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Football, Family, and Friendships.

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Football, Family, and Friendships.

Football, Family, and Friendships.

How friendships are made, families are maintained, and the mutual love over a football franchise. 


An article by Severen Henderson


This is an article about trauma. Not physical trauma, not authentic or severe mental trauma. Not any type of trauma that can be medically or professionally defined. The trauma in this article is about the trauma bonding that we American's have concerning football. And this trauma bond or co-dependency that we have surrounds a sport that we love, but that doesn't always love us back. Again the sport for this article is football, and the team is mine, The Cleveland Browns.  


As I examine some of the relationships in my life. Those that I consider relationships essential to my well-being, and then casual relationships. I tend to find a common thread. I see people take crappy situations and turn that stinky situation into what they act like is roses. It's like when a group of people bands together against a common enemy. The bond of the banded group becomes stronger. And not only does the link become stronger in the moment. It can sometimes go on to last, not just at the moment. But a lifetime. As humans, we tend to bond over sometimes what can be considered the most unimportant things. One of those things that comes to my mind is the bonding over sports. This article is about human beings, families, friendships, sports, and the slight trauma bonding over a team that has taken fans to almost the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows.


Even if you aren't the biggest fan of football, most people tend to know the history of the Browns. Here is a brief recap of the team history to offer some context for the casual reader. 


The Cleveland Browns were established on June 4, 1944. The first season that they played was in 1946. The team was named after Head Coach of the time and co-founder Paul Brown. The team left what was called the AAFC (All-American Football Conference) and joined what is now the current NFL in 1949. In the team's inaugural NFL season, the Browns went to win a League Championship. They also won championships in 1954, 1955, and 1964. The team also appeared in championship games in their first 10 years of existence, winning seven of those games. From 1965 to 1995 30 years, the team made the playoffs 14 times but failed to win another championship or play in what is now called the Super Bowl in that period. (The championship game was not called the Super Bowl until 1966)


During the past era of the Browns, the team was purchased by Art Modell in 1961. In 1963 despite the success of Coach Paul Brown, Art Modell fired the legendary head coach in a power struggle. Coach Paul Brown then went on to found The Cincinnati Bengals in 1970. The Bengals are currently still in the NFL and are a division rival of the Browns. 


In 1995, owner Art Modell announced plans to move the team to Baltimore. His reasoning was because he saw the other sports teams of Cleveland get new deals for stadiums. Modell felt that his Browns were the number one ticket for sporting events in the city. Despite Modell's intention to move the team with the original logo and colors to become the Baltimore Browns, a deal was reached after threats of legal action by the city of Cleveland and its fans in 1996. The deal allowed Modell to establish the Baltimore Ravens. This new team, the Ravens, had to establish new colors and new traditions while keeping all of the personnel from the Browns and leaving the intellectual property to the city of Cleveland. Cleveland did not have football for three seasons and was then restocked through an expansion draft as an expansion franchise. Again the team that moved is in the same division as the current Browns. 


As it is currently established, the Browns franchise is the team that resumed operations in 1999. Since then, the team has struggled to find consistent success. While the current Cleveland Browns still struggle to become a consistently winning franchise, the original team that moved to Baltimore went on to play in and win Super Bowl XXXV. Crowning them as the champions of the NFL's 2000 season. To add a bit more bite to the pain of losing the original team, the Ravens have been a powerhouse within the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens didn't just win the one Super Bowl since their departure from Cleveland. The team won a second Super Bowl (XLVII) in the 2012 season. In a game that put brothers Jim (49ers) and John (Ravens) against each other in the season's final game and ultimate gridiron battle. After that championship game, rumors circulated that the Cleveland Browns and the then former head coach of the 49ers had a mutual interest in each other. Supposedly Coach Jim Harbaugh didn't want to just match up against his brother occasionally or just in the Super Bowl, but he wanted to get the opportunity to play against his brother within the AFC North twice a year.


Some fans were vehemently against this move because the Browns would have lost a conditional first-round pick to pick up the head coach. Additional rumors made Coach Jim Harbaugh an unlikely candidate for the Browns head coaching position. I would have welcomed the experiment regarding sportsmanship and a good story. So far, this is a rumor that hasn't materialized. Back to the Baltimore! The Ravens have gone on to win multiple AFC North Division titles in the years 2003, 2006, 2001, 2012, 2018, and 2019. That first Super Bowl win in 2000 provided by the Ravens gave the city of Baltimore their first sport's championship in any major sport since the Baltimore Colts won Super Bowl V in 1971.


