Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Browns Seek Move To NFC West

On Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks will make their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.  They will proudly represent the NFC against the Pittsburgh Steelers, even though the Seahawks spent the first 26 years of their existence in the AFC.  The Super Bowl-starved Cleveland Browns have taken notice and would love to experience similar results.  As a result, the Browns have requested that the NFL move them to the NFC West.



Under the proposition, the Arizona Cardinals would take Cleveland’s place in the AFC North.  Like the Browns, the Cardinals have never played in a Super Bowl.  Cleveland owner Randolph Lerner noted that since current conditions are not working for either team, perhaps a change of scenery would be to their benefit.  In that respect, a switch could be viewed in the same manner as last week’s Ron Artest-Peja Stojakovic trade.  Except that the Cardinals don’t hit people as often as Artest.



Changing conferences seems to have agreed with Seattle.  The Seahawks made one playoff appearance in their final 13 seasons in the AFC, losing an opening round matchup at home to Miami in January 2000.  However, they have reached the postseason in three of their four NFC campaigns.  The cyclical nature of the league has helped.  Seattle’s new division rivals in San Francisco and St. Louis have had glorious seasons in the past, but this year they were as impotent as the Democratic party.  The 49ers in particular embody the NFL phenomenon known as the Travolta Effect.  They’ve enjoyed their “Saturday Night Fever” and “Pulp Fiction” while they lasted, but now they have to endure their “Battlefield Earth.”



The Browns are hoping that by joining Seattle in the NFC West, their long-held, desperate Super Bowl wishes can be realized.  The team’s supporters are similar to Red Sox fans prior to 2004.  The Drive equates to Bucky Dent’s home run, and The Fumble parallels Bill Buckner’s error.  Babe Ruth left Boston and won many World Series in New York, while Art Modell moved the Browns out of Cleveland and captured a Super Bowl title in Baltimore.  The similarities are so strong, Manny Ramirez recently put on a Browns uniform and demanded to be traded to another NFL team.



Since pro football returned to Cleveland in 1999, the results have mostly been dismal.  The Browns’ cumulative record over those seven seasons is 36-76.  Head coach Romeo Crennel provides some reason for optimism, having won three Super Bowl rings as New England’s defensive coordinator before heading to Cleveland in 2005.  However, Romeo’s first Browns team still had too many Juliets, finishing 6-10. 



One of the major culprits is the lack of production from the team’s first-round draft choices.  Holding the first overall selection in 1999, the front office lent too much credence to the theory that athletes named after furniture will thrive in Ohio.  This strategy worked brilliantly with Cincinnati Reds Hall of Famer Johnny Bench.  However, quarterback Tim Couch flopped with the Browns.



With their tortured playoff history and uninspiring recent performance, the Browns found inspiration in the Seahawks and decided to take action.  However, Cleveland’s request is just the latest appeal the Browns have made to the league office over the years in order to enhance their Super Bowl chances.  The most prominent of these efforts was the “dirty-tricks campaign” against the Denver Broncos in the late 1980s.  Numerous Browns officials attempted to break into the league office, leaving fake memos stating that teams with orange uniforms were ineligible for the postseason.  On numerous occasions Cleveland also tried to have John Elway suspended, claiming that he was responsible for the Iran-Contra Affair, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the release of “Howard the Duck.”



Those pleas were denied, but the Browns hope for a breakthrough this time around.  Whatever it takes to get there, Cleveland will erupt in celebration whenever their beloved team finally reaches the Super Bowl.  They’ll further rejoice when they see the opposition take the field.  Because John Elway will be nowhere in sight.