The Cleveland Browns go into their Week 17 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers facing the possibility of going winless for the entire 2017 season. Only one NFL team has ever gone 0-16 during the regular season, the 2008 Detroit Lions.
If the Browns manage to win on Sunday, it will still be the second consecutive season in which the team earned only one victory. Whether it’s a 1-31 or 2-30 stretch, that’s a brutal two seasons of football for any fanbase to endure. (Should we include 2015’s 3-13 record in this slog as well?)
A Huron, Ohio man joked that it was too much to endure in his obituary. Paul Stark died last Wednesday at the age of 80, and the first line of his obituary in the Sandusky Register said that he passed away due to “complications from a brief illness, exacerbated by the hopeless condition of the Cleveland Browns.”
Had Stark managed to hang on for a few days, it’s possible that he would have seen the Browns win their first game of the season. The Steelers have placed most of their star players on the inactive list for Sunday’s game, which would appear to help Cleveland’s chances of avoiding a zero in that 2017 win column.
Steelers’ inactives are a veritable Pro Bowl team:
Browns couldn’t ask for any more help….
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 31, 2017
But what would one more win have really meant? Stark and his fellow Browns fans have endured too much. The damage is done.
Yet Stark maintained optimism until the very end for his beloved Browns. One of the final lines of his obituary expressed the never-ending hope that all sports fans hold for their favorite teams.
“Paul passed just before the Browns were prepared to turn the corner, but had many well-earned blessings. Paul believed in paying it forward, and the goodwill he leaves behind will endure long after he’s gone.”
“Prepared to turn the corner”? Why go into the afterlife, if you believe in such a concept, with negativity? It’s an admirable outlook.
The Browns will reportedly bring back head coach Hue Jackson next year for a third season, and he’ll try to push his team over that one-win hump. But the No. 1 overall pick (Cleveland’s second consecutive top selection) could bring the franchise quarterback that the team so desperately needs. Maybe that will help steer the Browns around that corner which Stark envisioned.
Stark leaves behind three children who will hopefully see more success from the Browns than their father did. Or at the very least, let’s hope that if Cleveland’s pro football team continues to be hapless, those failures won’t have the same effect on their health (and that of his five grandchildren). May hope spring eternal for Mr. Stark and his fellow Browns fans.