A fan can often feel intimidated by their favorite athletes. They're the ones who run faster and jump higher in their PF Flyers, and thus make truckloads o' cash.
But that's on a one-on-one level. If we're the lone fan, we at least seek a player's acceptance of us, then gush about him when he's civil to us. But when it comes to the relationship between a player and fans as a whole, the tables are turned. The player is the one who seeks acceptance, love, admiration and respect. And in that situation, the players are like farmers after a bad crop year, and fans are the bankers behind the power desk. And the player is sitting, hat in hand, in a stiff, upright posture, trying to make up for the fact that his chair is 3" lower than the bankers'.
Our admiration for players is not based so much on "what have you done for me lately?", but "What's your credit rating?" and "How much is in your fan bank account?"
Last week a PFF poster asked if fans could show a bit more encouragement and sympathy towards Tim Couch, and that we tend to get down on him at the drop of a hat. True, I think Browns fans forget just how detrimental their impatience can sometimes be. Quick criticism can get a snowball rolling downhill that doesn't help their team and ultimately themselves.
Ever been to the opera? Well, I have, but I don't have knowledge and appreciation of it to know when the singers are, to use Browns parlance, kicking ass or hurling chunks. If you go to an opera outside of cities like NY, Boston or DC, the audiences aren't all that critical. They are, to borrow Art B's terminology, more "spectators" than "fans." I'm as green a spectator as there is, but it keeps me in good with my squeeze.
Now in Italy, it is a whole other ball game. They KNOW opera, they EXPECT the best, and they don't suffer fools gladly. You get a tenor who's not on top of his game, and damn if the performance isn't peppered with some catcalls and booing. Now with all that going on, do you think that's gonna inspire Dominic to do better? More often than not, he's going to break out in a cold sweat and start going downhill fast, and the demanding audience will just get that much more hostile. Bottom line: a shaky "Don Giovanni," made even suckier by disapproving fans.
But enough about opera. Let's get back to the suggestion of greater fan sympathy for Tim Couch. Will that help? Is it warranted? I've no doubt that it can't hurt. But as to whether it's warranted, well.... I return to the idea of the player's bank account with the fans. After all, they run the bank. And players have to build up a sufficient account of good play in order to curry favor.
Rookies get a starter account. When you were a kid, maybe your parents opened up a savings account for you and chipped in $50 for starters, just to see how you'd handle money.
We like rookies; they're babies: innocent, full of promise. If they don't do well, we tend to be far more forgiving, especially if they're a fifth rounder as opposed to a first rounder.
Veterans do well, and they've in essence made deposits of good will with the fans.
Veterans who perform badly cut deep into their overdraft protection plan, and the fans aren't happy when using their own bank money to cover them.
So a guy like Bernie did very, very well his first four years and had the biggest account in the bank. The bankers were happy with all that good play and leadership, and treated Bernie -- and STILL treat him to this day -- like Mr. Drysdale treats Jed Clampett. Even when Bernie's skills diminished, the fans were forgiving. Money was going out of his account, but he built up such a reserve that fans were kind. He really proved himself in those early years making us contenders, so even when his play diminished-- even when he left, Browns fans regarded him as a favored customer.
Andre Rison blew into town and opened up an account by depositing the bare minimum in order to receive the dish set (Back in the good old days when the Browns were REALLY good, banks used to have giveaways as incentives for opening accounts). And since that initial deposit, Rison was forever sucking money out. The bankers were not happy with this guy and often advised him that perhaps it would be more convenient for him to transfer his account into another bank across town. Oh, it's NOT more convenient? Whatever.
Jamir Miller hits oil with his all-pro year, but instead of making solid investments and taking out disability insurance, he starts spending, shall we say, with conspicuous consumption. He gets injured and starts shooting his mouth off in the press. For a guy who hit it big with double digit sacks and a starting berth in the Pro Bowl, the bankers have moved him down to the "B" list.
And then there's little Dennis Northcutt. He was late in signing, so was in the doghouse immediately. The bank was on him like an unemployed felon. He got injured, played,
couldn't hang on to a circus catch in the end zone, a play that had to be reviewed by officials, and the bank sent him a terse warning via registered mail. He has a black spot on his permanent record.
Then he started turning it around. He made some big plays in pre-season, but when he caught a pass and didn't get his feet in bounds, the bank officers were shocked and appalled. "This is inexcusable -- just more of the mistakes that can't be tolerated".... blah, blah. The good plays were immediately forgotten. He was still a risk.
