I didn’t know when it would hit me during the whole Coronavirus mess. But I knew it would eventually. It hit me a few days ago, and hasn’t stopped or slowed down since! When I’m wound up, my passion for my favorite NFL team, the Cleveland Browns is like somebody poured gasoline on an already massive fire! I’m certifiably crazy! This Dawg is off his leash and needs a Milk Bone and a rabies shot!
I know I need to temper my expectations and calm down. But I can’t help it! Between realizing that the first game is on September 13th, coaching the Browns in my favorite sports strategy game in NFL Head Coach, finding a treasure trove of old Browns games on YouTube, and watching Building the Browns on YouTube, I’ve officially caught Browns fever!
I think I’m this excited for a bigger reason than just being a passionate fan, though. I think one of the biggest reasons I’m so ready for the Browns to return is because I’m desperate for something that feels normal. Coronavirus already stole the Buckeyes from me, and I can’t physically go see the Carey Blue Devils (my high school team) play either. The Cleveland Browns are all I’m going to have in terms of football this year. Period. Good, bad or ugly, I’m with these guys all the way, especially this year.
NFL Head Coach
NFL Head Coach has really fueled the fire for me. For those of you who don’t know what NFL Head Coach is, it’s an extremely in-depth sports strategy and management game. Imagine it being like Madden…except all you can do is make decisions, train your players, and prepare gameplans to take down the opponent. You cannot control how the men on the field move or play. You can only try to teach them the strategy you want them to learn, make sure they’re in peak physical condition by Sunday afternoon, and then call a smart game that gives them the best chance to win for you. That’s it. I can see why it sold poorly among the Madden crowd. Most Madden players are more focused on controlling the players on the field and making highlight reel plays, rather than making coaching decisions or formulating a winning strategy. I get it.
But for people like me, it’s a treat! I’m uber competitive! Like the legendary Paul Brown, first coach and namesake of the Browns might have said, “I hate losing more than I love winning!” He was ultra-competitive and so am I. Even though it’s a video game, figuring out a way to turn the Browns around by making the right decisions, and leading them to consistent victory definitely fuels my competitive nature.
The only downside to the game is that it is time-consuming and rather dry until you get into the swing of a full NFL season. During the off-season, you’ll meet with the owner to discuss how things went the previous year, hire/fire assistant coaches, scout the upcoming Draft class, sign free agents, etc. This is where the game probably loses most of the casual Madden crowd. But I really enjoy the strategy behind everything! And I know that if I do win a lot, it’s from actual skill rather than luck. So far, I’m in the middle of Year 2, with the Browns in a 6-1 tie for first place in their division with Cincinnati. Will the team I built repeat as division champions, make the playoffs again, and actually win a Super Bowl? Who knows? But it’s certainly fun trying to build a tough Cleveland Browns team capable of competing for the Lombardi Trophy!
Another thing that has gotten me excited for some football, is watching old Cleveland Browns football games on YouTube. And I’m not talking about games from a few years ago. I’m talking about the mid-to-late 1980’s Browns with Bernie Kosar, Coach Marty Schottenheimer, Kevin Mack, Brian Brennan and the others. I was born in 1991, so I unfortunately didn’t get to see them play live. But YouTube is a wonderful invention! It’s allowed me to go back and watch when the Browns were a fantastically good team that seriously competed for a Super Bowl.
I can see why Cleveland fans had so much fun back in the day! I imagine every 1980’s Browns game day as like a big party. People probably partied and tailgated in the Muni Lot outside the stadium from the crack of dawn. And then when kickoff rolled around, old Cleveland Stadium probably sounded and looked like the largest kennel on Earth, with frenzied, barking and howling Browns fans everywhere! I’d absolutely HATE to be an opposing quarterback and having to play in Cleveland back in those days. Not only were you going up against a solid, hard-nosed team that would punch you in the mouth, you were also facing 80,000 of the loudest, most passionate fans in the world! Good luck winning in there!
Watching classic Browns games like the January 1987 playoff game vs. the New York Jets, 1986 against the Bengals, 1988 against the Steelers, and the January 1990 playoff game against the Buffalo Bills definitely makes me smile. Not only because I get to see great football from my team, but also because of the atmosphere created before the games too. The games I’ve found, uploaded by a YouTube user named Mr. J., are full broadcasts. They are 3 1/2 hours long or longer if there’s a pregame segment. The original commercials are there too! It’s like a taking a trip back in time. No DeLorean or flux capacitor needed 😉
I also love the NFL ’86 theme! It sounds like music that might be played before a battle between gladiators in the Roman Coliseum or something. Heck, old Cleveland Stadium kind of looks like a Coliseum! But the theme is loud, big, and gets you fired up for the game! No offense to Carrie Underwood, but NBC needs to go back to using this theme. Take a listen for yourself!
While I love that I’ve found all these old games, I hope one day very, very soon that I won’t have to go back into the vault to see a time when my beloved Browns were a Championship-level football team. That’s where this year’s current crop of Browns and head coach Kevin Stefanski come in!
Building the Browns
Building the Browns is a YouTube series put out directly by the team. It’s basically a Hard Knocks-type show focusing on the team, and all the various things going on in the off-season. From the hiring of Kevin Stefanski in January and his adjusting to being a head coach, to the 2020 NFL Draft, conducting training camp amid the Coronavirus pandemic, and following the team as they prepare to battle the Ravens very soon, this show is an honest look at the ups and downs of life in the NFL.
The personality of Coach Stefanski, Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., and others definitely shines through in every episode. Especially when it comes to seeing how Coach Stefanski is trying to mold a winning team and teach discipline, as well as how the players support and get along with each other during a confusing year and tough training camp. I’m as interested in the “human stuff” as I am in the football stuff. Building the Browns also makes me believe that this team certainly does have the talent to compete with and beat most teams this year. They just need to execute and put it together! If they do? I might know firsthand what the 1980’s were like for older Browns fans like my dad, grandpa, and my best friend Tony. I absolutely cannot wait for that time to arrive. It’s way overdue.
This team has struggled for decades, but one day they will turn it around. Guaranteed. And it will be glorious to see. After all, every Dawg has his day 😉