Hatred and criticism comes just as quickly as love and praise
850 ESPN Cleveland host Tony Rizzo has seen it all covering Cleveland sports for over thirty years. He has been there for the highest of heights, like the AFC Championships and, of course, the 2016 NBA Championship Cleveland Cavaliers, and the lowest depths, like the AFC Championships, “0-16”, and the Cleveland Indians’ habitual woes. One thing neither he nor the rest of the Dawg Pound Nation has ever experienced is hate.
There has been plenty of hate from Cleveland fans: John Elway, Ichiro Suzuki, Joakim Noah, Steph Curry, Jack Lambert, The Owner Who Stole The Team and Moved it to Baltimore. For the first time ever in Cleveland sports history, it is the Browns who are the target for hate.
As Rizzo said recently on his show, The Really Big Show, “Get used to it.”
“This has never happened to the Browns before. Since the beginning of [General Manager John] Dorsey’s reign, people have been praising the Browns. Pulling off what he did this off season drew a ton of praise from the national media. The Browns are everywhere now. They’re getting love on the NFL Network. They’re on ESPN. Everyone loves the Browns right now,” Rizzo said.
“But, you wait, it’s gonna turn to hate. ‘Browns Fatigue’ is going to set in.”
His very educated prediction has come true.
Almost immediately after general manager John Dorsey’s moves this past off-season, football pundits everywhere tripped over themselves giving effusive praise for the Dawg Pound. That lasted precisely three weeks. Now, it is fashionable to hate the Browns. “Pump the breaks” is the phrase football commentators are using now within context of this year’s expectations. While former Cleveland Browns wide receiver and NFL Network analyst Nate Burleson has been very vocal about the Browns being his pick to win the AFC North, others have been just as adamant not to crown the Browns right away.
Normal cliches aside, it is wise not give the Browns the division before the first snap of the season. Smart Cleveland fans only have to reference the awful 1987 Indians season and be reminded of assigning victories before the games are played.
Teams should have expectations. Teams always post expectations. For the first time in a long time, these expectations are realistic and attainable.
How fans should deal with them is another story.
Ohio fans in general are very much behind the “Ohio Versus The World” mentality. This feeling has cultivated over years of disrespect. Now that the disrespect has been turning into respect, Browns fans should be aware that every little move, tweet, interview, etc. is going to be scrutinized, and possbly villified, by the national media.
For example, sadly, after going out into the Cleveland community and educating young people not to fall into his own pitfalls, troubled running back Kareem Hunt is back in the news because of an altercation with an alleged friend of his. While no charges were filed, no police were called, and no conclusive video has been released, it still challenges the franchise’s supposed “Zero Tolerance Policy” with Hunt: a point of fact that won’t be lost on the national media.
What about the biggest star to play for the Browns since Jim Brown, Odell Beckham Jr.? In his now (in)famous interview with Complex UK, OBJ said that he felt he “wasn’t going to reach [his] full potential” in New York, which instantaneously drew the ire of Giants fans. OBJ spent as much time defending himself against the haters as he did giving his thoughts in the interview:
The bloom is already off the rose nationally toward the Browns. There are already pundits and fans who think the Browns are feeling themselves too much. As much as everyone was excited for the Browns to be legitimately back, they are just as fiercely willing to tear the Browns down. Browns fans might not be used to this negative attention…
…but they better get used to it.