Root, root, root for which team?
The NFL playoffs have a distinctive Cleveland flavor, and it's the kind that makes us want to throw up like Nicole Richie after Thanksgiving dinner.
Just who do we root for this time around? Newly beloved Eagles quarterback Jeff Garcia, who actually embarrassed the embarrassing Browns during his short time here? The disgusting Baltimore Ravens? The always-ready-to-disappoint Marty Schottenheimer, whose teams have flamed out spectacularly in the playoffs not only here, but in Kansas City and San Diego as well? Or how about the New Orleans Saints, whose offensive line is anchored by center Jeff Faine, cast off by the Browns just before signing old New Orleans Saints center LeCharles Bentley? The Indianapolis Colts, whose move from Baltimore way back when opened the door for Art Modell to move our Browns there in the first place? Good ole Bill Belichick, the NFL's newest genius????
At least the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't make the playoffs. This year.
Browns fans have been dumped on so many times, we can't turn around without bumping into someone who's kicked us in the rear. We're like a puppy that was beaten for the first six months of its life; there's no one we trust. Except in our case, we've been beaten for the last 43 years or so.
But we can't spend our lives being bitter. We'll end up like those angry sports talk radio callers who are always yelling for the coach to be fired or the backup quarterback to start. We have to find the path to enlightment.
With that in mind, here's your guide for the rest of the playoffs -- the reasons both to root for and against each of the remaining teams.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Pros: Marty Schottenheimer's really one of us. He suffered the playoff losses to the Denver Broncos and held his head high. He's carried the stink of "Martyball" with him from the time he made Bernie Kosar hand the ball off to Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner over and over again. The label's hung with him as he's posted a 5-12 career playoff record. And tight end Antonio Gates is a Kent State product.
Cons: Rooting for Marty Schottenheimer is hazardous to your health. All Chargers games -- heck, all games Marty coaches -- should carry a Surgeon General's warning. Expect the worst when you root for one of Marty's teams, and you won't be disappointed.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Pros: We treated Bill Belichick like a leper when he was here and would have chased him out of town if Art Modell didn't take our team away first. But he's reinvented himself in New England, and there's no questioning three Super Bowl titles in four years. You might not like Belichick, but the Patriots have been a class act led by quarterback Tom Brady. Plus offensive coordinator/quarterbacks Josh McDaniels is a John Carroll grad and Canton product.
Cons: The Patriots have won plenty already. And Bill Belichick WAS a real ass when he was here.
Pros: It's nice to see Jeff Garcia rise from the dead along with the Eagles. He's on the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated. And if we're lucky and the Eagles keep winning we'll get to see more pictures of Garcia's fiancee, Avon Lake native Carmela DeCesare. Plus the Eagles have cool univorms.
Cons: Until this year, Jeff Garcia had won just one game after leaving Cleveland, and that was AGAINST the Browns as quarterback of the Detroit Lions last year. And when he found himself in the middle of a catfight between his old and new girlfriends in the Warehouse District during the 2004 season, he did something no one thought could be done -- he embarrassed one of the NFL's most dysfunctional franchises.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Pros: They're the new America's team. Reggie Bush is a rising star. The offensive is the best in league and fun to watch. And maybe the Browns did have a good offensive lineman after all in Faine.
Cons: It's just not fair. Why can teams continually go from worst to first, as long as they don't play the majority of their games in Cleveland. Plus, Jeff Faine anchors the offensive line. We all know the Browns haven't had any good offensive lineman since they returned!
Pros: Uh, they're nice guys? Starbucks is yummy?
Cons: They were just there last year!
Pros: A kick-ass defense is what football is all about. Chicago is almost a sister city to Cleveland. Or at least a parent city, cuz it's the city we want to grow up to be. And though the Bears is one of the NFL's storied franchises, they've been fairly downtrodden over the last 10 years or so for their 1985 Super Bowl championship.
Cons: The Bears are still living off of that 1985 Super Bowl championship. Then there's the White Sox, Michael Jordan, and the World's Largest Tavern a.k.a Wrigley Field, where the Cubs perennially disappoint. They got plenty in Chicago, they don't need another Super Bowl title.
Pros: Peyton Manning is one of the NFL's good guys, even if he does throw his offensive line or defense or idiot kicker under the bus every now and then. Tony Dungy is a class act. And they've been a fun offense to watch for years.
Cons: It's the Colts fault the Browns moved to Baltimore to begin with. First, they drafted John Elway, then didn't want to pay him enough money, so he held out and went to Denver. While there, he crushed Browns fans dreams. Then the Colts snuck out of Baltimore, leaving a gaping hole that Art Modell eventually filled.
Pros: You've got to be kidding me! Screw the Ravens!!!!!
So here's your choices of who to root for -- either the Chargers, Bears, or Seahawks. It'll be just like rooting for the Browns if you root for the Chargers, since Marty Schottenheimer is sure to break your heart. If you don't want your heart broken, root for the Bears. One of you friends or one of your friends' kids is sure to move there for a job soon anyway and become a Bears fans. Safest of all is the Seahawks. They're the guilt-free choice in 2007.