Okay, so there was the most concise, and I feel like some of the most critical events in this Browns franchise's bitter and battle test history. Of course, there is more. But I want you to get the immediate pain and misery of the team's history. There are books and documentaries dedicated to this tortured franchise. 


Now I don't want to argue over who has the worst and most painful history. If you're a sports fan, you have experienced letdown somehow. Whether it's your team missing out on the playoffs, losing a championship game or series, especially when you were favorited to win, or your favorite player left the team. You have experienced a situation where your team didn't quite meet fan expectations. I can't think of any franchise in any sport that hasn't seen some setback or had a period where they weren't good. 


In my opinion, football imitates life. A person could say that it's just a game that grown men play. How does a game played a few days out of a week imitate life? What inside of this game is similar to anything that a person has going on in their life. For the most part, life consists of a family (both extended and immediate), friends, work, bills, education, health, and relationships. Depending upon your life situation, there could be more or less to life, but these are the essentials for the most part. This game imitates life because all life's elements are covered inside the sport. 


While some players inside of a specific skill set are physically huge! Especially when it comes to strength and show of muscle. Teammate identification usually reflects the demographic of average everyday Americans. Some people might be short, stocky, and muscular. They could be a running back or a defensive back on the football team. A guy is blazing fast. Guess what? There is a job for him on the football team. A person is just a large human, strong and solid as a brick wall. Do you know what we have again? A spot for them on the football team. Even if you have a person who isn't tall, you can kick a ball just as far as the entire field. Do you know what they have? A spot for them on the football team. 


Even the racial demographics are all covered inside of football. While all sports tend to have people from different racial backgrounds involved, there is always a majority that dominates each sport. When there is a player outside of the racial majority that plays baseball or basketball, that player is looked at like a special unicorn type. Not in football. While specific positions might be a majority of a certain race. Those same positions are represented by each race, no matter the position. Football is a mixing pot. Just like America is supposed to be perceived when the county was founded. A collection of immigrants whose aim was to develop a better country. Whether or not that vision has been realized is another argument for a different article. 


You have a guy that's average height slightly above or slightly less, but this person is strong enough to throw a ball 80 yards and on a dime! That person certainly has a job on the football team. Additionally, with the way the rules are headed and the attempt at player safety, there is a prediction that soon there will be a female kicker in the NFL. Regarding the advancement of player safety rules, fans are witnessing players' careers being extended to time frames that were once unheard of. The average career of an NFL player at any position used to be approximately 5 years. Based on overall skill, health awareness, and rule changes, players sometimes play 19 years at certain positions! It's an anomaly that has never been seen in the sport before. 


Once again, a comparison of football teams and the average employed American is the construction of the teams that play professionally. A professional team consists of 53 men who play various positions in the NFL. You have skill position players. These players ordinarily handle the ball and are responsible for scoring points. Offensive players such as quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and occasionally tight ends make up this distinction of players. Non-skill players consist of pretty much everyone else on the team. Schemes based on variations of plays offer different players the opportunity to handle the ball at different positions. Defense is similar when it comes to skill positions and non-skill players. Players who usually have the opportunity on defense to affect a play by touching the ball are considered the more skilled players. While any player at any time on offensive or defense has the opportunity to touch the football. Certain players are relied upon to score by throwing a touchdown, running for a touchdown, or catching a touchdown pass. Defensively through turnovers, either through strips, a fumble recovery, or interceptions, are ways to score on defense. 


All of the positions within this team sport mirror the average American's career inside the American economy. Workers, especially those on the frontline, work together in teams, with a team concept. In most cases, it's not us against them. It's us against the problem. Artictchure, construction, auto-workers, civil engineering issues, first responders, and soldiers, just to name a few, all work primarily based upon a team-first mentality. Which is a better way to tackle a presenting issue? Is it? "Woe is me. I have to tackle this problem alone." Or is it? "Whatever the problem is. We got this!" 



In the United States, Football is seen as the ultimate team sport. And while it is true that the sport's popularity is slightly waining. (Again a topic for another article) Football is still leading amongst the big three sports aired on national television. We can even add hockey and call it a "big four ."In any event, American football is the most popular. In my opinion, the reason why is due to a few different reasons. In no particular order, here are some examples and explanations of why I believe that American's love football. 


