Thursday, November 16, 2006

Divided Loyalties

We didn't see much of a need to comment on the Browns strange victory against Atlanta except to say that we hope it's that key victory that Head Coach Romeo Crennel has talked about all year. We like the way they played in the first half, hated the third quarter and admired the fact that, for once, someone other than quarterback Charlie Frye made a huge fourth quarter turnover.

We saw slightly more need to comment on last Friday's Cleveland Cavaliers victory over the Boston Celtics if only to say that they showed some incredible grit in coming from 18 down late to gut out the win. But that, ultimately, would violate our tacit understanding that most of what happens during the regular season is meaningless. But if you happen to find yourself looking for signature victories by Cleveland teams in 2006, forget about the Browns vs. Falcons game and look instead at the Cavs vs. Celtics. It provided still another exhibit in the growing bottom of evidence that LeBron James is in that very rare category of player, like Tiger Woods, who sees victory as the ultimate goal, no matter how small the stakes.

But what we saw most worthy of comment came today in the form of Browns receiver Braylon Edwards plea that he be able to attend the OSU/Michigan game on Saturday, the day before the Cleveland version of that game in the form of Browns/Steelers. According to the story in today's Plain Dealer, Edwards is quoted as saying: "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I've never been a selfish guy, and I would never do anything to have my teammates look at me in a negative way or have my coach think I wasn't worried about the Steelers game first and foremost. But if he does give me the opportunity, I'd definitely take it and be very appreciative."

This is essentially code for Edward saying, basically, that his team isn't going anywhere anyway so what's the big deal if he misses a day of preparation, even if it's for a game against the Browns' biggest rival.

What really caught our eye about this story is the contrast with Tony Grossi's main story detailing how seriously the Browns players take this rivalry, particularly given the 41-0 beat down they suffered last Christmas Eve. Apparently Braylon hasn't gotten the message.

There has been very, very little to cheer about since the Browns returned from their Art Modell-imposed hiatus. But irrespective of the records, the Cleveland fans still get hyped, overly hyped, for the games against the Steelers. That's because they understand the rivalry. The only reasons it lacks the intensity of the OSU/Michigan game are that there are two such games with the Steelers each year, the dates of the games vary, and the expanded playoff system in the NFL rarely makes any particular game the key to the season. But the hate that Browns fans have for Steeler fans and vice versa is every bit as intense. Most importantly, the fans of both teams expect the players to take it just as seriously.

And in this regard, that's where the Browns in all their various forms since their return have come up short, year after year. The Braylon Edwards comment just cement that fact, notwithstanding whatever else you might read to the contrary.

We like Edwards well enough, even though he's a Wolverine. But it's one thing to reminisce and wish you could attend the game and a whole other matter to actually ask and imply how disappointed you'll be with your coach if you're denied that opportunity. In short, Edwards' loyalty to his new fans and his new employer will be forever suspect. We surely doubt that Head Coach Romeo Crennel will give in to such childish demands. But if he does, to us that's tantamount to sending a message to the rest of the team and to the fans that this game is not all that important. It's the kind of thing that ultimately got John Cooper fired from Ohio State and will be just the kind of thing that ultimately will get Crennel fired as well.

No comments: