Everyone needs a hobby. My wife and I love the theater and have participated in many shows at our local theater over the years. Many of our closest friendships have been forged in the fires of tech week, the week prior to opening night where you’re doing full runs, makeup and costumes and all, of the show in an effort to iron out any wrinkles. It was during tech week of our rendition of Beauty and the Beast,1 around Wednesday night when we had yet to actually DO a full run through despite a Friday night opening and got sent home by our director at 9:00 pm, that we started sharing this GIF.2
Many were panicked. Why aren’t we staying? We haven’t done Act 2 yet, some of the choreography still needed to be worked out, the Beast’s transformation was wonky…it was too early to be sending us home! The multi-show veterans were starting to feel the to quit and/or stage a coup, possibly continuing practicing in the parking lots or a house.
Why bring this up? Well because even though we had one of the most stressful tech weeks in the history of the theater, the show must and did go on, and went down as one of the best, most attended plays/musicals in the theater’s history. And I couldn’t help but think, as I watched an improbable 59-yard field goal barely sink into the corner of the uprights that lead to Baker Mayfield giving us possibly the best “Cleveland Face” of all time, that everything *is* actually fine.
I am an eternal optimist when it comes to my sports teams, so this should be taken with a grain3 of salt. It’s the ying to the yang that is the personal anxiety I feel often. Where some are quick to write off a season as over or a franchise as cursed, I am perpetually looking forward to the future. But even now, this team, this year, this season feels different for me.
No, I’m not still on the “this team is making the playoffs” bandwagon. That was a pipe dream wrapped in a fantasy. Too many things would have had to go right for that to actually happen and we don’t get that lucky in Cleveland. This is still a somewhat flawed roster, with flawed coaches leading them.4 But even after a heartbreaking loss, I felt ok. I think that reason is Mayfield.5
Having Mayfield helm the team set my fears aside. Sure he has crap receivers to throw to, and the offensive line in front of him is as porous as a colander, and his head coach feels the need to possibly kinda sorta but definitely maybe take some control away from the offensive coordinator hired specifically so as to prevent him from messing with the offensive gameplan. Alas, he is getting it done. The grit and guts and honestly the cajones it takes to run for a 35-yard gain, take a hit to the head, get up and flick the ball at the defender who just tried to put you in the concussion protocol is evident every second with this player. That’s the type of player others look to when the chips are down. That’s the type of player fans rally around.
The numbers are not pretty: 57.8% completion percentage puts Mayfield 30th, directly behind recently-benched Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles. While a 2.7% interception rate is middle of the pack, a 3.2% touchdown rate is less exciting. Yet, there is still some sense, in almost every game, that Baker has it in him to get the job done. That he can stare down the other team’s defense and pull out a drive to possibly win the game.
Looking down the line, with three games against playoff teams,6 it’s make or break for the Browns. 2-4-1 is not a record you want previous to this stretch, but teams have done more with worse. Can the Browns still somehow pull off a playoff berth? Can they play poorly enough that the entire coaching staff is dismissed on the team bus after a game? Both of those are possible, but whatever the outcome, I will sleep well knowing that Mayfield is the quarterback of the now as well as the future. This is fine.