You gotta be tough to be a Cleveland Browns fan. Real tough.
What happened Thursday morning at the Browns' training camp was not for the faint-hearted or thin-skinned. It was a test, yet another in a long line of tests, to gauge just how impenetrable the fans' love is for their team.
When LeCharles Bentley was carted off the field with an injured knee on the first play of contact, it was as though the entire Browns Nation had been punched in the midsection.
Feel familiar? It should.
Remember the Sports Illustrated cover when Art Modell pulled the plug on Cleveland back in 1995? It was a feeling SI captured perfectly. Happened – to a lesser degree, of course – again yesterday.
The news that the Browns' best offensive lineman went down triggered a psychological bender on this Web site. Teeth gnashed, psyches were broken, tears were shed, regurgitation scattered the landscape, spirits were shattered, profanities proliferated.
And who could blame the fans?
Emotions flowed. From anger to frustration to paranoia to bewilderment to disbelief to shock. Laugh to keep from crying. Punch a wall instead of another human being. Kick the waste basket instead of the pet.
What better way to vent.
Only in Cleveland . . . the Browns are jinxed, cursed . . . who's next ? . . . goodbye 2006 . . . what time do the bars open?
Others, perhaps rationalizing, took it a lot better. "What else should we expect?" "This kind of crap happens all the time. We all should be used to it by now."
The hurt was palpable from coast to coast.
The good feeling that always accompanies the opening of a training camp disappeared in a heap. And it certainly caused one to wonder – again – exactly what did Cleveland do to deserve all this?
Just when it looked as though the Browns had turned a corner by signing the likes of homeboys Joe Jurevicius, Dave Zastudil, Bob Hallen and Bentley, something like this happens. And on the second day of camp, no less.
Bentley is no ordinary player. He's not just the St. Ignatius kid living a dream of playing for his hometown team.
He is a Pro Bowler, an honor that is somewhat foreign to Browns players. He was going to help solve a lot of problems along the offensive line.
He was clearly the best player – since Jamir Miller – the Browns have had since their reincarnation in 1999. He was going to be the anchor of the line, the linchpin, the man around whom the team would rally.
Bentley brought an infectious glow to the locker room. Always has a smile on his face. The fact he was now a Brown surely would keep that smile permanent.
So why did this happen? Why, why, why?
There are no good answers to why this happens to the Browns, whose history with significant injuries to key players is almost legendary.
As much as we want to believe there is a jinx, a curse that dangles over the team, rational thought suggests otherwise. It's just a little difficult at this time to fight through those initial thoughts and see the bigger picture.
Some posters suggest that God hates the Browns. No He doesn't. If He didn't think you could handle it, He wouldn't keep doing this to you.
Somehow, some way, Browns fans always come out of the doom and gloom and see the brightness. Why? Because they're tough, resilient.
Otherwise, they wouldn't be Browns fans.
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