US' saddest city just got sadder | South China Morning Post
  • Fri
  • Jan 30, 2015
  • Updated: 2:44pm
Column
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 3:11am

US' saddest city just got sadder

As if living in Cleveland wasn't bad enough, the woeful Browns have made things worse by trading their 'marquee' player

BIO

Tim Noonan has been crafting uniquely provocative columns for the SCMP and SMP for more than a decade. A native of Canada, he has over 20 years’ experience in Asia and has been a regular contributor to a number of prominent publications, including Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The Independent.
 

The multi-billion dollar orgy is now in full swing across the United States with the NFL upon us. There are big games on Sunday, Monday, Thursday, and occasionally even Friday or Saturday. It's a national obsession with lots of money, lots of hype, lots of passion and lots of hope, unless of course you live in Cleveland.

Losing their first two games of the season is nothing new to the forlorn Browns. After all, there are 14 more games to straighten things out. But before the team even take the field for week three, they have just been told that their season is effectively over.

Running back Trent Richardson, the guy they took with the third pick in the draft last year in a spot reserved for franchise players, has been traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick in the 2014 draft. It was a shocking deal, not only because in-season impact trades are practically unheard of in the NFL but also because you don't give up on the third player in the draft after only one year.

Management has made much of the fact that they will now have two first-round picks next year as well as two in the third and fourth round to find a franchise player to, presumably, replace the one they just traded.

It almost seems like God created Cleveland to make people in places like San Francisco and Miami Beach feel even better about themselves

Of course, the current regime has only been on the job for less than a year so they say to go forward we have to go backwards. First we have to undo the mistakes of the previous regime. The problem is they have been undoing mistakes in Cleveland for more than 20 years. The Browns are blessed with some of the most blindly loyal fans in sports who, through no fault of their own, watched when the team moved to Baltimore in 1996 only to have an expansion club return three years later. The team who went to Baltimore have won two Super Bowls and are a model of consistent excellence. The one they got have been abysmal.

A lot of supposedly very smart football people got very rich making the Browns very bad. Guys with Super Bowl winning pedigrees, like Carmen Policy and Mike Holmgren, have so much of the Browns' money now that their grandchildren's grandchildren will never have to work a day in their life. And all it got Cleveland was one more regime set to rebuild again and a perplexing situation for any fans who actually bother to show up this year.

So, do we root for the Browns to score a touchdown? No, of course not because we need to lose to get a higher draft pick. Well that's a relief because the Browns have scored only one touchdown in two games anyway. So don't get embarrassed boys, just lose with dignity and go team!

For many of you this may simply seem like a sad tale about a sad team. But it is so much more than that because the Browns are not just a team, they are Cleveland. It's not like fans can pass on watching the game to go boarding in Tahoe or surfing in Santa Cruz. You can't surf on Lake Erie and you can't do much in Cleveland during the winter besides watch the Browns stink.

It almost seems like God created Cleveland to make people in places like San Francisco and Miami Beach feel even better about themselves. After all, nobody relocates to Cleveland unless they have to and that's why the Browns mean so much. Folks there see how people in places like Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and even Cincinnati and Kansas City now get to enjoy their big NFL weekends, how they get to spend all week anticipating the big game and how they get to feel like they are engaged in America's most popular sport.

They also see that, like Cleveland, nobody is willingly relocating to Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati or Kansas City these days. You don't have to be a glamorous locale to thrive. It certainly doesn't hurt, however it's not mandatory.

But if you are a Browns fan you live without hope and hope is really all a sensible fan can ask for. There might be sadder teams in sports. Yet when you combine the unenviable rust-belt locale with the fact that the city has not won a championship in any major team sport for 50 years and then throw in the nonsensical passion of football fans in northern Ohio, it all becomes crystal clear. There is nothing more hopeless and disheartening in sports than the plight of the Cleveland Browns and all the reboots in the world have yet to change it.

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