Whoever coined the phrase “Beleaguered Fan Base” no doubt lives in Northern Ohio. The last championship won by any professional team from Cleveland was won soon after Lynden Baines Johnson was sworn into the office of President of the United States. Most of you reading this weren’t even born yet and I suspect, for some of you, your parents weren’t even born.
The Indians came within one out of winning the World Series in 1997. The Cavs made the NBA finals in the 2006-2007 season but then got swept by the Spurs. The Browns have had so many close calls, they had to name the games. “Red Right 88”, “The Drive” and “The Fumble”. Again . . . close, but no cigar.
There are some that felt the Browns were on the cusp in the early to mid nineties but that all came to a crashing halt when the Browns left town for Baltimore. In an unprecedented move, the NFL declared that the Ravens would be an expansion team (with a forty-six year head start) and that the Browns name, history and colors would remain in Cleveland and return to play for the 1999 season.
In the fifteen seasons since that decision, the Browns have looked like an NFL team only twice. In 2002 they finished second in the AFC North and made the playoffs as a Wild Card team only to fall victim to their arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers after the only thing Foge Fazio’s “Prevent Defense” accomplished was to prevent the Browns from closing out the game and advancing in the playoffs. Then, in 2007, they had their second no cigar season finishing at 10-6 but out of the playoffs.
Those are the only two seasons since their return that have finished with a winning record. Entering the 2014 season, the Browns have compiled a 77-163-0 record winning less than 1/3 of the games played. During this same time frame, team message boards sprung up all over the internet. As an avid fan of the NFL, I would frequent these message boards just to keep up on what was happening not necessarily from the network talking heads but, rather, from another fan’s point of view.
Recently, fans of the other teams in the AFC North, specifically the Steelers and Ravens fans (and more recently the Bengals) would approach each and every upcoming game with the expectation of winning. Not so on the Cleveland Browns message boards. For the most part doom and gloom had set in. While other AFC North fans expected to win, Browns fans only hoped to be competitive. For the most part, except for an occasional upset, that was wishful thinking brought on by either alcohol or brown and orange goggles.
Well, here we are in 2014 and our wish to be competitive has been fulfilled. The 2014 version of the Browns (so far) has been competitive but there are no moral victories in the NFL and here we sit, after three weeks of the season in our normal spot. Last place in the AFC North.