The Cleveland Browns open training camp with a rare burden – expectations. Fans are clamoring for even a glimpse of a squad that is a Vegas favorite to win the AFC North. So much so in fact – the team has “sold out” every training camp session. There certainly has been buzz in previous years since 1999 but it has rarely steeped in substance. Now, the playoffs are in sight.
What’s at Stake.
Belief: Since 1999, at times excitement has existed, mostly due to unproven draft picks. The Browns have been a source of national fodder – a pun or punchline instead of being treated like a tradition-rich franchise. Most often the emotions elicited among the fanbase has been bitterness or apathy. Entering the 2018 campaign there was hopefulness but the return of the charade that is Hue Jackson squelched most of the enthusiasm. The losing played a part but the inability of Jackson to conduct himself properly in front of the media created a horrible culture not only with the team but fans as well.
Historically, Browns fans have been anything but fickle, but the losing leading up to and especially during Jackson’s tenure – along with Jimmy Haslam’s hiring practices and non-football issues, helped created an air of bitterness and often indifference. During the run from 85-89, win lose or draw, fans remained loyal and in love with the squad no matter the heartache. That type of fervor has not existed in some time. The question is, if the 19 Browns start out slowly – will fans remain loyal or revert back to the past several seasons? The national media will certainly revert to their old ways quickly if this team even shows a glimpse of weakness – hopefully fans exhibit patience and continue to believe in a team that has a bright future.
Legacy: General Manager John Dorsey’s performance to date has been exceptional. He has quickly turned around a franchise that suffered from instability, poor culture, atrocious QB play and a fatalistic viewpoint from within and without. Akin to his Kansas City resume, Dorsey has his team ascending at a meteoric rate.
If the team does not reach lofty expectations this season – with difficult personnel decisions related to salary cap issues ahead – will Jimmy Haslam yet again intervene and hinder progress? If let to his own accord (along with an impressive staff) – no matter the outcome of the 2019 season – Dorsey has the pedigree and mastery of team building to someday potentially warrant a statue outside of Cleveland Browns (avoiding the corporate name) Stadium.
The Curse: Many support the notion the “curse” was broken with the Cavaliers winning the 2016 NBA Championship. However, hardcore Browns fans (and Indians fans for that matter) may not subscribe to a curse per se but the reality is the drought still exists. In Boston, despite a plethora of championships by the Celtics – then the Patriots – no doubt Red Sox fans still ascribed to The Curse of the Bambino which stretched from 1918 until Terry Francona’s squad won the World Series in 2004. The Windy City experienced the same sort of voodoo with The Curse of the Billy Goat. The curse itself lasted from 1945 until 2016 (no need to mention that particular World Series) but in fact the Cubs did not win a title from 1908-2016. In recent times, the Bears won the Super Bowl in 1985 while Michael Jordan brought the Bulls not one, not two, not … but six championships. Regardless, Cubs fans were mired in misery. No doubt Browns fans still wonder if they will see a championship during their lifetime. Nineteen Sixty-Four is a long time ago – if a curse exists – it resulted by the mere presence of Art Modell who fired or caused the departing of Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Marty Schottenheimer, the Browns themselves and Bill Belichick to name a few. If the curse or drought or whichever label you prefer is broken – Cleveland, Ohio and Browns Backers globally will be euphoric.
The Parade: The 2016 parade celebrating the Cleveland Cavaliers championship will always be a fond memory. The pure happiness and volume of people seemed like a once in a lifetime event. However, if the Browns (or even the Indians) win a championship – the furor will multiply exponentially. The possibilities are so grand they are hard to even imagine but let your mind wander Browns fans – dream if you will.
In Closing: As training camp opens, remember there will be ups and downs & media scrutiny but focus on the joy of finally having a roster and leadership that is capable of sustained winning.