Week 17 in the NFL is upon us and as has become the custom in Cleveland the Browns are fighting for draft positioning, not playoff positioning. We covered in the past the psychological profile of a Cleveland sports fan and later the 2 sides of a Browns fan as the team plays out meaningless games. Today’s game encompasses these realities in one frustrating 3 hours of an afternoon.
The Browns face the hated Pitssburgh Steelers, who have a slim chance of making the playoffs. For many Browns fans, especially those in their 30s and up, beating the Steelers is akin to The Ohio State Buckeyes beating that team up north. While younger fans may have a bigger sense of rivalry with the Baltimore Ravens, due to the move, or the Cincinnati Bengals, due to their in state rivalry and recent winning ways, for long time Browns fans this game is the game.
As today’s game starts many of these fans will be hoping for the Browns to dash the Steelers thin playoff hopes. Even fans rooting for draft positioning could find themselves swayed towards rooting for a Browns win. A similar situation happened a few weeks back during the Patriots game, fans started looking towards the draft but as the game hit halftime fans were cheering for a Browns win. A close game, a overly physical game or a penalty filled game may unify the fan base.
The Other Side
This side of the fan cares about getting the team to the playoffs and realizes that next years draft, every year, is the best way to gain the long term playoff success. As the Browns face the Steelers this side of the fan will hope the team looks good, the Steelers miss out on the playoffs and the Browns still lose the game. This fan probably read, and re-read, our article on Strength of Schedule that could impact tie breakers of teams the Browns could be tied with.
As the game begins this fan starts to get nervous as the Browns drive for a touchdown based on a long Josh Gordon bomb or screen pass to one of our quick young running backs. As the Steelers climb back into the game, especially and predictably in the 4th quarter, this fan finds themselves torn but expecting a Browns collapse as always. While they are excited for the team to look good against their rivals, they secretively root for a loss without letting fellow fans, most likely secretly rooting for the same thing, know their true desire.
Overall today can be a very emotional day for Browns fans, internally struggling between a desire to beat their rival and look competitive and a rational knowledge that the team needs the highest draft pick possible. That internal struggle can turn into ulcers, an extra drink, a few extra hand fulls of fried or sweet foods and random emotional outbursts. Thankfully for the fans this season will come to its end. This leads to the season of optimism: the off-season.