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Cleveland's shame complete


CLEVELAND--Let's analyze this carefully. Did the Jaguars get revenge?

Well, the Jaguars' 15-10 win over the Cleveland Browns Sunday effectively ended the Browns' playoff hopes, so that's one "yes" vote.

September 30 bad guys Corey Fuller and Gerard Warren were of little consequence in this most recent confrontation between the two teams, so that qualifies as another "yes."

Browns head coach Butch Davis, who whipped his team into a taunting and cheap-shotting frenzy for the previous game between the Browns and Jaguars, has now lost five of his last seven games and has seen much of the shine fade from his rookie season as coach. That's a "yes."

And then there's the scar Cleveland's sports image suffered when the two teams were forced to their locker rooms by a shower of beer bottles with 48 seconds remaining to be played. Ah, yes, the biggest "yes" of all.

It was a clean sweep for the Jaguars. The Browns' season and Cleveland's sports reputation were each trashed. Could it get any better than that for the Jaguars?

"Cleveland fans are passionate," Jaguars defensive tackle Seth Payne said with a wry smile on his face. "It made the win that much sweeter. It was fun. They'll be interviewing us on NFL Films about this for years."

Maybe not, Seth. This wasn't something anyone will want to recall.

This was a disgrace. Those at Cleveland Browns Stadium Sunday who mindlessly threw beer bottles and other such dangerous debris onto the field only served to reinforce the public perception of Cleveland as being an ugly place. It certainly was after referee Terry McAulay announced to the crowd that replay review was canceling the Browns' apparent drive-sustaining, fourth-down completion at the Jaguars' nine-yard line. McAulay might as well have announced, "After further review, the Jaguars win."

You would expect a city steeped in football tradition, that had suffered the heartbreak of "The Drive" and the pain of "The Fumble" and carried on with dignity, would be able to deal with McAulay's devastating news. After all, these Browns were 6-6 and headed nowhere, and they were losing to the 4-8 Jaguars. It wasn't as though the Browns were playing their hated rivals, the Steelers.

But this generation of Browns fans apparently doesn't possess the character of their fathers. The hideous display in the final minute of this meaningless game thankfully resulted in no injuries to McAulay and his officiating crew or to any of the Jaguars. There was only one injury: Cleveland's image as an esteemed professional football city suffered a mortal wound.

Maybe Art Modell made the right move.

"Have you ever seen anything like this?" Keenan McCardell was asked.

"Worse," the former Browns wide receiver said. "They were throwing chairs," he said of the day in December of 1995 when the Browns played their final game in old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, before Modell moved the team to Baltimore.

"I love this city. It's a great football city, but that disgusts me. I never thought I'd see that again," McCardell said, "but I did."

Browns President Carmen Policy, the master of spin, leaped to the front with a postgame remark to the media that should be interpreted as a slap in the face of every rules-abiding city in the NFL that doesn't suffer from Cleveland's crude idea of entertainment. Policy told reporters that if the same situation had happened to the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Jaguars fans would've reacted the same way Browns fans did.

No way, Carmen. Wayne Weaver doesn't have the same problem you have. Don't transfer your shame to Jacksonville.

This made Cleveland's shame total. Even the team's president disgraced himself. He should be fined for his remarks.

Instead of this having been a season that might be remembered as the year the Browns beat the Ravens twice, it will be forever dirtied by the picture of a field covered by trash.

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