Hopelessly Devoted: A Look At the 30th Annual Browns Backers Banquet

19 05 2010

As I nestled into my seat at the dinner table of the 30th Annual Browns Backers Banquet, I noticed a young couple setting up camp as well. They had brought their baby with them, sporting an infant sized Cribbs jersey and everything.

“Starting him off early, I see?”

“Oh yeah,” the mom responded with a quiet laugh.

“Seems a little cruel and unusual to do to a baby. Save him while you still can!” My Dad joked.

“No, no! He’s going to help change Cleveland’s luck!” Both parents countered, with a hint of a chuckle… but one could tell they were entirely serious.

And with that little baby in the Cribbs jersey, the everlasting fountain of Cleveland sports optimism continues.

You have to be an optimist to survive as a Cleveland sports fan. We all know that. If it weren’t for the hope and promise of Next Year, we wouldn’t be able to do it. A lot of folks who don’t understand might ask why we even bother. But it’s not like we could give up. Because when the planets finally align and the Tribe wins the World Series, the Cavs win the NBA Championship, or the Browns win the Super Bowl… all those years of hardships will make the celebratory champagne taste that much better.

At the Browns Backers Banquet, this unbridled optimism was apparent throughout the night.

Now, for some highlights of the night:

  • In order to get fans excited about the future, they looked into a chapter of the Browns storied past: The Kardiac Kids. Several members of the Browns from the early 80’s were in attendance, as well as the Head Coach of the team, Sam Rutigliano.
  • Rutigliano was one of the first speakers. He had several thoughts to share, including:
    • Why fans can legitimately have hope: Heckert, Holmgren and Mangini are easily the best personnel that has been in place for the Browns since their return. The front office is filled both talent and experience.
    • The team is also finally beginning to put a premium on effort in their search for players. Josh Cribbs and David Bowens being prime examples, both of whom were in attendance.
    • He particularly singled out Cribbs for his performance and handling of the contract situation. He didn’t make a big fuss about it in the media, just went out and played his heart out every sunday. Rutigliano even dropped a favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quote of mine to describe Cribbs: “What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.” Deep.
    • Lastly, he praised the fans for their unrelenting loyalty to the Browns. Pointed out that no other city has gotten their team back (and name and colors) within three years of leaving and that that says something special about the Browns fans. Thanks, Sam.
  • David Bowens wins “Good Guy” Award
    • The “Good Guy” award is voted on by writers who cover the team. It basically goes to whoever the writer’s think is, well, a good guy. Someone who is easy to talk to, gives some good quotes, and is respectful to the media.
    • Bowens on why he is so good with the media: “When I was 15, I had my first interview. I was so nervous, but then my mom gave me some great advice: ‘Just don’t say anything that will make you look stupid.'” Well, I think Mrs. Bowens would be proud.
  • Joshua Cribbs wins “Player of the Year” Award
    • You could have knocked me over with a feather after that announcement.
    • I suppose Joe Thomas could always be in consideration for the award. Jerome Harrison would have won it if it were based on just the last five games of the year. But the 2009-2010 season was Josh Cribbs’ year, make no mistake about it.
  • Tom Heckert speaks
    • His dad was a scout for the Browns, and he grew up a fan of those Kardiac Kid teams. That must be why he decided to take the lateral career move from the Eagles to the Browns. Cool.
    • In the most definitive statement of the night, Heckert declares “We’re not in this thing to quote, unquote ‘Rebuild.’ We’re here to win. And that’s not just lip service.” Now, I don’t know if he really believes that, or if he was just saying that to appease a room full of die hard Browns fans. But he sounded sincere.
    • Hell, the Dolphins went to the playoffs a year after going 1-15. No one saw that coming. Why can’t that be the Browns in 2010? Optimism. It’s our lifeblood.
    • Wait. Did he just say lip service? That sounds like some kind of Amsterdam Red Light District special.
  • Don Cockroft is writing a book. He swears!
  • On the drive down to Akron for the banquet, my dad’s buddy Grant told us about how Don Cockroft, the Browns kicker/punter for several years, had been coming to this banquet the past five years to tell people about this book he has been writing. Three years ago, he asked people about pre-ordering it. It still hasn’t been finished.
  • So when Cockroft came up to the stand this year, Grant mumbles “I swear, if he brings up that damned book again, I’m throwing my mashed potatoes at that podium.” Cockroft: “As many of you know, I’ve been working on a book. I promise it will be finished soon.” Grant in turn delivered a “*Cough*BullSh*t*Cough*” that drew a respectable amount of chuckling from our corner.
  • Funniest thing about the book thing? It was revealed this year that he has a co-writer too! I don’t know why I think this is so funny.
  • By the way, is there another former Browns player with a better porn name than Don Cockroft? This is an entirely serious question. E-mail me any other contenders.
  • A random thing that happened that might only interest me:
    • When looking for a bathroom, I saw Mary Kay Cabot in an empty hallway pacing back and forth telling someone over the phone her scoop on Heckert’s take on the Matt Roth trade request. Then five minutes later, it was on the PD Browns website, and on twitter. That was kind of cool. Plus, she’s oddly hot in person.
  • Tom Heckert denied my resume. It was a shameless attempt, but nonetheless I’m glad I tried.
    • “Mr. Heckert.. Sam Toth here, glad to see you with the Browns. Loving the work you’ve done thus far,” I say as I hand him a legal pad to autograph.
      “Oh, why thank you,” he responds while signs his John Hancock.
      “Also, just wondering if you had any advice for a recent college graduate trying to make it into the Browns organization…”
      “Uh, well I guess the best thing for you to so is to try to get an internship. So I guess just send in your resume,” as he hands back the legal pad… a legal pad that was located inside of my resume binder.
      “Well, actually, I have a resume right here if you’re interested. I know your busy, but-”
      “Uhhhhhhh, yeah, I don’t think I can take that right now.”
    • Again, it was shameless. And again, I don’t care.
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