Monday was my daughter Emma’s first birthday. Over the weekend, my wife and I had a party for her. It was a great day. But it could have been even greater.
Saturday was also the start of the NFL playoffs, and of course our beloved Cleveland Browns could not be found on TV. For the 11th straight season, we Browns fans once again were not smiling.
Just how ashamed of our team should we be? The team has gone 11 years without a playoff appearance, 19 years without a playoff win and 24 years without a trip to the American Football Conference championship. In 48 years of Super Bowls, not one of them has featured our blundering-but-adored Brownies. Like most — excuse me, like all Browns fans — I’m tired of losing. It goes so much deeper than that.
I’m astonished at our endless parade of quarterbacks and coaches. I’m amazed with our ability to find new and exciting ways to lose games. I’m dumbfounded with our inability to get it together, while other teams around the NFL enjoy single-season turnarounds.
I’m emotionally exhausted. Every preseason, I refill my tank with hope, and every postseason I ask myself: Why?
Why do I dedicate so much emotional energy to this team? Why do I waste so much time supporting them? Why do I love the Browns so much when they’re the same disappointment every year?
There are plenty of questions this offseason. Will Jimmy Haslam be another failed owner? Who will be the next coach? Who will we take in the draft? Will we finally find a franchise quarterback?
But perhaps the biggest question I’m asking this postseason is: Why are we raising Emma as a Browns fan? Believe it or not, the answer is simple. It is because the Browns are part of our family, through and through.
I often say that being a Browns fans requires character. Anyone can cheer for a winner, but supporting your team no matter how much they frustrate you, disappoint you and embarrass you, well, that’s the kind of loyalty this world could use more of.
So, during this opening weekend of the playoffs, I’ll just smile at my daughter and sigh. Early and often, the Browns will help Emma learn valuable life lessons.
She’ll learn that loyalty is difficult, but honorable. She’ll learn that life is rarely fair. She’ll learn to persevere through heartache. She’ll learn to deal with disappointment.
But, I hope, someday the Browns will also help her learn that dedication pays off in the long run. And eventually, I hope, she’ll learn to win with humility.
Old scandal, new worries
On the Friday Commentary page were two columns that could not have been more contradictory.
Ruth Marcus, in an effort to match Alfred E. Neuman’s “What — me worry?” tag line, stated that she had no problems with the massive data sets being captured by the National Security Agency (“One insufferable whistleblower”).
Beside her column was an article by Albert Hunt about the movie American Hustle, which depicts an out-of-control FBI agent who abuses power to achieve some dubious results (“Abscam, the real hustle”).
The juxtaposition of these two articles was perfect — a tribute to the editor’s sense of humor and irony.
Is an arena right for UA?
I am writing in response to the recent survey regarding a new arena for the University of Akron (“Residents disagree on spot for arena,” Jan. 1). The results are questionable given the unscientific nature of the survey. Respondents could vote numerous times, and my guess is that many did.
When the university is struggling for relevance and economic survival, the real question should be: Why should it even contemplate building a new arena?
The university has a particularly high percentage of adjunct professors, a dismal four-year graduation rate, a bloated administration and a dysfunctional Wi-Fi system.
Student debt in this country is now higher than credit card debt, and 41 percent of college graduates report working in a job that does not require a college education.
For an accurate description of the real challenges universities are facing, I would urge readers to pick up The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education From Itself, by Glenn Harlan Reynolds. He writes convincingly that “to remain viable, colleges and universities need to cut expenditures dramatically.”
Funny, but he doesn’t write that they should produce fancy commercials or hire ex-football coaches to teach classes in coaching and hand out cookies. Nor does he say that adding bling is the equivalent of adding respected faculty, better research facilities, or a world-class library. The university will never gain respect simply because it is corralled behind an imaginary urban rope line.
People who clamor for an arena on campus have not traveled to any number of universities that have skillfully morphed out and into surrounding communities.
My hope is that when the time comes for a new arena for the university, it will be built on a site that straddles the campus and downtown Akron.
Undeserving of recognition
I was appalled that the paper would publish a photograph of a puppet named “Herbert the Pervert” and give the name of the person making and displaying it (“Hands-on theater,” Jan. 4).
Certainly, it is within the First Amendment rights of anyone to make “pervert” puppets, but I don’t see how the common good is served by glorifying perversion with recognition in a major newspaper.
I also worry that the student involved may be at risk from sexual predators — or from zealots at the National Security Agency.
Improve oversight of the NSA
Terrorism problems with horrific violence did not appear overnight or start with 9/11. There has been a constant increase in violent acts by Islamic fundamentalists for over a decade, with embassies bombed and flights blown up.
The attacks of 9/11 were certainly a trigger for ramping up security actions. At the time, I don’t think many Americans would have complained much, if convinced it would help protect the nation.
Unfortunately, conventional military tools and strategies such as land-based armies, naval squadrons and squadrons of aircraft don’t work against terrorists because they cannot easily be targeted and attacked in the manner one might attack a conventional force.
I’m guessing the National Security Agency was not sure whether surveillance would help, but it wanted to try, and constitutional issues were put on the back seat.
Directives to proceed came from political leaders at the top, regardless of claims otherwise, so it’s not true the agency was acting in a rogue manner.
Now here’s an issue we all need to consider before shutting the NSA systems down: Other countries, including China, have rapidly improving surveillance systems, which may meet or exceed the capability of ours in five years to 15 years, and most have few of the restrictions on government or military action we do.
Do we want to put our military in a situation where it does not possess the same tools?
The big issue in the stories about the NSA, and the source of much of the resentment, is the secrecy and lack of real oversight.
This can, and should, be addressed as soon as practicable. I think inclusion of civilians on review boards should be used, with conclusions reported to the public.
Bring this initiative within our system of checks and balances, and it will certainly work better, and that’s a start. But I do not suggest leaving our country unarmed in the surveillance race, for reasons I’m sure you can project.
Arms parity has worked well for some time. Let’s just be a little bit more forthcoming with the American people about what’s being done, and why.
Just a note of thanks for the wonderful reporting by Marla Ridenour on the firing of the Cleveland Browns coach.
She has such wonderful insight, explanation and wording in her sports reporting.