CLEVELAND, OH — For the longtime, long-suffering and yet loyal fans of the NFL’s perennial punching bag and the subject of endless jokes from the national media and rival fans, March, 12, 2019 is the day that Cleveland Browns football came back–with a BANG.
After months of rumors and seemingly endless speculation, the Cleveland Browns pulled the trigger on the biggest blockbuster trade in recent memory in sending their first round pick (17th), their third round pick and former first round pick in safety Jabrill Peppers to the New York Giants for All-Pro wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
There are trades that change teams for perhaps the long term, some for the long term, but Beckham being traded to Cleveland is the biggest thing to happen to Northeast Ohio since LeBron James came back from South Beach in the summer of 2014.
Judging from the reaction in social media, one can summarize that frenzied Browns fans were behind the recent Facebook server outage that caused the social network to be down for over eight hours.
Browns fans are loud, vocal and passionate and have waited–and suffered through two-plus decades of blown first round picks, fired coaches, general managers, beaten up and broken quarterbacks and free agent busts to not be justified in unleashing a generation’s with of angst, pent up frustration and jubilation once the OBJ deal was official.
When you are the top trending topic on Twitter for 48 hours straight, and long time national media pundits such as ESPN–who made a fortune in clowning Cleveland over the years–are now anointing you as the third best team in the AFC and now showing images of drunken Browns fans or a plethora of Brownie blunders, you know that the needle has been completely flipped off it’s proverbial axis.
As I posted on my Facebook here, as a Browns fan, you are built with a cast iron stomach and a Spartan-like kind of loyalty. It’s something you’re born with, it’s something that’s passed down from generation to generation. Just as I was told the stories of Paul and Jim Brown, I’m passing down the stories of Bernie Kosar and Baker Mayfield to my daughter.
For YEARS, and even decades, Browns fans were the easy target of jabs and the proverbial butt of jokes, teams saw Cleveland as an easy win, as Browns fans were made fun of and made out to be beer-guzzling–i.e. Bottlegate–but lovable losers, our stadium was mocked as the ‘Mistake on the Lake’ and the ‘Factory of Sadness’ that would be half filled with Steeler fans.
Our Super Bowl was in April instead of February, we went through coaches, owners and QB’s the way a Millennial goes through Instagram. We had nothing to be excited for except hoping to be competing and hope for a reason to be happy on Monday.
Two years ago, we threw a Perfect Season “parade” and suffered thru Johnny Football. Being a Browns fan has been hard and almost impossible for those not from here.
We are who we are.
Now, we are no longer a joke, no longer the team that others can mock and make fun of! We are here, we are a threat and we are coming!
Thanks to OBJ, the often anti-Cleveland national media and rival trolls will need to find a new punching bag as these Dawgs are hungry and ready to feast in 2019.
Cleveland is back, the Browns are back and are for real now.
When Vegas sudden bumps you up to the third-best odds after the defending Super Bowl champion New England and AFC runner-up Kansas City at 7-1 to win the AFC and from 30-1 to 14-1 to win the Super Bowl, in adding to an already Avengers-like team that has Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Duke Johnson in the backfield, David Njoku and LSU BFF Jarvis Landry, all of a sudden that once automatic and easy win circled in the head of many a defensive coordinator is now going to keep them tossing and turning in wondering how to stop the league’s newest juggernaut.
And that’s just the offense.
Cleveland also now boasts one of the nastiest defenses that has a defensive line that consists of DE Myles Garrett, DT Larry Ogunjobi and new additions in DT Sheldon Richardson and edge-rusher Olivier Vernon.
Much like th3e city itself, Cleveland is experiencing a revival, as the Cleveland Cavaliers are three years removed from an NBA title and the Cleveland Indians are two years removed from wining 100 games. Cleveland has a lot of good things going for it, and getting OBJ could be the spark that sets things off in the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World”
Now the projected favorite to not only win the AFC North, and with a hungry offensive juggeranut ready to unleash havoc on opposing teams, can the Browns now handle expectations? Can they handle Berea now becoming a must-see travel destination for fans, along with an increase in media at training camp and practices, as OBJ is a natural media lightning rod for attention.
Can the Browns handle that along with jumbling a bunch of media-savvy personalities under a first-time head coach in Freddie Kitchens?
Going from 0-16 to 7-8-1 to OBJ is nothing short of breath-taking. Not only is it a story that now rivals the rise of the Roam Empire, but as the newest Goliath, hopefully they can adjust to being the target of proverbial David’s on any given Sunday.
None the less, OBJ to Cleveland is a bonafide franchise-altering game-changer.
Also published on Medium.