My parents didn’t have much money growing up but they always cobbled together enough for something nice each Christmas, somehow. One fall, when I was about 3 maybe 4, I wanted this stuffed panda from Marc’s. It was a great, big panda. Bigger than me. Christmas morning, I lost it when that panda awaited me under the tree.
I loved that panda but as stuffed animals are wont to do when they are so beloved by a child, it grew rather ragged, rather quickly. The stuffing flattened from too many times serving as the Ultimate Warrior to my Macho Man. The seams ripped multiple times as the panda dutifully served as a weapon in sibling wars. The thread mouth was torn. The nose had a visible crack with plastic pieces missing despite the best efforts of super glue repair. The fur more white than gray, the black dulled.
The Cleveland Browns of the 1980s were my sports panda. A constant well of joy supplied endlessly to my childhood despite the rips and stains from the heartbreak of playoff losses. The wonderful journey and attached memories that preceded each January finality worth the price.
As I grew older, the panda shifted from bedroom centerpiece to closet after thought. Throughout all the years, it remained. When I began my first fulltime job as an adult, a limited portion of my lifetime collections were able to trek across the nation with me. Tucked inside one box sat my panda.
The expansion Browns brought my sports panda out of the box, but despite the familiar appearance, some things cannot be relived. The pure fanhood of my youth was replaced with a growing desire for analysis and understanding of the game itself. The nuance more important than the outcome- perhaps due to the final score rarely aligning with my rooting interest.
My stuffed panda still lives with me in the attic above where my children play. Each child has their own particular stuffed animal whom they love. None is bigger than themselves though except for my youngest daughter’s. As I walked through a store near this Christmas last, a six-foot tall pink teddy bear called out to me. I bought the bear not knowing if she would cry in terror or laugh with glee. Relief washed through when she ran to it, tumbled onto its belly, and giggled uncontrollably as she struggled to embrace the cuddly monstrosity. Despite gadgets and toys and puzzles galore, her favorite present was one with the true gift being a silent bond between us.
My 1 yr old isn't spoiled, why do you ask?
Christmas is all setup pic.twitter.com/K0m2AZ5Tij
— michael bode (@mgbode_WFNY) December 25, 2016
The Harvard Brain Trust are the new hope for the Browns. We do not know if we will curse their names or be thankful for them turning around our team. One night of one draft is doubtful to define their legacy. Yet, despite the pundit calls for Mr. Local Savior (Mitchell Trubisky), for Mr. Intangibles (Desean Watson), or even for Mr. Falling Star (DeShone Kizer),1 the Browns front office stuck to their board.
In a trio of selections who would make Al Davis froth at the mouth from their athleticism, defensive end Myles Garrett, hybrid safety Jabrill Peppers, and tight end David Njoku were added to the roster. Another first-round pick in 2018 made six for the first two rounds in a year’s time. A 2018 first-round pick was also added to the future stash of assets.
There are questions about each player. Will Michigan Man Peppers will be accepted by the Ohio faithful?2 Can Njoku make the leap to NFL tight end or do the Browns plan to utilize him as the next Marques Colston? Will Garrett break the all-time rookie sack record (14.5 sacks from Jevon Kearse in 1999)?
There are no answers today though. Today is the Browns Christmas, enjoy the toys left under the tree.