will beat Baltimore on Sunday. Andra has assured us that the defense would "regroup as a group", and if the 4th quarter in Oakland is anything to go by, Derek Anderson appears to be getting hot again, meaning he will likely hold Ed Reed to fewer than 12 points. Add it all up, and it means a Browns victory….provided Baltimore is out of timeouts when the Browns kick the winning field goal.

Until next week,

Sirk

Steve Sirk, once Art Bietz's co-conspirator at the TruthCenter, has taken to sending a weekly letter to "home base" about life as a Browns fan struggling in the NFL mixing pot of Central Ohio. At some point in life, Sirk determined that suffering through the nexus, dips, valleys, and various low points of being a Cleveland sports fan within geographic proximity of Cleveland itself did not create sufficient emotional pain. Sneeringly dismissive of even basic survival instincts, Sirk elected to reside in Columbus, Ohio, so that he could better be surrounded by fans of winning franchises who could mock his very existence. If you wish to contact an individual of such clearly questionable judgment, you may do so at sirk65@yahoo.com

 


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