Sadness. Anger. Disgust. Shock.
Each of these emotions flowed through me as I watched the Cleveland Browns blow a 12-point lead in the final 2:39 of Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.
With kickoff imminent at 1 p.m., I pondered whether to watch the game. We’re going to get blown out anyway, I reasoned, as I sat down to watch.
Then something strange occurred. The Browns managed to put points on the board and shut down the Patriots offense.
The score was 6-0 at half, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. How long would it be until the Browns collapsed?
The Browns surprised me in the third quarter with a 40-yard touchdown from quarterback Jason Campbell to tight end Gary Barnidge.
The teams then traded scores. Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon took a slant pass 80 yards for a touchdown and New England quarterback Tom Brady responded with a pair of lengthy scoring drives to keep the game within reach, 19-14, with 5:43 to play in the fourth quarter.
Campbell conducted an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, capped off by a four-yard pass to tight end Jordan Cameron with 2:39 remaining.
I started to believe. That was my mistake.
We all know how this story ends. Brady led a quick touchdown drive, the Patriots recovered an onside kick, got a pass interference call and scored an easy touchdown. The Browns desperately attempted and missed a 58-yard field goal. Game over. 27-26 Patriots.
I’m a relatively young Browns fan, but I’ve experienced a lot of futility. This team never ceases to amaze me with the new ways it finds to lose each week.
Rather than cheering for my favorite team, I find that I’m cringing each week as I witness a trainwreck on turf.
And this loss, after being so close to such a satisfying win, really stung. It felt like the referees, luck, the football gods, everything – was against us. Cleveland fans seem cursed to watch the same misery year after year.
After the Browns’ discouraging defeat on Sunday, is it time to give up on the Browns? Should we bother rooting for a team destined to continue losing unless a reincarnated Otto Graham comes back to lead this team to glory?
In one word: no.
We can’t give up; we’re Cleveland fans.
With all we’ve been through, now is not the time to throw our hands up and walk away.
Part of our identity as Cleveland fans is being resilient in the face of adversity. We don’t necessarily remain optimistic, but we hold out some small hope in the bottom of our hearts that the Browns will learn to win in our lifetime.
And when the day comes, it will be glorious. We will celebrate like it’s 1964 and forget all the anguishes we suffered to get there. A Super Bowl win might not alleviate all the heartbreak. But having the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Cleveland would help.
Hang in there, Browns fans. The NFL Draft isn’t too far away.