Han­dling hype could be tricky

Browns will be get­ting plenty of buildup lead­ing into the 2019 sea­son

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - Reach Podol­ski at MPodol­[email protected]­ald. com. On Twit­ter: @mpodo

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.

TIM PHILLIS — FOR THE NEWS-HER­ALD

Baker May­field and David Njoku cel­e­brate dur­ing the Browns’ vic­tory over the Ben­gals on Dec. 23.

TIM PHILLIS — FOR THE NEWS-HER­ALD

Fans cheer on the Browns against the Ben­gals on Dec. 23.

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