NFL 2014 Week 6: Will the Mistake by the Lake Become Football Heaven?
What good would a football season be without a real, honest-to-goodness Cinderella story? For an image-conscious outfit like the National Football League, if the Cleveland Browns didn’t exist they would have to be invented. The team has been a nice surprise so far in 2014, helping the League get past their press release woes.
Perhaps you’re not familiar with the sufferings of the Browns and their fans. Cleveland is not like most cities who have waited some time for a sports championship. The Browns won the NFL title in 1964, the pre-Super Bowl glory days of Jim Brown, still one of the sport’s greatest running backs of all time. Since then, the Indians have had several good seasons, but lost the only two World Series in which they played.
The Cavaliers have great hopes with the return of LeBron James to his hometown team but no NBA titles to date for their basketball team. Worst of all has been the Browns, probably the city’s most beloved team. In consecutive years in the late 1980s the Browns played the Denver Broncos for the right to go to the Super Bowl only to lose in heartbreaking fashion. Want to make a Clevelander sad? Just ask him about “The Drive” or “The Fumble.”
Worst of all, the original Browns left town in 1995 to become the Baltimore Ravens. The rabid loyalty of thousands of Browns fans meant nothing to owner Art Modell or the NFL; the cash was in Baltimore so the team chased it. For four years the city once best known for the time in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire had to watch another harsh winter set in without a local football team for comfort.
The League in its “generosity” gave Cleveland an expansion Browns team in 1999. Although their fans passion for the team returned from the start, there was little to cheer about. The Browns made the playoffs only once and made a quick exit thanks to their hated rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the past 15 years there has been little to excite the team’s fans. Their mood can be seen in the so-ugly-they’re-pretty mud-brown jerseys and plain orange helmets the team wears. Will Cleveland ever have a winning football team to cheer for again?
So far in 2014 the answer is “yes”. New Coach Mike Pettine has managed to change the sad-sack culture of the Browns. Before the season began the only discussion about Cleveland was how many games into the season before the team’s first-round draft choice, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel, would become the team’s starter. Pettine would not talk about his rookie, instead placing his confidence in career backup Brian Hoyer to get the job done. The Browns have been a model of success so far and Hoyer looks like he was meant to be a starter. A big test was passed this weekend when the Browns manhandled the Steelers 31-10. The team faces challenges that may yet derail the success story: center Alex Mack and defensive lineman Armonty Bryant suffered season-ending injuries. Each man was a key contributor to the team’s success so far and will be difficult if not impossible to replace. For now, the playoffs are not a farfetched possibility for the Browns. A feel-good story for a league that needs one.
Bryant’s injury was to his knee. For football fans, this type of injury is as unsurprising as it is unpleasant. In fact, Week 6 also distinguished itself by the large number of knee injuries suffered. Many of them are also season- enders. One of the most noteworthy was the ligament tears suffered by New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz in the Sunday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles. A colorful player known for salsa dancing in the end zone after each of his touchdown catches, Cruz also distinguished himself after the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. Upon learning he was the favorite player of one of the slain 6-year-old children, Cruz paid an emotional visit to the boy’s family and wrote a message on the sides of his athletic shoes (for some reason a popular place for players to broadcast messages) that the child was his hero. To see him in tears, inconsolable after his injury, is to realize how much playing time is lost to bum knees every year.
Many players suffer constant injuries to their knees. Vince Lombardi’s great Green Bay Packers teams of the 1960s had a player named Jerry Kramer. His nickname was the Zipper; he had so many injuries, especially to his knees, that doctors were said to have sewn in a zipper instead of stitching Kramer up. Even with the advent of arthroscopic surgery the plague of knee injuries has never let up. All too often, these injuries can end a player’s season. For this reason, the Torn Knee has won the title of NFL WOW (Weasel of the Week) for Week 6. Possibly only the ending of the League’s domestic violence PR nightmare made this such a big story now. It’s absence has not been a sad occasion and the sooner it leaves the better.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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