Nothing Rhymes With Orange

The Shotgun Shogun is back, and muses on the meaning of what it is to be a football fan, while recounting his own adventure in Dawghood. Anyone capable of putting "zeitgeist" and "Ryan Kuehl" into the same article is a unique creature. Such is the nature of Browns fan.

I was in the pit.  A dorm room stuffed with decaying pizza boxes and trippy tapestries.  He was supposed to supply the pendulum. I'm still waiting to the seesaw swing of Don Cockcroft.   A frozen field frozen in memory, Cockcroft looked like he could have taken a wide left turn at the Lake and ended up at the Iditarod.  He never got the chance in 1980.  Or any other year for that matter.  Purgatory ensued.  The grand Paul McDonald era was hatched.  Soon to be aborted.  I graduated in 1984 and headed back to home.  For most people that means an address.  For me, it meant a call placed to parents to see where they were currently residing – this week.  The Post Office should have given my Dad a lifetime achievement award for "dedication and undying loyalty to the change of address card." Nomadic and neurotic, we moved once a year for no other particular reason than to hoard cardboard boxes and applaud what my Mother could artistically achieve with a roll of bubble wrap.



The wife is always lobbing some type of mystical bromide gleaned from some half-baked mag my way.  This one stuck like a good dental adhesive.  She quipped that the reason men become ritualistically attached to sports teams and athletes is to substitute, to fill the gap, for their own lack of proprietary success.  Talk about a buzzkill.  Originally, as a perceptive lad, I liked the Browns by mistakenly assuming they were Brown University.  I also assumed that sardines weren't fish at all, just meat missiles crammed into a can.


I got over that.  However, my allegiance to the Browns grew exponentially, a kind of Louie Andersen expansion, if you will.  But why, I ask you, why?  Sure, there's the love of sport.  And football.  To recreate the NFL in our backyards, we used to drag our father's pristine and pricey stereo speakers onto the deck and blast the NFL Films music…as we played.  We bought jerseys, helmets, pennants and posters, posters with pennants on them.  Did we need to something to believe in?  Profoundly religious types followed sports teams; my next door neighbor/zealot once yelled "shit" during a particularly grating Jets' loss.  And it was on a Sunday no less.  Pennants and penance.



My first real job in advertising was working as a Creative Assistant to the Creative Director.  I was a gung-ho green gopher.  You could smell the naivete a mile away, although that could have been the fumes from my toxic aftershave lotion.  At that age, you know nothing and just pretend.  I typed memos, carried storyboards, and avoided the shoe which flew past my head, catapulted from the hand of the Creative Director.  He was an atomic pogo stick, slick suits, gaudy jewelry and a short fuse. 


Every Friday, we'd stroll down to his favorite bar on 45th Street and drink and talk boxing and drink.  Two hours later, we wobbled in.  Ah, the cliche of advertising, the clink of the glass.  I had no money and lived in an apartment of legend. I had my teams.  I had the Browns.  I had a popcorn maker.  I'd say I lived alone but that would unfair to my numerous roommates.  You see, I had cockroaches the size of chimichangas. 




To this day, I don't know why.  Despite the cherished barbs that suggest otherwise, I do not have some genetically altered freak zone in my brain.  I do not have a weekend bungalow at Area 51.  I wake up and the routine is renewed – breathe, breakfast, Browns.  That's how it works.  One theory is that sports allegiance is simply some sociologist's wet dream concerning gang mentality.  It's about cave paintings and team colors.  Fire good, Steelers bad.  We want to belong to something larger than self.  Another espouses that sports itself is the last form of true drama remaining.  Both seem valid.  I guess.  Sadly, you know that your inner machinations and madness have truly left an indelible imprint when you start getting gifts that speak to them.  My office is a treasure trove of orange plastic footballs, helmets and strange stuffed stuff.  It's a vicious cycle.  The gifts feed the addiction. 




I remember the day it was announced on WFAN that the Browns had landed Bernie Kosar in the supplemental draft.  It was a happy day.  The one time I can remember the brass not blowing it.  If Sipe rode in on a wave, Bernie came in on a frequency.  He was a pelican with microchip salad of a mind.  Yet, an almost tragic character.  Bernie was Sisyphus alright.  In 1985, hope was back, rushing through the veins.  The playoff against the Dolphins was glorious and (you can follow along at home) gut-wrenching.  I remember the sunny glow of the field, Mack and Byner running through gaps the size of the Suez Canal, a 21-3 lead and the voodoo pins inserted through my pores in the second half.  The rock rolled down the hill.




Whatever the Zeitgeist, narcissism, nihilism, barbarism, Hanna and Barbarism, I think therefore I care.  Or, more to the point, perhaps it's I don't think therefore I care.  Being an adult is grossly overrated.  Logic begets logic begets job begets roof over head begets food.  Unplugging your head is the beauty of being a fan.  It's not counter-intuitive.  It's the non-intuitive, instinctual, like human, dude, really human.  Tune in, turn on.  As for those that say what are the socially redeeming qualities of watching a football team that drags your soul through hell, I proclaim: it ain't ballet and I get to act like a five-year old without being fired.  Primal and primetime.  I scream at a projection tube.  Some say troubled.  I say triumph. 




On a Tuesday, the agency head called a meeting.  With red cheeks and a spiffy bow tie, he paced back and forth, an old lion that had seen better days.  He said rumors that the shop would close were unfounded.  The agency closed on Friday.  I was unemployed.  The economy tanked.  I had some frozen chicken in the fridge and an AFC Championship to look forward to.



Short snaps:


  • It took the departure of Ryan Kuehl for me to know what "LS" stood for in Madden 2003.
  • Speaking on the condition of anonymity, I don't like trading any player for a conditional draft pick.  I guess Mark Campbell gets a ring next year.
  • If the cap fits, you must acquit.  This time, a year ago, we reportedly had the 4th or 5th best cap position in the NFL.  Then, we wheelbarrowed tons of coin to a mixed bag of free agents.  Certainly, internal finger pointers have the right to glibly chide the abysmal drafts of 1999 through 2000.  However, if you knew that the grocery bill was coming due this winter, then why the Richie Rich spending spree a year ago?  
  • Legal quagmire aside, shouldn't the Browns still own the rights to Orlando Brown?  And another thing, can a delusional head coach who thinks he's God actually tolerate a player called Zeus?
  • For Carmen Policy to blithely suggest that the Browns went above and beyond cap restraints last year to win it for Al is, ah, disgraceful.  
  • Roughly 1.5 million under the cap, we re-sign Earl Little and lock up Barry Gardner.My abacus is on strike.
  • Orlando Pace wants a 23 million dollar signing bonus.  We'll counter with a Brant Boyer T-shirt and some signed Courtney Brown gauze.
  • Browns schedule is brutal next season.  Baghdad.  Tehran.  Damascus. Amman.  Not to mention that vicious road trip to Pyongyang.


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