Week 8: A New Low

Pittsburgh 15, Browns 10

Summary: That’s about as bad as it gets.

The key moment: I don’t want to think about it.

Happiness level (scale of 1-to-10): 1.

At some point during this stinker, I felt this strange stomach pain. I thought maybe it was something I ate … but then I realized that it was actually something else.

I don’t want to write about the Browns anymore.

I began writing this Browns’ diary as an effort to reconnect with the team I so desperately loved as a child. I had almost entirely stopped caring about the Browns, and I could sense my younger self shaking his head in disapproval. The Browns were everything to me then. They were the very reason I got up in the morning. They were the thing that got me through a move South, impossibly awkward high school years, a summer working in a factory, and all those days when I felt entirely certain that I was destined to be a failure.

Even though the NFL has changed — and I don’t like much of what it has changed into — I still wanted to reconnect to the team and to that passion I had back then.

And this diary really has helped me do all of that. I’ve now written it through some of the worst seasons any team has ever had, I’ve written it through the Johnny Manziel Era, through the Hue Jackson Epoch, through the period of whatever the guy’s name was who coached the team a couple of years ago, and, finally, through the Kevin Stefanski Renaissance of Boredom.

But Sunday reminded me of something that I perhaps wanted to forget.

The Cleveland Browns have continuously hurt me in ways that defy description.

I remember now the week after Red Right 88, the devastating Brian Sipe interception against Oakland in the AFC playoffs. I was 13. The world never again seemed as bright to me.

I remember now the week after The Drive, John Elway’s 98-yard heart removal in the AFC Championship Game. I had just turned 20. I lost faith in the world.

I remember now the week after The Fumble, Earnest Byner’s earnest attempt to get in the end zone to tie the game against Denver, only to have Jeremiah Castille knock the ball free. I came to understand in real ways that life is unfair.

I remember being in Cleveland Municipal Stadium on Dec. 17, 1995 — the last time that the old Browns would play in Cleveland. I was a newspaper columnist by then, but as I walked the stadium and looked at all the garbage that angry fans had thrown on the field (I was mesmerized by a superball someone had thrown out there), I felt like Buttercup when she finds out that her beloved Westley had been killed. “I will never love again,” she said.

And it now occurs to me that I don’t really know WHY I wanted to reconnect with those old Browns feelings.

This post is for paid subscribers