Paul Brown, the first head coach of the Cleveland Browns, once said, ““When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less.” OK, I know what he means but for once I just want to— I mean— Oh, never mind.
One thing’s for sure. The Cleveland Browns have never spoiled me. They have never lulled me into complacency with their winning ways. I’ve never worried that Baker Mayfield may not have enough fingers to accommodate all his Super Bowl rings. I’ve never complained, “Damn! Another parade for the Browns?” And in all the years I’ve watched the Browns play, I don’t think I’ve ever uttered the words “We’ve Got This!” In fact I think there’s now an unspoken rule in our house, instigated by my sons, that we are absolutely not allowed to express any proclamations of hope or breathe a single sigh of relief until the game is over. Then, and only then, can we exhale, revel in the win, and say something. Sorry Coach Brown.
Lori says I’m a pessimist. I like to say realist. I’m just more like this guy:
I suppose, I really owe the Browns a debt of gratitude. They have certainly taught me the importance of managing my expectations over the years. Of course I want them to win. I believe they can win. I know they have the talent to win. But if they don’t win… there’s always next Sunday or, after tonight, there’s always next season.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a concession speech. There are still four quarters of football to be played tonight in Pittsburgh, and I’m not about to throw in the (growl) towel before the game even starts. I’m just so tired of being a gracious loser and pinning my hopes onto the next season.
Instead, I hope Baker woke up this morning feeling dangerous. I hope the Rally Possum is stalking and snarling its way around First Energy stadium; feeding on the growing excitement and any leftover scraps of food it finds. I hope we can put “the Drive,” “the Fumble,” and “the Helmet” in the past. I hope the revolving door of quarterbacks has come to an end. I hope Kevin Stefanski likes wearing bright orange ties. I hope Cody Parkey’s brain can convince his foot that extra points matter. But more than anything, I hope we can break our 15-game losing streak in Pittsburgh.
In 1978 the Browns finished the season 8-8; a record composed of equal parts hope and despair. Meanwhile, the Patti Smith Group was in the process of rolling out their third album, Easter. It was a critical album for a band that had started strong out of the gate with their debut, Horses, but had floundered with its second album, Radio Ethiopia. Like the Browns, the band was .500 with its two releases. To make matters worse, in the midst of a tour supporting Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Smith tumbled off a stage in Tampa mid-show. Her fall and subsequent hospitalization and intense rehab cancelled the tour and precluded any support for the struggling Radio Ethiopia. Maybe the accident provided the full-stop break in the action the band needed. Easter was a huge record. It was best known for “Because the Night,” a Bruce Springsteen demo that Smith was reluctant to even listen to at first, but crafted into a monstrous hit, and the band’s only Top 20 single.
I bought the album when it came out in the spring of my senior year in high school with the trepidation and excitement of college looming just over the horizon. I knew the hit that awaited me three songs in on side 1, but it was the opening track that seemed more personal, more relevant, and more powerful. Like the soundtrack for a victorious march, “Till Victory” is the perfect pre-game warm up song and today’s Happy Medium Song of the Day. 2020 was a crazy, unpredictable year. This is still the 2020 football season. Anything can happen.