Then go figure. He gets a huge promotion. His favorite aunt dies, leaving him some money. He's flush, and the bank is now all lovey-dovey. He gets some blocking on punt returns and he makes a killing. He has an impressive average per reception despite the usual sideline tosses with no blocking, good for 4 yards.
Result: Dennis is livin' large. So when he drops a long pass against the Jets that would have given us at least another field goal before the half, did the bank go crazy? No. Had he done that last year, the fans would have frozen his accounts: "There he goes again, that little s**t!"
Ah, but Dennis has made enough plays this year to give the little s**t a big, fat cushion. Of course no player can win a game single handedly, but if ever a player came close, it would be Dennis in the Titans game. With his second punt return for a touchdown against the Steelers, he is definitely an "A" list customer.
So when he drops one now, it's no big thing with the bank. They see good plays, and anticipate more in the future.
And then there's Tim Couch.
Timmy got his starter account as a rookie and built it up. For a guy to get hammered 50+ times with a first year expansion team and throw more TD's than interceptions is remarkable. He was off to an encouraging start.
Then he got injured early into his second year and the bankers were a little annoyed that no more money was coming in, and thus were less accepting. And since then, the bank seems a bit annoyed that Mr. Couch has not maintained a minimum balance in his checking account, and not adding much to his savings. He has a good game here and there to give us hope. Then there's trouble at home. A new furnace needs installed or his dental benefits didn't adequately cover his daughter's braces. Couch has been transferring money from savings into checking to cover.
In essence, Tim Couch has not proven himself enough on the field to warrant unconditional love and admiration. He hasn't built up enough in his savings account for unconditional fan admiration.
A Brett Farve takes his team to the Super Bowl twice. He's a gutsy, gambling qb who has won enough bets that when he goes through a dry spell FOR YEARS ('99-'01, and recall last year's playoff disaster?), the fans can still be forgiving. Farve built up his nest egg to such an extent that when he was laid off and out of work for a while, he could get by until he found a new job.
Right now, Timmy is living paycheck to paycheck. He hasn't built up enough of a buffer to weather the storm if things get bad. He just hasn't had enough good games to win the bankers over. So when he has a financial crisis like he did with the Ravens, the bankers let him know that he had overdrawn his account and would receive snippy letters.
Against the Steelers the second time around, Couch is like the golfer who has a terrible round, but still manages to sink a 30 footer and put a seven iron within 10 feet of the cup. The bankers wince at the 98 lousy shots, but are still encouraged by the 3-4 outstanding shots, so they "harrumph," and play wait-and-see. But they still "harrumph."
A basic rule for fans is that they have a right to boo having paid for their ticket. That is an inviolate rule for fans of professional sports, though questionable for amateurs [Flash to a skit for Comedy Central: 3-4 obnoxious fans at a junior high girls soccer match: "Yo, Heather, get back on defense, you idiot. You're KILLIN' us, you SKANKY BITCH!!!" (Girl crying on field, her friends comfort her) "Ahh, Heather, you pussy. Quit cryin' like a little girl!! Get out there and take Brandi's legs out!!!" Ah, but I digress.].
Having the right to boo is especially a rule for Browns fans. And one of the little known reforms coming out of Vatican II was that the right to boo was declared a "Cardinal Rule" for Philly fans.
But one poster asked before the Steelers game whether fans could set the tone by giving Tim Couch a rousing welcome every time he stepped on the field. After all, isn't our job to cheer on our players rather than play intolerant opera critics?
Picture Tim in his overalls, sitting uncomfortably behind the large mahogany desk: And there is the fan in the pinstripe suit and red tie. "Wellll, Mr. Couch, I'm afraid love and respect are perks reserved for our customers who have a certain minimum in their bank accounts…
And.... [click, click] let me just check.... [click, click, click] … here...
"... ah, yes-- the screen shows you have yet to reach those minimums. But a few weeks or months down the road, we can review your statements, and when you qualify, I'll be more than happy to set you up in our preferred accounts… what we call our ‘Kosar Class.'"
"Oh, that reminds me, may I provide you and MS. Kozar a pamphlet on the advantages of opening up a joint account?"
Questions? Comments? Interested in on-line banking? Go to our Fan Commentary Forum, or email Aardvark at AakronAardvark@aol.com.