The Cleveland Browns, a once storied football franchise, limp into Pittsburgh this weekend for the 2017 season finale in a matchup against the Steelers. They do so with an 0-15 record, an owner still embroiled in a federal investigation of his company, and a head coach who has won just one of 31 games since landing the job. That coach, the esteemed and grit-lovin' Hue Jackson, on Wednesday said he'd make good on his promise to jump into Lake Erie because of the truly historic ineptitude of his squad. He will, by all accounts, be retained for 2018. To repeat: An NFL coach will jump into a Great Lake because his team sucked and will be welcomed back to Berea shortly thereafter. This is normal, of course.
Anyway. A loss on Sunday will cap a reverse perfect campaign for the Browns, tying them with 2008 Detroit Lions for the worst record in a single season since the NFL expanded the schedule to 16 games in 1978. It will also trigger the official greenlight for the Perfect Season 2.0 parade, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 6 around First Energy Stadium
To parade or not to parade — that's been a lingering question since plans were first unveiled last year before the Browns escaped ignominy with a single victory in the penultimate game of the 2016 season. The once unthinkable proposition has been hypothetical fodder so far, tailor-made for sportstalk radio and social media, but sometime around 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon it could finally become concrete.
Not only can you surely count us in if the parade happens, we're actively rooting for it to go down. Lace up a pair of cement cleats, strap them to this desiccated husk of a professional football organization, and let it all sink to the depths of Lake Erie.
Yes, here's to hoping the Big Ben-less Steelers lay a righteous and proper whooping on the Browns. Give us two, three, hell, seven more turnovers from DeShone Kizer on his way out the door. Let Hue Jackson not call a single play involving Duke Johnson. Please, oh please, have Greg Williams strategically deploy Jabrill Peppers somewhere in the lower concourse between the nacho stand and the men's room. Let the Steelers' backups rack up stats gaudy enough to make them household names in one day.
Does that make us bad fans? The answer, of course, is no. Does it mean Nathan Zegura is going to pop by the office and rip the Certified Cleveland Browns Fan membership cards out of our Chomps-adorned wallets? Maybe.
Listen, it's not like we were rooting against the Browns from the beginning — remember that undefeated preseason, guys! We were pretty jazzed — though we'd readily admit that at some point around the bye week our interest began registering minimal at best, our fandom becoming more passive by the week as the waves of losses crushed our spirit.
So here we are at 0-15, spirit thoroughly annihilated, awaiting a game to which, for the first time in many, many weeks, our eyes will be firmly glued and our rooting interest decidedly switched.
Why? Glad you asked. We've got 16 damn good reasons.
16. Mediocrity is boring. Sustained, abject failure is, yes, more depressing than mediocrity, but boring too in the same fashion. 1-15, 2-14, 3-13, 5-11... who the hell cares? It all runs together. What better exclamation point on almost 20 years of moribund play and dysfunction than a terminal exit into infamy. Set a record. Be the absolute worst. Take your honored place next to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders and 2010-2011 Cleveland Cavs.
For those of you who'd argue that a win would make you somehow feel better, that the Scarlet Zero is to be avoided at all costs... how much of your self or city pride is tied up in the difference between 15 losses or 16? If the answer is anything more than nothing you might want to reevaluate your priorities.
But what about the players? Won't we feel bad that they'll wear the stink of a defeated season the rest of their lives? Nope. Not at all. They are, by and large, here and gone. We are the ones forced to live with the same wretched franchise year after year. Let's cap this with history.
15. Narrative. Yes, let's cap this with history. Let this be the end, let a new day start... sometime soon hopefully. What better story can you ask for when the Browns do turn things around than to do so with an 0-16 season so close in the rearview mirror? Bring on the 30 for 30.
14. For everyone that helped make this happen. The front office, past and present, deserves this. Let everyone who helped set the wheels in motion for public and private embarrassment, everyone who failed miserably in their jobs only to be shuttled out of town with guaranteed salaries and buyouts, be finally and officially exorcised in the flames of 2017 as thousands gather on Alfred Lerner Way to usher the funeral pyre into Lake Erie. (Hopefully not at the same time Hue Jackson is taking his dip, but maybe.)
13. Because parades are fun. That, friends, is just truth.
12. To see if Tony Rizzo shows up to the parade to make good on his promise to "be there and mow you down under my tires."
It's also a good chance to evaluate Rizzy's political pull after his proclamation last year that, "I know billionaires, senators, mayors, governors. That is going to go away, mark my words. It ain't going to happen on my watch, I promise you that."
11. Because a parade takes some modicum of agency back from the team. Nothing happens, really, with a one, two, three or five win season. There is grousing, some firings, empty seats, embarrassing ticket prices on the secondary market, and dips in local TV ratings. But none of that really and truly hurts the Browns. They'll still rake in millions. Ensuing humiliations, even public ones played out across the local and national media, are minor and common in the realm of shitty professional sports franchises, of which there are many.
But a parade. Around Jimmy's own goddamn stadium. Drawing attention to the fact that not only did this happen, but that he's the person responsible for it. That is public humiliation of lasting and massive impact. That is the stuff of legacy.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. Because, seriously, fuck Jimmy Haslam.