There are a lot of reasons I chose to cover sports for a living. Sports is an escape for many and for someone as pessimistic as me and looks at the headlines when I wake up expecting to be disappointed by what dominates them, it’s an escape I would prefer to spend all my time in.
There’s a quote by former Chief Justice Earl Warren that perfectly sums up my love of sports, “I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures.”
The sphere as a whole is so full of positives and it’s so easy to find the funny and fun parts of it that even when sports’ greatest failures dominate the headlines, I can’t help but find the funny in it (in most cases). That’s why what I saw over this weekend when people ripped into fans finding the funny in one of football’s most historic failures, I was legitimately mad.
What I’m referring to is the parade organized by the people of Cleveland who also participated in it after the Cleveland Browns were just the second team in modern NFL history to go 0-16 on the season. To make matters even worse for the fans of the lowly Browns, their record over the past two seasons is 1-31 and they haven’t made the playoffs since 2003.
It’s not as if they’ve been competitive recently either. The team has had 15 seasons with a losing record since 2000. So not only have those fans stuck by their absolutely horrid team for close to two decades but they decided they want to have some fun with it as well.
The parade included floats that had a Sad Santa in which he had “0-16” taped on the back of his jolly red jacket, a pair of fans holding an “I’m with stupid” sign pointing to another that declares he is a season ticket holder and my personal favorite a Browns-themed coffin among many others. That’s as close to objectively funny as you can possibly get.
Unsurprisingly, many were angered by the parade including other fans and especially players on the Browns. Two players called the parade “lame” and the fans participating in it were not true fans and the parade would hurt the team’s chances of landing free agents.
First off, a free agent would look at Cleveland’s two decades of pure disappointment and one of the worst owners in football and that would stop them dead in their tracks long before the parade even enters their mind. Second, fans participating in the parade are not disrespecting the team and players because the team did that to themselves.
If I had a fact error in one of my stories and my readers decided to have a parade celebrating it, it’s not disrespectful towards my effort in writing that story because I did a bad job doing it. Yes, those players are putting their bodies on the line and it’s easy to understand why they would feel their pain is being laughed at but if they really wanted the respect of their fans, they would win.
To expect fans to simply lie down and be miserable because their owner has inexplicably been unable to put together a playoff-worthy team is nothing short of ridiculous. The fans were, excuse the pain, making the best of a bad situation.
A couple weeks ago I wrote a column on why I chose to adopt a second NFL team to cheer for because I just couldn’t bear to sit through a decade of seasons in which they could only muster one or two wins. I couldn’t imagine multiple decades of that.
So when writers like Cleveland.com writer Ted Diadium writes that people that say they were just having fun were in fact wrong because you were mean “if your idea of fun is to ridicule people better than you.”
Well if he means people that are better than them physically, that’s undoubtedly true. If he’s talking about people being better at winning than them, that’s undoubtedly false.
It’s not about people measuring their self-worth in a sports team, it’s about making a joke of a bad situation that extends beyond the current roster. This parade was the accumulation of decades of bad football. It is not so much a message against the core group of players that went 1-31, although they open themselves to blame knowing it’s a natural job hazard of the NFL, but a message against an owner that has repeatedly shown he is incapable of bringing talent in the office or on the field for this franchise.
So if you are so deeply offended by people cheering on failure that has endured for what seems like an impossibly long time, think about it this way: you can either be offended and still be a fan of a losing team or you can have fun and joke about the horrible play you’ve witnessed for years.
So the players, fans and media that expect the Browns fans to continue to simply suffer in silence rather than create a funny and creative sideshow of an otherwise miserable situation, they are wrong. The fans who participated in the parade are within their right to express their displeasure at a bad product that they pay for and even better, they are especially allowed to do it when it’s funny.
Sports is an overwhelmingly positive force in American society. Don’t let the negativity of constant losing let you forget that. Life handed fans in Cleveland some really rotten lemons. Don’t demean them for turning that into a smile.