Monday, December 17, 2007

I'm Still Thawing Out

That wasn't the coldest Browns game that I ever went to, but it may have been the most miserable. I think we'd have actually been better off if the temperature was about 10 degrees colder. That way, the snow and ice that froze to my coat and pants as I walked over to the stadium through the force 8 gale wouldn't have melted 15 minutes after I got to my seat.

According to Dean Vernon Wormer, fat, drunk and stupid is supposedly no way to go through life. I'm in the midst of going through life in exactly that fashion, so check back with me just before I have the big one and I'll let you know whether or not Dean Wormer was right. However, after yesterday's game, I can tell you definitively that cold, damp and sober (I was driving) is no way to go through a Browns game in December.

Despite the discomfort, I wouldn't have traded my seat to yesterday's game for anything. That's what football in December is supposed to be like, isn't it? Just think about how many of the greatest games in NFL history have been played in adverse weather conditions. From 1934's Sneaker Game between the Giants and the Bears, to the 1967 Ice Bowl between the Packers and the Cowboys, to Red Right 88, the Freezer Bowl and, more recently, games like The Brady Blizzard, harsh weather conditions have added drama to late season and playoff matchups.

As far as I'm concerned, Cleveland hosting Buffalo in a late season game that not only matters, but is being played in a blizzard, is just about as good as fandom gets. The 50,000 or so hardy souls who joined me at Browns Stadium yesterday know exactly what I'm talking about. As for the rest of you who bought tickets but wimped out, what can I say? We've been waiting years for meaningful late season home games. If you can't stand a little cold for a team that plays as hard as this one does, why do you buy tickets in the first place?

It is hard to be real analytical when you're freezing your butt off, but here are a few random impressions that I gleaned from yesterday's game.

  • The Browns simply don't win that game without Jamal Lewis. 163 yards rushing under those conditions? Man, that's a running back.

  • The two balls that Braylon Edwards caught in the second quarter would have been spectacular catches if it was 75 degrees and sunny; in a blizzard, they were the stuff of legend.

  • The more I think about Phil Dawson's 49 yard field goal, the more impressed I become. I've seen plenty of longer field goals than that one, but that may be the greatest athletic feat by a kicker that I've ever witnessed. Just before Dawson kicked the ball, the guy standing behind me said "This has got about a 4% chance of being good." I thought he was being optimistic.

  • It was a great day for fat guys. I thought that Shaun Smith played his best game this season, and he, Robaire Smith, Ethan Kelly and Orpheus Roye did a great job stuffing Buffalo's rushing game.

  • Here's a message to Ryan Pontbriand: you were excellent, and we all noticed.

  • Finally, how about some props to the right side of the offensive line? The team has often preferred to run behind Pro Bowler Eric Steinbach and future Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, but yesterday, it was Ryan Tucker and Kevin Shaffer's turn to shine. Almost every big gain that the Browns made on the ground yesterday came over those two guys.

I may have been cold and wet yesterday, but although the conditions were miserable, I misspoke when I said that I was. I had a great time. In fact, about the only negative comment I've got about the game is the fact that despite getting to Browns Stadium 45 minutes before kickoff, I was stuck in the security line and missed the first possession of the game.

Long lines at the gates have been a recurring problem since the Browns introduced additional security screening post-9/11. But since "security" consists of a meaningless pat down by a couple of bored stadium employees, the Browns really need to do a reality check. Do they think they are actually accomplishing anything with this screening other than inconveniencing fans?

People understand the world we live in and the threats we face. I doubt that most people would object to the inconvenience if the security procedures weren't, by any objective standard, a complete joke, and if they were designed to process fans more efficiently. As it is, fans are well aware that the Browns are accomplishing nothing but giving us an illusion of safety at the cost of a substantial amount of inconvenience. Hell, we don't have to go to a Browns game to get that -- we can get that any day of the week just by going to an airport.

If the Browns insist on continuing with this charade, the least they could do is to work to improve the efficiency of their search procedures. Getting into the stadium is a mess, week in and week out. It's especially bad for female fans, who have a limited number of lines that they must use and who often have to wait much longer to be screened than male patrons. There's just got to be a better way than the cattle call approach that the Browns have taken -- and don't tell me to get there earlier. Fans don't want to show up at 11:00 a.m. for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff, and it isn't reasonable for you to ask them to. You have a problem. Fix it.

But enough griping. You know times are a lot better than they have been when my biggest complaint about the Browns game is that I couldn't get to my seat fast enough.

The Cleveland Browns are 9-5, and one Pittsburgh stumble away from sole possession of first place in the AFC North. Who'd a thunk it? Now all I want for Christmas is the Cincinnati Bengals head on a plate. Go get that done, and I'll happily wait in line at the 49ers game.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great fun at the game yesterday, but you're spot on about the security. Terrorists do not operate in blizzards.