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The Browns are Bad Because: While We’re Waiting…

Happy Thursday, WFNY readers. Not to be too “inside baseball,” but this post was mostly written on Wednesday night. Sorry to shatter the illusion that these articles are spontaneously generated from your author’s skull in the form of hypertext markup language as they appear on your computer screen.

Monday seems to be the consensus reigning Worst Day of the Week champion, but Wednesday has to be in contention for WDW: Worst Day of the Week. It is by definition the day of the week with the greatest proximity from the weekend, equidistant between the preceding weekend and the following weekend. If you’re seized by a sudden bout of despair on Wednesday, it’s like Wile E. Coyote looking down in midair between cliff ledges — there’s no weekend to grasp for, just a long descent to the desert floor below. For those of you that work irregular hours or weird shifts, trust that I’ve been there too and accept my apology that the world is indifferent to the depressive rhythms of your schedule. It’s unfair. Anyway, the Indians will persist despite the disheartening departure of Carlos Santana, the Cavaliers have had a fun and feisty December, and the Browns are … well, more on them in a second. While we’re waiting for them …

The Browns are bad. The worst team in the NFL, to be exact, at 0-14 and 1-29 in two seasons. Why are they so bad, though? Who’s to blame? Browns fans chase their own tails ad infinitum arguing about who’s more to blame: ownership, the front office, the coaches, or the players. Hue can’t win because he has no players! The front office picked multiple players who aren’t grossly unqualified, they just needed more time! The players have been put in a position to fail by Hue Jackson! Jimmy Haslam- well, no one defends Haslam.

Earlier this week, Waiting for Next Year’s Jake Burns wrote how the parties to blame for the Browns’ failure is, well, all of them. Summarily, “Organizations don’t win only one game in a near two year span without having multiple failures throughout multiple different levels.” The timing of Burns’ diagnosis is fitting, as I have been thinking about this same issue for several weeks — I’d like to echo and graphically illustrate his points. Browns fans bring themselves within one Dorito of a pulmonary embolism arguing about which of a group of dummies is the dumbest. It’s like arguing about which episode of The Big Bang Theory is the worst. They’re all bad! And we should all feel bad for having watched them.

What the Browns are is a feedback loop of misery, sadness, failure, and (for fans) shame-related consumption. A feedback loop is a relationship in which the outputs of a system circle back into the system as inputs. If you’ve ever taken an engineering class in college, you may have seen a block diagram of a feedback loop like the one below. Often in feedback loops — depending on how the components are related — things compound on one another. In a positive feedback loop, good things tend to get better, and in a negative feedback loop bad things tend to get worse until something drastic changes. Being rich is a positive feedback loop. A rich person is better situated to invest and spend their money — with inconsequential recurring expenses — to become even richer. A negative feedback is listening to the Smiths. Am I sad because I’m listening to the Smiths, or am I listening to the Smiths because I’m sad? Well, both.

In my last edition of “While We’re Waiting…” I discussed the surreality of potential Browns’ goodness, and the cosmological necessity of their badness. In this edition I am introducing the Browns Cycle of Suckitude, a feedback loop explaining why the Browns are so bad. Abbreviated as BCOS, it also represents the circular logical exercise Browns fans engage in every Sunday with one another. “Why are the Browns so bad?” “I don’t know. Because they are.” Well now they’re also bad because BCOS.

Look at the diagram below. In reality, you can count the things making a good or bad football team on two hands. There’s ownership’s role — hiring/firing, creating organizational structure — the front office’s role — assembling a roster via the draft, and “roster moves” like making trades and signing free agents — the coaches’ role — mentoring players, instructing them, and making game plans — and the players’ role — working in the film room and weight room to train and develop, and executing on Sundays, as well as the special role in American football of the quarterback, who by himself can improve improve the team through his play and leadership. There’s plenty of nuance to each area, but that’s really all there is to it.

The above diagram can be altered by adding and subtracting lines, moving some boxes, etc. But the point remains the same. It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner or even a Cracker Jack prize winner to understand it broadly. Some of the parties between ownership, the front office, the coaches, and the players may be less culpable than the others. But they’re all to blame. While some party may be less reprehensible than the others, they are all bad, and none of them are independently and sufficiently adequate to break the downward spiral into metaphorical football hell. I’ve illustrated how the loop works for the Browns below.

The New York Jets, the Chicago Bears, and Denver Broncos are all objectively gross football teams — and they’ve all won at least four more games than the Browns. The Jets even borrowed the Browns’ quarterback from last year in an act of self-sabotage: and they’ve managed to win five games! Idiots manage to win five-to-nine football games every … single … season. All they need to do is break free from the Browns Cycle of Suckitude to achieve mediocrity. Which the Browns cannot do. So waste no further time arguing whether Jimmy Haslam, Sashi Brown, Hue Jackson, or the players suck. As the Browns Cycle of Suckitude illustrates, they all suck.

The Calvin and Hobbes Strip of the Day. I’m with Calvin — given the pace of technological progress, artificial intelligence, neural networks, and autobots, machines should solve all problems and render biological humans obsolete in what, 20 years? Let’s go play outside.

And now for the random 90s song of the day. Music connects time and space in mysterious and curious ways. For instance, I recently got on a Hunky Dory kick, listening repeatedly to the 1971 David Bowie album. Why Hunky Dory? Why now? I have no earthly idea. My best guess is that “hunky-dory” is a compound word with comedic aspirations, which makes it always sound like a good idea. But the album is also excellent and features classics such as “Changes,” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” “Life on Mars?” “Kooks,” “Queen Bitch,”1 and what would eventually became today’s Random 90s Song of the Day. Hunky Dory,what did I hear? Dinosaur Jr.’s 1991 cover/rewrite of the Hunky Dory staple “Quicksand.” Bowie’s 1971 version is jarringly naked and unglamorous for a Bowie song. Although it has some piano and other flourishes beyond the acoustic guitar, it lacks the glittery flamboyance that was the hallmark of Stardust-era Bowie. Dinosaur Jr.’s 1991 reimagining — which J. Mascis wrote after a car accident as detailed in the clip from 2016 with Sean Lennon below — adds a slightly sinister edge and a little giddy-up. What’s this you say? A 2016 version of a cover of a 1971 song in the Random 90s Song of the Day? The R90sSotD interprets its own rules liberally. As long as there is some temporal anchor to the 1990s, the song is eligible. Still dissatisfied? Well here’s a surprisingly poignant “Quicksand” cover by Seal — yeah, that Seal! — from 1996, free of charge. I hope you’re happy. Also, don’t forget to follow the Random 90s Song of the Day for a daily dose of vitamin 90s, now live @R90sSotD on Twitter.

I’m not a prophet or a stone age man
Just a mortal with potential of a superman
I’m living on
I’m tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien 

  1. Expertly deployed by Wes Anderson to stylize Bill Murray and introduce the credits in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. []