The kerfluffle over Phil Savage's obscenity-implied e-mail has died down now, pushed aside in favor of analysis of a team that went out and had its butt roundly handed to it during an embarrassing loss at home. I guess when the stadium is nearly empty with two minutes to go in the fourth quarter and the team is playing in front of a sea of orange seats, your e-mail etiquette probably isn't a priority anymore.
But Savage's missive is worth revisiting here for a few reasons, not least among them to reinforce just how forgiving Browns fans are. Here's a guy who has come under fire all year as the team has floundered, then sent a note to a disparaging fan that said, "Go root for Buffalo-f#@* you," and public opinion was divided - divided! - with half laughing it off, saying the fan deserved it, downplaying it as an ill-advised mistake, and the other half penning "Hey Phil, go WORK for Buffalo" rejoinders.
It's amazing that it was even that close. I suppose Savage could do anything short of burning a dummy wearing a Bernie Kosar jersey in effigy and fans wouldn't care, as long as the product on the field was worth its weight in PSLs and season tickets. Heck, he could burn the jersey, rip BoneLady's hat off and stomp on it, say he hated "Masters of the Gridiron," and, as long as the Browns were winning, I don't think anyone would bother dropping their dog bones.
The mass exodus on Sunday (one not seen since last year's opening-day loss to the Steelers, the affair that saw the benching of Charlie Frye and five penalties on the Browns - on the first play) was the fans' referendum on Savage's job performance, the sole barometer of their affections. That little e-mail at 12:17 a.m. after the Buffalo game that was mainly a refreshing reminder that Phil Savage is in fact human. It was nice to see the guy break down and flip out just a little bit, even if he censored himself by not actually typing the word he meant to say. Yes, he actually used "f#@*," which is kind of like Ozzie Guillen saying "Bleep you, you bleepin' bleepity bleep" after a White Sox loss instead of his usual uncensored tirade.
Even if the note was laughably PG-13, it was a rare blemish in a sport that isn't called the No Fun League without reason. By pressing the send button early that morning, Savage bypassed the usual, impenetrable PR flak jacket of the NFL, a league where players are fined or suspended for critical comments, where front offices (especially the Browns') are less than forthcoming about injury news or personnel decisions.
The NFL could use more of Savage's candor, although I would hesitate to encourage more vulgar messages. Maybe we'll never see the day when Al Davis will pen a letter that reads, "I am the CRYPTKEEPER! haha!," but there's nothing wrong with a little transparency.
With all the problems the Browns have had communicating this year - Jamal Lewis complaining through the media, Phil Savage missing connections with Kellen Winslow, Derek Anderson being unable to hear plays through his headset, Randy Lerner refusing to talk in public, Romeo saying less than nothing at press conferences - fans should be thrilled to have such a direct avenue to their GM.
Personally, I see nothing wrong with Savage firing off messages early in the morning to angry Browns fans. I understand how frustrated he must feel watching the team he built lose in increasingly comical ways and the need he must feel to vent. Given his and his team's performance, however, he needs to find someone to take it out on other than fans. Even if they're telling him to start Shaun Rogers at quarterback and let Josh Cribbs kick field goals, he probably shouldn't rule out anything as ridiculous or wrong, considering what he's managed to accomplish this year. Jamal Lewis as linebacker? Sounds crazy, but wouldn't you say that about letting Derek Anderson start so long, given what you know now? Suit up Webster Slaughter again? In hindsight, aren't his hands better than Braylon Edwards'?
Mainly I'm just miffed that Savage responded to the other fan and not to me. For years I've sent e-mails asking him to say "Aw, come on, pa," just once during a press conference. I've asked him to verify that Romeo's mustache is in fact real. I got nothing. That hurts, man. But thanks for finally saying something real to somebody, even if it was telling a fan to f#@ off. And to think, some people say this organization is dysfunctional. If the e-mails start bouncing back from the Phil Savage address after the season ends, you can just blame it on that.