Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"Bumbling Browns have finally worn out their welcome" by John Matuszak.

I think it's time to hang a sign outside of Cleveland Browns Stadium: Football team free to a good home. Call right away and we'll throw in a slightly used baseball team.

That's not really fair. The Cleveland Indians have produced their share of star players in the last several years. Two of them, Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia, both Cy Young award winners, played in the World Series. They just got swallowed up by the behemoths on the east coast.

The Cavaliers, of course, have King James.

The Browns, on the other hand, haven't produced a true marquee player since the Johnson administration (Lyndon, not Andrew, although it can feel that long since we had a championship).

Before their 1995 defection to Baltimore they were able to field some hometown heroes in Bernie Kosar, Brian Sipe, Ozzie Newsome. Since their repatriation in 1999, gridiron greats have been as scarce as Cuyahoga County officials who aren't under indictment.

In the last 10 years, buying a Browns jersey with a player's name on it is as pointless as planning a Cleveland wardrobe for tomorrow based on the weather forecast for today. Like the Browns roster, you know it's going to change in the next 15 minutes.

Must be a lot of Tim Couch jerseys at yard sales. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson apparel might not be far behind.

Quinn, the Dublin native and first-round draft pick, was benched early in the season after a long-anticipated but disappointing debut. Last Sunday, replacement Anderson's quarterback rating at halftime was 0.0, bringing to mind the grade-point average of Bluto Blutarsky in "Animal House." The team stands at 1-7, the lone victory a touchdown-free fluke against Buffalo.

New coach Eric Mangini brings to mind the dismal days of Bill Belichik's stay in Cleveland, minus the charm.

So now they have canned their general manager, who took over this summer, as part of a promised full-house inventory. And Kosar has come on board as a consultant. But it's not the GM who is responsible for five turnovers in a game or a defense that allowed 30 points against a team that got pounded the week before. And Kosar isn't going to drag his broken body onto the field to revive the glory days of the Dawgs.

No less an authority than my father, who has watched the Browns for 61 years, declares that this is the worst team they have ever had. And this is from a guy who had season tickets during the Mike Phipps years. But what was mediocrity then has morphed into masochism now.

Veteran Cleveland sports writer Terry Pluto stated in his 2004 book "False Start: How the New Browns Were Set Up to Fail" that the returning franchise was put together in a slapdash manner on purpose to ensure continuing futility.

It was difficult to believe at that time that the NFL would deliberately design a team destined for disaster, even in light of the struggles of the re-emerging club.

Five more years of folly later, and Pluto begins to look like the Nostradamus of Northeastern Ohio.

The fans have kept coming, despite frozen fannies and broken hearts. Now some of the faithful have called for a one-quarter boycott before the Browns host a Monday night game Nov. 16 - to what effect, it's hard to know. There is no Otto Graham or Lou Groza or Jim Brown on the sidelines or over the horizon ready to rescue the city's hopes.

So maybe it's time to close up shop and turn the stadium into a giant outdoor casino. The odds would have to be better than they are now with this rigged crap game.

I remember right where I was and what I was doing when I heard the Browns were leaving town in 1995. It was like hearing that the lake had dried up - inconceivable. I recall the feelings of loss that Browns fans everywhere shared. And I remember the elation when the team came back.

Now I'm not sure it would matter in the same way if the team packed up and moved to Topeka or Tulsa or wherever, except to some of the bizarre boneheads who like to play Halloween on gameday.

Well, the treats are gone and the trick's on us. Brown and orange dreams scatter like leaves caught in a bitter cold wind off the lake.

Browns for sale. Exasperating Browns for sale.

If LeBron James bolts after this season, we might even throw in a basketball team.

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Design is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Bexley Public Radio Foundation. Text is copyright 2009. All rights reserved. John Matuszak.

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