Handling hype could be tricky
Browns will be getting plenty of buildup leading into the 2019 season
Browns fans, let’s talk about two words for 2019 — hope and hype.
The first Browns fans know all about. They’ve been hoping, starving and wishing for any type of success since the team came back to Cleveland for the 1999 season.
The latter is an entirely different word for many fans of the brown and orange. Hype and the Browns simply have not coexisted for a long time.
There have been moments such as 2002 when the Browns got into the playoffs and almost upset the Steelers in the wildcard round, and the 2007 team that went 10-6, but missed the playoffs.
Prior to the start of the 2002 season, John Madden started the hype machine during a preseason telecast by saying the Browns were a team on the rise. It was a good call by him as the Browns got in at 9-7. In 2007, there was more hope than hype at the start of that season.
So other than 2002, hype hasn’t been a word used much around the Browns (unless of course we’re talking Johnny Manziel, but let’s move on from that debacle). That will surely change in the preseason with quarterback Baker Mayfield looking like a star in the making. The hype machine could be in fullthrottle mode, and it could be a tricky situation for the Browns.
Hope might be better than hype — at least for 2019.
For anyone who’s seen the film “The Shawshank Redemption” (and for those who haven’t, do yourself a favor and check it out), one of the most memorable lines by Tim Robbins’ Andy Dufresne applies here:
“Hope is a good thing,” Dufresne writes to inmate friend Red, played by Morgan Freeman. “Maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Hope has been carrying Browns fans through the pain of 2-14, 1-15 and 0-16 seasons since 1999. Hope has been carrying Browns fans through the frustration of firings and first-round pick flame outs. Hope is a good thing
for Browns fans because it carries them for one season to the next, no matter how bleak it appears.
But hype is fun and exciting for fans. It’s just tricky. If a team isn’t ready for all that’s placed upon it, hype might overwhelm. Here’s hoping for hope instead of too much hype in 2019 with the Browns.
For one, it’s a young team. Second, no one outside of Berea — and maybe even those inside the Browns headquarters — really knows for sure if Freddie Kitchens is ready to handle the hype that comes with Year 2 of Mayfield. Perhaps he is, but as of now it’s a big unknown.
From a fans perspective, it won’t matter. They will be pumped for 2019, and deservedly so. After 20 years of football misery,
the thinking of fans will surely be “Why not us?”
That’s what’s great about fandom. Fans care. Fans hope. In the case of Browns, there might not be a fan base that cares and hopes as much.
When hype is added to mix, it can get dangerous for a team not equipped to handle it. This is a team that did finish the second half of the season 5-3, so there’s momentum. Plus, things in the NFL can change in a hurry. At one point this season, the Steelers were 7-2-1, and a lock for the playoffs. It didn’t happen. The Ravens were struggling, but then were lifted by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson and won the AFC North.
Many will theorize the Steelers are on the way down. Many will say Jackson isn’t in Mayfield’s
class. Many will say the Browns are the pick to win the AFC North in 2019. With Mayfield, there’s a lot to like from a team that was three points in the regular-season finale at Baltimore from a winning record for the first time in more than a decade. There’s also rising stars in Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, plus others.
The players have to prove they are worthy of the hype. The coaches have to deflect it, or at least manage it. The fans will embrace it, as they should.
Either way, the hype is coming, and unlike hope, hype (or too much of it) isn’t always the best thing.
Baker Mayfield and David Njoku celebrate during the Browns’ victory over the Bengals on Dec. 23.
Fans cheer on the Browns against the Bengals on Dec. 23.