Free-Agent Fan Considers NFL Home

by Kevin Burton

   I expect to confirm a new home for my valuable NFL fandom next month.

   The league announced this week that it will hold its annual draft as scheduled April 23-25, albeit without fans in attendance because of the Coronavirus.

   At draft time two years ago, I felt the need to declare publicly that if my favorite NFL team, the Cleveland Browns, drafted Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, I would jump off the bandwagon.

   They drafted him, I bolted.

   I remembered my protest posts as being white hot. But when I read them recently I found them pretty tame.

   Most of my fury came out not on Facebook, but in a later phone call with my brother. I was sputtering. Talked about using my Browns sweatshirt to clean out the cat litter box. I had him cracking up. He thought I would cool down though and go back to the Browns.

   I did not, I have not. I will not.

   I did not like Baker Mayfield because he planted the Oklahoma flag at midfield when his sooners won at Ohio State his senior year.

   I noted with glee when an Iowa State player did the same to Oklahoma when the Cyclones upset them at Norman.

   But flag planting is far from the worst of Mayfield’s sins. Mayfield’s “greatest hits” include drunkenly running from cops in Arkansas before being tackled and arrested, a crotch-grabbing incident at Kansas, staring down his former coach Hue Jackson during a game.

   ESPN reporter Adam Schefter spoke to two general managers about Mayfield before the 2018 draft. One called him the best quarterback in the draft while the other called him “That six-foot jerk.”   This was reported by Adam Leberfeld who covers the New York Jets.

   I had been loyal to Cleveland through thin and thin.  They followed a one-win season in 2016 with a no win season in 2017 but I stayed with them. I even claimed them when I had a chance for glory by association with another team.

   Between 2009 and 2015 Cincinnati made the playoffs six times.  People who knew I was from Ohio, but did not know my football allegiances, would congratulate me.

   “Hey…Bengals!” they would say.

   I owned up to it though, every time, saying “I’m a Browns guy.” 

   After that, awkward silences. “Ooo” people would say almost involuntarily.  “Tough break” is what they meant.

   In my post-Browns time I cast about for a team or teams to follow.  I came up with New Orleans and Green Bay.  I like them just fine but think my interest in them is heavily tied to their veteran quarterbacks who I admire. Not sure that will last once they retire.

   Cincinnati has the first pick in the 2020 draft. They are expected to select LSU quarterback and Ohio native Joe Burrow. If they do, they will also get a somewhat less-valuable asset, me. 

   Cincinnati was the very first team I rooted for, before I started going to school in Columbus and gradually switched to Cleveland.

   Rooting for Kansas City makes sense geographically because I live in Kansas. But with KC as the reigning champs, joining them would be way too bandwagon. 

   My departure from the Browns was not a big financial hit for the team. Actually it was no hit at all.  I haven’t bought any NFL gear in quite a while.

   But I have just checked out the Bengals website and Amazon Smile. There are plenty of choices for Bengals gear and I will buy something in April, something practical.

   All they have to do is make the right pick.

   Right now I just hope in another month we once again have the luxury of sports to look forward to.

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