- We get to watch skilled people perform and put on a show for us.


Since the dawn of man, humans have found different ways to entertain themselves. Sometimes it's stories around a fire. Sometimes it's reading or writing stories. Artwork comes to mind. But another form of entertainment that comes to mind is watching a fight. It might not be the most healthy form of entertainment, but how often do we watch people fight. Whether it is a video on your phone, a fight on TV, or people in the street. We find ourselves drawn to the violence. Even in ancient times, The Romans had The Colosseum, where gladiators would come to fight for the people's entertainment. They used to flood the structure with water and have mini ship battles just for fun! As far as violence to some, American football is a violent sport. And the violence is currently legal. Watching trained athletes in any sport or recreational measure of greatness has always been entertaining. With football, the trend just continues in the history of the world. 


To go along with the fact that we watch athletes perform on the field. There is also the game behind the game. The game amongst the coaches where the X's and O's come into play. Strategy is undoubtedly a contributing factor to the entertainment surrounding the sport. Chess, checkers, and card games are a few games of strategy. And on a more physical level is American football! Offenses and defenses going back and forth. It's the ultimate battle over the fan's favorite side of the ball. As fans, we love getting opportunities to see the deep pass for a touchdown or a long-running play to score! Then you have those fans who live by the sports mantra "defense wins championships." There isn't a much better play for your team than when a defensive player intercepts a pass from the opposing team's Quarter Back and returns the catch for a "pick-six." To be honest, that last statement might get some contention. There is always appreciation by fans when a big hit is made on an offensive player by one of many stud defensive players. Like that interception, fans love seeing that opposing Quarter Back take a sack when the pocket breaks down. Putting players in different positions so that you can defeat your opponent is all part of the game. That strategy display of brainpower mixed with the physicality of football are the elements that contribute to the popularity of the sport. 


Football is an economy of its own!


 - American football earns people money! The sport is the most immense money-making sports entertainment vehicle in history. The sport also contributes to another economy taking off and has become a rival in earning. Video games. Players skilled on the "sticks" now play each other in the game. The players inside of the video game have their respective stats and skills based on ratings created by developers. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, video game designers have created earning potential for the average American yet again. Economy-wise, NFL owners, who most times have more money than one could imagine earning in their entire lifetime. Fuel the teams that play on the field on Sunday, Monday, Thursday, and occasional Saturdays. Players of the sport, while they are rich, are nowhere near as wealthy as the owners that they play for. This fact is very similar to most Americans. We go to jobs to work for companies where we will never meet the company's president. However, we still show up and work for our paychecks because our lives depend on it. Then you have the consumer of the sport. The fans. We show up and spend. We spend money on the tickets, we spend money on parking, we spend money to set up tailgating, we spend money inside the stadium on food, beverages, and alcohol. We buy jerseys, we get foam fingers, and other souvenirs. How about a program just to have something physical to remember the time? The list and the amount that we spend at live games is never-ending! The point is the consumer shows up to consume and be entertained (there goes that word again!) And that isn't the end of the money aspect! Professional sports gamblers make a living betting on sports, and it's occasional unpredictability. Fantasy football is the most popular fantasy sport. It earns for some. It costs some. And while fantasy sports can be free, there is a cost factor for most. There are current companies founded based on sports betting and daily fantasy sports. And these companies are not only worth billions within their own right. These companies are publicly traded on the Stock Exchange! The cost of the sport financially supports the owners and the players. But the sport has created and supports multiple types of economies. 


TV time!


 - Over the years, watching football games on TV instead of heading to the stadium to see your favorite team has been the way. Don't get me wrong, between tailgating, getting to see the game up close and personal, feeling the crowd's energy, and getting the opportunity to root for your favorite team. The in-person experience of heading to a game can be incredible. But don't forget the commentators as another contributing entertainment factor. Commentators like the late John Madden, and Howard Cosell, all of the way to the newer guys like Joe Buck and Tony Romo. Commentators have brought knowledgeable and casual fans alike commentary that educates and entertains fans. Love em or hate em commentators are a part of the game that you can only get from TV. Getting a primetime duo to announce your game can sometimes contribute to whether to get tickets and show up or watch from your own living room. I mean getting to use the bathroom when you want, get a beer when you want, drink what you like, eat what your heart desires, and be cheaper! What more could a viewer ask for?


Be sure to check back for Part 2 of this article, "Football, Family, and Friendships."









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