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The Cleveland Browns are Minnesota Vikings of the NFC. They’re an upper-Midwest NFL team in the Great Lakes Megapolis that has nothing of note to show their collective fan-bases (outside of their amazing jerseys/color schemes), and apparently the NFL hates both franchises as much as the league’s refs hate someone legitimately tackling Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps its their color scheme (brown and orange are my favorite color combos) or our collective misery… But I root for them from afar, which makes the situation with their first playoff game in almost 20 years all the more infuriating. 

What am I talking about? 

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The fact that the NFL has yet to postpone the Sunday Wildcard game between the Browns and their hated division-mate the Pittsburgh Steelers despite the fact that … Well, I’ll just let Yahoo! Sports columnist Charles Robinson explain…

“ The practice facility remained closed. Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who isn’t allowed to practice with his teammates outside of the facility, told reporters he hasn’t thrown a football since the regular-season finale. Cleveland’s Coach of the Year candidate, Kevin Stefanki, continues to ratchet on a game schematic that won’t involve him from the moment the franchise enters Pittsburgh’s stadium Sunday night. And the front office has done everything but taken to lighting prayer candles in hopes of filling the continued holes in the roster being created by COVID-19 on an almost daily basis.”

While Vikings fans may be relieved by the break in being that any day that we don’t need go be reminded that Stefanski was on this team literally longer than anyone, but it’s not as if he wouldn’t be mentioned multiple times. 

The NFL schedule, especially in the playoffs, is a house of cards. If you postpone this game by a week, you’ll eventually have a completely different AFC time-table than a NFC one. That may create more competitive disadvantages to teams NOT named the Browns, which may be why the Browns aren’t getting a reprieve from the league.

Richardson explains where the NFL is on the issue:

“A team source told Yahoo Sports that the only real “break” Cleveland could catch at this point from the NFL is if another virus outbreak ran through the roster and ate up enough of the depth chart to force the league to push the AFC wild-card game back. That’s the solution here that the NFL has tried selling for much of the season: If your problem is a competitive one and not a health and safety one, well then that’s your problem. Treat it like injuries and good luck.”

But as Richardson points out? One of the bigger selling points of the NFL is the yearly parity within. The Browns making the playoffs for the first time since back when the “band” Creed was still not a total punchline (people think Nickelback is bad?! Listen to the ‘I CREATED LOOOOOIFFFFFE!’ Section of ‘With Arms Wide Open’ and tell me I’m wrong!)

Richardson continues: 

If the NFL has learned some lessons, why can’t it adjust on the fly and apply that knowledge this week, when it matters most?

And this:

“….when you consider the league office’s inconsistent maneuvers for much of the season, particularly when it came to pushing some games but not others — and never once really entertaining the idea of taking a “reset” week (which had everything to do with television and Super Bowl planning). Now the NFL is saying it has to be consistent because everyone agreed before the season that head coaches would have to stay away from their teams if their COVID positive diagnosis ran on top of a game. And, gee whiz, they made Detroit Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell stay home, so they certainly wouldn’t want to step out of that standard.””

He goes on, the full article of which I highly recommend:

https://sports.yahoo.com/if-nfl-cares-about-its-playoffs-it-will-delay-sunday-nights-browns-steelers-game-010320526.html

Mainly that the Lions may cry fowl, as may Steelers coach Tomlin, but the larger travesty would be the Brown ending their season on this note. It isn’t that simple, and the NFL most likely wants to get this season over as soon as possible, but if they spaced these games out to two weeks apart… unless there’s no further post Wildcard COVID breakouts, which is a big risk.

The longer you keep the season alive the higher the chance that the Browns become the rule and not the exception. But if the NFL was actually afraid of that they wouldn’t have had the 2020-21 season in the first place. Or, at least played it in New Zealand. 

So, perhaps the solution is pitching this to the NFL in terms they understand…

“Hello, Mr. Goodell! 

Money. 

Money, money, money money! Money? 

Sincerely,

Not Money”

The people in Cleveland, while no longer rocking the longest (male) professional sports team drought in the country (guess who replaced them?), deserve this opportunity. They’ve waited, they’ve been good supporters despite their teams two decade irrelevance. They don’t need to feel like, wow, even when we finally do get in it gets ruined… I wonder what LeBron is doing! 

Considering that your Pro Football Hall of Fame is only 51 miles from where the Browns play you’d think that the league would want that particular region of fans to not feel shafted in their first playoff game since before the start of the Iraq War. 

Every league has a looming theory that they prefer either big market teams or teams with superstar quarterbacks. While Ben Roethlisberger isn’t the face of the NFL that he was before his face changed because of that motorcycle injury (due to his own, reported, reprehensible behavior), there’s definitely enough evidence here for Cleveland Browns fans to claim that their rust belt team is being shortchanged because of the Steelers’ prominence as one of the all-time great sports/NFL franchises. 

That’s even before Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool released this insanely idiotic (for what is in it and also for releasing it, period) video via his YouTube channel:

That video needs someone to edit in Tom Cruise from the set of ‘Mission Impossible: Franchise Fatigue’, which most likely will happen as the above video is already being used as the above-referenced evidence on Browns sites/message boards. 

Do the right thing, NFL. Or, the better option amongst a lot of bad ones (as the right thing would’ve been to not have a season, or to create an NBA like bubble, or not to lower the 2021 salary cap because of lost revenue (which will force a gigantic and avoidable crisis for most NFL teams and lead to a lot of pay reductions and early retirements from players who came through for the owners in 2020 (even if some haven’t come through on some common sense stuff like Claypool (And yes, I did mean to go this deep into the parenthesis game, as COVID and the NFL (CONVIFLD?) playoffs create a hyper complex and intertwined set of variables with no clear right answer as to what the right answer is at this point)))). 

That’s not me giving the NFL a pass, despite the headline and bulk of this story. But, as with everything, nuance is key and there’s rarely any topic that people disagree on that is 100% one way or the other. Usually, a good rule of thumb that I follow is to assess the two most polar opposite extremes and then find something somewhere near the middle. 

The two extremes then would be cancelling/postponing Browns/Steelers or forcing them to play as scheduled. The answer? Somewhere in the middle of that. I’ll let you search for it, though. 

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