Browns Diary, Week 9: Never a Doubt
Cleveland 27, Arizona 0
Those of you who play chess online at chess.com will know this: After each game, the algorithm will give you a pithy summation of the action. Like it might say something like, “Intense — That was a serious game!” Or it might say, “Smooth — You saw your chance and took it.” Or it might say, “Giveaway — Looks like that game slipped through your fingers.”
But my favorite thing that the algorithm can say is this: “You were never in trouble.”
I think about that quote a lot, because I cannot relate to it … either as a chess player or as a Cleveland Browns lifer. I remember so few days as a Browns fan when THAT happened, when the team was never in trouble. I know intellectually that such games were played; even the Cleveland Browns have had their blowouts through the years. But emotionally, I cannot recall that feeling. For me, the last 50 or so years as a Browns fan have been spent with my stomach hurting or my breath held, and that relaxed feeling of “They got this,” is simply nowhere to be found in my memory bank.*
*Many times here, I’ve quoted longtime Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert; he was asked to describe his perfect day at the ballpark. “The Yankees score eight runs in the first inning,” the Colonel said. “And then they slowly pull away.” To me that is the singular quote about what it has meant to be a Yankees fan … and what the rest of us do not have.
That’s why everything about Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals made so little sense to me. I was never worried for even an instant about the Browns losing the game. I never even thought of it as a possibility, not during the week, not in the moments before the game, not at any point during the game. It didn’t matter who they started at quarterback, who was healthy or not healthy, nothing mattered at all. The Browns were 12½-point favorites — I don’t know when the last time was that they were favored by that much in any game — and while I don’t bet, there was no doubt in my mind at all that they would not only win but they would easily cover.
It was an odd feeling. Now, I know what you might be thinking, especially if you’re a fan of a successful team: OF COURSE you knew the Browns were going to win. The Cardinals are absolutely terrible, and they were starting a rookie quarterback and wedding/bar mitzvah DJ named Clayton Tune. You didn’t have to be Paul Lombardi Belichick the Greek to know what was going to happen here.
Thing is, the Browns have always had a special knack for losing such games … or, even more often, for turning such games into maddeningly ugly and close affairs that they pull out in some stupefyingly unsatisfying way, like with five field goals or by taking advantage of another team’s late-game penalty. With Cleveland, even the so-called easy victories seem so much harder than they should be.
But this team has something that no Browns team in my memory has had:
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