Chanting through chattering teeth [url=http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/customized]Customized Dallas Cowboys Jerseys[/url] , Browns fans finally felt victorious.
Maybe the winless season wasn’t a total loss.
Thousands of disgruntled Cleveland fans, some of them calling for owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam to sell the franchise or jump in Lake Erie, paraded once around the team’s stadium in frigid conditions Saturday following a historic 0-16 season.
It was a protest and it was a party as fans showed their outrage and creativity following a season many would gladly forget.
Despite wind chills below zero, fans lined the street around FirstEnergy Stadium, which has been dubbed the ”Factory of Sadness” in recent years, to cheer as 80 vehicles, a rock band on a flatbed truck and a group carrying 28 tombstones to represent the team’s 28 starting quarterbacks since 1999, took a ”no victory” lap.
Cleveland police conservatively estimated the crowd at 3,200, and reported no major incidents or arrests.
This was frozen fun mixed with some fury.
”I’m here to protest,” said Patty Szylakowski, who grew up in a football-loving household with five brothers. ”We don’t deserve this. We deserve better people in the front office.
”We deserve better people coaching and we deserve better players. We’re buying Browns gear every year. We support them every year no matter what. Something has to be done and this is not a black eye on Cleveland.
”Every fan in all the NFL cities should be thinking about this. If they got crap like we did, they would be doing the same thing.”
That was the overriding sentiment among the frosted faithful who gathered on the sidewalks just feet away from a statue honoring legendary Browns running back Jim Brown.
This was a day for fans to express frustration at their football team, and most of the anger was aimed at the Haslams, who bought the team in 2012 but have been unable to produce the winner they’ve promised.
One fan held a sign that read: ”Jimmy and Dee Go Jump in the Lake.” Another carried by a fan dressed as a bishop said: ”Deliver us from Jimmy and Dee.”
The biting cold may have deterred some fans from attending, but it did nothing to curb Cleveland’s creativity or sarcasm.
Prompted by a fan with a bullhorn, one group of marchers chanted, ”What do we want? Watchable football. When do we want it? Now.” There were floats, a few of them with obscene themes, fans wearing paper bags on their heads, and a Big Bird wearing Johnny Manziel’s jersey. A band played John Mellencamp’s ”Hurts So Good,” a song that underscores the pain and passion Browns fans feel for a team whose glory days are long gone.
For Chris McNeil, the day was a triumph for Cleveland.
A season-ticket holder, McNeil became the event’s unintended organizer – and a pariah to some – when his sarcastic post on Twitter last season that the winless Browns ”deserve a parade” spawned a revolt by some Cleveland fans.
McNeil endured severe backlash by fans who felt he was only embarrassing a city that has taken its share of shots over the years.
”No fights, no violence [url=http://www.denverbroncosteamonline.com/customized]Customized Denver Broncos Jerseys[/url] ,” he said as the parade unfolded. ”I didn’t have to wear a flak jacket, none of that would reflect badly upon us. I don’t think anybody’s looking at this thing and going, `look at these idiot Clevelanders who are celebrating 0-16′. I don’t think that’s the message. This is a clear message to those people (the Haslams) inside the building. That’s who we were looking for.”
For obvious reasons, none of Cleveland’s players attended the event.
However, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah posted a message on Twitter critical of anyone who went.
”That parade is a joke,” he wrote. ”Don’t call yourself a true browns fan if you go to that thing! Going 0-16 was embarrassing enough as a player. That is like adding fuel to the fire and it is completely wrong!”
McNeil’s only goal was to give Browns fans a voice. He felt he had done just that.
”This stuff matters in this town,” said McNeil, who is donating nearly $15,000 raised for the event to the Cleveland Food Bank. ”That’s why I care about this stuff. I almost get choked up when I think about it, because people don’t realize that. You go to other markets, and people enjoy their teams and I get that. But there’s a connection here where it’s like family. And to see something like the Browns be bad, it’s easy for me to make jokes, it’s either you do that or you cry.
”But then you look at something like this and you say, `Man, we had this. In the `80s, this is when you’d leave a ballgame. I remember that. As a kid I’d be sitting in the backseat people honking, people yelling. You’d see that all the time after wins. To get that, we have to create this parade. It just says so much about the character of this city, the character of the people here.
”This is all positive and fun.”
The son of a college football coach, Brian Gutekunst has an idea of the kind of scrutiny that he’ll receive as the new general manager of the Green Bay Packers.
Gutekunst watched his father, John Gutekunst, take heat during six-plus seasons at the University of Minnesota that ended in 1991. The new GM has heard the criticism that predecessor Ted Thompson took from some fans for a conservative approach to free agency.
The football lifer is ready for the pressure that comes with the job.
”My mom was reading in the paper some nice comments about me. I go, `Yeah, wait `til we lose,”’ the 44-year old Gutekunst joked this week.
His task is to build a roster that restores the Packers’ status as a Super Bowl contender following the team’s first losing season since 2008.
Promoted from player personnel director [url=http://www.detroitlionsteamonline.com/customized]Customized Detroit Lions Jerseys[/url] , Gutekunst had a hand in helping Thompson shape the rosters for an organization that just had its streak of eight straight postseason appearances snapped. The Packers won the Super Bowl in the 2010 season during Thompson’s 13-year tenure.
Thompson moved to a senior adviser role in the front office two days after the season ended with a 35-11 loss at Detroit.
”I’ve grown up in football all my life and my dad went through some times at the University of Minnesota where it wasn’t very good and they weren’t saying very good things,” Gutekunst said. ”The one thing I learned about that, usually (for) the guy in the chair it’s not as hard to take. You worry about your family.”
Added Gutekunst: ”To me, for the guys who work here, you just expect it. … You have to keep moving forward.”
It is what Gutekunst has done in the game since playing college football for two seasons at Wisconsin-La Crosse. He served as an assistant coach for his final two seasons after a shoulder injury ended his playing career. Gutekunst coached the linebackers when La Crosse capped an undefeated season with the Division III national title in 1995.
That year, Gutekunst got his first taste of the pros after assisting in New Orleans Saints training camp in 1995. He was a summer scouting intern for Green Bay in 1997 and a scouting assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs the next year before returning to the Packers full time as a scout late in 1998.
Gutekunst didn’t follow his father’s advice to stay out of football entirely.
”I think looking back at it right now, the coaching business is so volatile, and moving your family every two to three years is a tough deal,” he said. ”We’ve had a lot of stability here, and I feel very thankful for that, for me and my family.”
The Packers plan to stick with a ”draft-and-develop” philosophy as the roster-building foundation, though Gutekunst has also indicated he might be more open to making additions through trades and free agency as well.
He is already starting to differentiate himself in another noticeable way.
The first transaction under the new regime was the signing of a relatively unknown running back, first-year player Joel Bouagnon out of Northern Illinois. The accompanying post on Twitter included a picture of a smiling Gutekunst next to Bouagnon.
Thompson was notoriously media-shy. Coach Mike McCarthy was often left with the task of answering questions about high-profile topics that might be more appropriate for a GM, such as when outspoken tight end Martellus Bennett was waived at midseason.
”I don’t think the new GM could do less than Ted did,” team president Mark Murphy joked last week. ”There (are) some positives that come from it, but obviously there’s some downsides … Ted saw some of the downside and decided not to be overly involved.”
According to Gutekunst, one of the first pieces of advice that Thompson offered after getting the job on Sunday was to smile more at his first press conference.
John Gutekunst told his son to be humble, and to make sure that he takes care of his staff.
”Now, you know, on Mondays after watching our game,” the younger Gutekunst said, ”he’ll tell me some other things.”
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