It happens every now and then across all professional sports. A team suffers a brutal loss, and fans get heated about screenshots or vines of players giggling on the sideline. Said players might not literally be laughing about their team losing, but it never seems to matter. To fans who can’t hear the actual conversations taking place, it always seems to come across as “let’s have fun while losing.”
I personally try not to overreact to such a thing. However, there can sometimes be exceptions. Take yesterday as a solid example.
The Cleveland Browns were thoroughly and soundly beaten by an average-at-best St. Louis Rams team. Cleveland’s defense couldn’t tackle, the offensive line couldn’t avoid false starts and, overall, the team struggled at almost every fundamental level of the game.
Despite this incredibly embarrassing loss, there were more than a few examples of Browns players having a little fun on the field after the final whistle.
Running back Duke Johnson giddily exchanged handshakes with various Rams players who just soundly beat the Browns. Fellow back Isaiah Crowell happily swapped jerseys and posed with Todd Gurley after the St. Louis rookie dominated every member of Cleveland’s defense. Screenshots of coach Mike Pettine smiling on his way to the mid-field handshake circulated throughout Twitter.
As mentioned, none of us have any context as to what was being said in any of these moments. However, for a team which just got mauled, which now boasts a 2-5 record and looks to be staring face-to-face at another failed season, these smiles and laughs seem to imply one thing.
Losing is OK. Sure the team just got thrashed, but hey, why get too stressed out about it, am I right?
Again, it’s highly unlikely this what the aforementioned people were saying as they shook the hands of a team which just throttled them. However, this is yet another year in which the Browns look nowhere close to competing. Many of these players were around last year when the team started out 6-3 and has since only won three games.
Shouldn’t everyone be more than a little upset about such a thing? Shouldn’t players be slightly miffed about spotting the Rams ten free points within minutes of the game starting? Shouldn’t they be a little incensed about the fact their quarterback had to be peeled off the turf by the end of the contest? Or about the team’s offensive line, which is rumored to be the biggest strength, jumping on four false starts thanks to the deafening crowd noise of an Edward Jones Dome which looked like it might have contained 30 to 40 people?
At the end of the day, players can go on and on about how they care, how they feel the team is close to being competitive, how losing is unacceptable. Yet, how can anyone see the effort put forth yesterday, then watch the players smiling on the sidelines and say the team, as a whole, is not content with defeat? How can you watch players laughing on the field after being thoroughly curb-stomped and honestly think “man, those guys just can’t stand losing”?
Where’s the culture change we were supposed to see with the influx of veteran players? Where’s the “bloody your nose” attitude Pettine claimed he was bringing to this team? Where is any remote proof that anyone on this team is sick of losing?
Claiming players don’t care about winning is quite a heavy accusation. At the same time, yesterday’s game didn’t feature any indication of a team fighting to stop the losing in Cleveland. Nobody played angry, nobody looked determined. Overall, the team just appeared deflated, as if everyone had checked out long ago.
It was quite a surprise when you consider how close the Browns were to defeating the Denver Broncos last week. Wouldn’t you think a club almost handing an undefeated team its first loss of the year is enough motivation to play even harder the following week?
It should’ve been, but in Cleveland, this is apparently not the case.
I’m not asking for players to be so angry they skip post-game handshakes. I don’t need to hear about tables and coolers being flipped in the locker room. I’m not begging for Pettine to give a fire-and-brimstone press conference which eventually gets turned into a Coors Light commercial.
At the same time, Browns fans have seen their favorite team put forth a miserable season in all but two years since 1999. When they see their favorite players appear as though struggling so badly doesn’t have a bad effect on them, it makes it seem as though the culture of losing is ingrained in Cleveland, and such a fact is just accepted. It shouldn’t be too much to ask players to be upset with more losses piling up. Again.
Maybe losing isn’t OK for the Browns. However, it certainly doesn’t appear like it bothered too many people as much as fans would like to see. If it is indeed no big deal to the players if they keep losing, well, they’re in luck. With a brutal schedule ahead and no indication this team knows how to turn this season around, there’s sure to be plenty more losses ahead.