The Browns aren’t the Browns no more.
The curse is over. The same old Browns, which I wrote about last week, are dead. I really believe that, and I don’t think I’m overreacting.
Think about what we saw on Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Six seconds into the game, a veteran center sent the first offensive snap from scrimmage soaring over the quarterback’s head for a defensive touchdown. That same quarterback went on to throw for 500 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. A wide receiver, who had given his opponent bulletin board material earlier in the week, was dancing in the middle of a cadence while his team was down two scores in a playoff game. A coach punted on fourth and one in the fourth quarter. COVID requirements limited game attendees to just family and friends of the home team, and yet somehow an opposing fan still snuck in.
Doesn’t it seem like I’m describing a Browns game?
But that was the Steelers. The Pittsburgh Steelers. The six Super Bowl team from just down the road that we hadn’t beat at Heinz Field since 2003. The team led by quarterback Big Ben Rothlisberger, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Shuster and coach Mike Tomlin. The team who has obnoxious fans in every classroom and office in Northeast Ohio and whose fans would storm Cleveland in the ‘80s and literally fight people in the stands.
Oh how the mighty fall.
Finally, for once, they were the ones who had everything go wrong. They were the ones smashing TV sets in their living rooms. And we were the ones celebrating in the downtown streets, shooting off fireworks and waking up our neighbors on our suburban streets.
That’s why I don’t think Browns fans are overreacting. We didn’t just end a drought. We exorcised a demon. If this happened against anyone else, it wouldn’t have been the same. The Steelers have been the most successful team in the AFC North for years and years, but with Big Ben flailing and nearing retirement and Baker Mayfield, Cincinnati's Joe Burrow and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson not going anywhere soon, it’s looking like they might be the division’s third- or fourth-best team in the coming years. We’re witnessing a changing of the guard.
We don’t need to win the Super Bowl, and it really doesn’t matter if we win this week (though I’d really, really like to). The same old Browns are dead because the same old Browns were a state of mind. It was learned behavior. Cleveland fans older than 30 were conditioned to think that everything always goes wrong for the Browns because their memories of success and Kardiac-Kids luck had faded. Those younger than 30, like myself, simply didn’t know any better. The last taste of brown-and-orange success we got was the first half of a 2002 playoff game against the Steelers — and I think we all remember how that one ended. In fact, I think that comeback loss planted a seed of doubt for a lot of us.
I’m not saying the Browns woes are over, and I’m not crowning us the champs. It’s the NFL. Players will fail drug tests like Josh Gordon. The front office will miss on draft picks like DeShone Kizer, Justin Gilbert and too many others to name. Referees with bad calls will blow games again.
I can honestly say, however, that no player will dress up in a false mustache and wig to escape to Las Vegas like Johnny Manziel — I think.
But when these things happen, we won’t feel cursed because we’ve seen things go right. We’ve been on the good side of luck. We’ve won when all the cards were stacked against us.
Memories like the ones we made on Sunday last a long time. And memories are what make you believe.
Now, let’s go get the Chiefs.