Browns Apathy and Boy Bands (kind of): While We’re Waiting…


Yo, Cleveland, what’s up? How about that election, eh? That was … something.

It was definitely some thing. Several things really. Nouns. Adjectives. Interjections. Prepositions? Onomatopoeia? Maybe even parts of speech I don’t even think have been discovered yet, like semipronouns or zerbs.1 But we’re not here to talk about that, we’re here to talk about sport! So while we’re waiting…

Reminder: Michael Martinez had the deciding at-bat in possibly the most significant baseball game of all time, when accounting for competitiveness and stakes. Reminder: Miguel Montero had the decisive RBI in Game 7 of the World Series. 2016 Cleveland Indians already have my sincerest love and appreciation, and some week I will have the emotional and temporal distance to have some perspective about the end of the Indians’ season, BUT IT ISN’T THIS WEEK. YES, I’M HANDLING THIS FINE. EVERYTHING IS FINE. WHY DO YOU ASK?

So, the Cleveland Browns are bad. You hear about this, did you know about this thing? The Browns are abysmal, pathetic, and winless, and I have never cared less. The valuation of my emotional investment is $0.00. But why? I think the problems are twofold.

First, my attachment to NFL football has been fading for some time. Some of the reasons for my disinterest are personal and idiosyncratic (the league has no self-awareness and is poorly run, I discovered fantasy football is stupid, I think it’s an inferior product to college football with no personality, and its games are a 3.5-hour lecture from corporate America). Additionally, many of the problems are widespread and not unique to me. Spencer Hall at SB Nation tackled the declining TV ratings across the league.2

It’s not that I won’t watch the NFL, or don’t completely care. I do. I care exactly enough to want to know what happened, and not enough to do any of the work involved. People do this work for me all over the place, and it is all free, and I can consume it and be just aware enough all while still having the time to watch other, shorter things I enjoy way more than four hours of soul-deadening NFL football.

Even if I do enjoy NFL football, I can watch RedZone, the show where the entire program is made of touchdowns. You can entertain blind rhetorical swipes at why the NFL is now undeniably bad: whether the rules, which have always been arbitrary and dumb, are now unacceptably arbitrary and dumb; whether the “quality of play” has declined, as if that’s anything sports fans cared about or could even recognize; or whether the league allowing athletes to protest has sparked a completely unsubstantiated backlash from invisible viewers. Or you could consider that the mode of delivery is now different, and years of the sports populace becoming internet savvy have resulted in a bulk departure from the traditional means of content delivery.

As for what the NFL does to combat it? Um … nothing. It can’t do anything about this at all. It can try retrograde legal tactics, which is what every aging monopoly does on the advice of its attorneys.

All of this to say, how essential is watching a lot of this stuff anymore? I can osmose what transpired in nearly all NFL games in less than 30 seconds on the internet, browsing a handful of sites in between dollops of smut if I so choose.

The problem is doubly bad for the Browns. They’re winless. They’re bad. Their secondary might be the worst unit I’ve ever seen in professional football. Watching them after the Cleveland Cavaliers title run and the Indians near-title run is like waking from a beautiful dream by having a bucket of ice water dumped on you. They’ve been bad for 17 consecutive seasons, give-or-take 1.5. I don’t need to watch the Browns play the Cowboys or the Titans, I’ve already seen that movie 100 times since 1999. It’s not lost on me that this very website enables this kind of semi-passive following — that I help provide (free) surrogate content so that people don’t need to watch the Browns or even the Cavaliers. I don’t know how to feel about that.3

I will never stop caring about the Browns, and I will never root for another team. But I’m asking myself questions this season that I never have before. Craig hinted at many of them this week. How much damage can an organization do to fans before totally alienating them? What’s the point of investing emotion, time, or money in a team designed to suck? The current Browns organization is basically asking fans to embrace the NFL’s version of the Philadelphia 76ers, an experiment that is just going splendidly for them (the 76ers are 0-7 in Year 4 or 5 of “The Process”). Anyway, here’s to the Browns giving the Baltimore Ravens a semi-competitive game on Thursday night. Maybe they can improve to 1-10! The Browns will probably have my attention on Thursday night and the rest of the season, but it won’t be full and won’t be undivided. Why should it be?

Random Calvin and Hobbes strip of the day. Though Calvin’s glibly self-aware of his many flaws and has devilish sophistication for his age, sometimes it’s easy to overlook how wonderful the whimsy of his imagination is. It’s certainly one of the strip’s many magical qualities. Plus, there’s something joyful and reassuring about looking at cartoon pictures of dinosaurs from time-to-time.


And now for the random 90s song of the day. The R90sSotD has historically given little attention to boy bands, mostly because their music was terrible. But boy bands undeniably played a central role in the 90s, and their tackiness and dubious artistic merits contributed to the “aura” of the 90s as much as alternative rock. So here’s a cover of the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” by the Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. The string section and piano interlude in the middle add a touching dimension to the smash pop hit — no offense to Nick, Howie, A.J., Brian, and the other one. Because it was written by Swedish pop kingmakers, the lyrics don’t make any sense — but then again, neither did the 90s. The song was commissioned by burrito giant Chipotle for an animated short film about love (can’t make this stuff up, people), compounding layers of absurdity until all your brain can handle is listening to the Backstreet Boys or watching a Browns game.

Tell me why
Ain’t nothing but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain’t nothing but a mistake
Tell me why
I never want to hear you say
I want it that way

  1. I genuinely hope a zerb is a thing and I’m giddy to find out what it is. []
  2. Which, like, whatever traditional and deeply flawed TV ratings mean in the year 2016. []
  3. Good? Conflicted? Hungry? []