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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Browns' leadership sends wrong message to fans

By Mike Lopresti
Gannett News Service

Jacksonville's Kyle Brady negotiated a minefield of beer bottles deposited by angry Cleveland fans during Sunday's game. "I like the fact our fans care," said Browns president Carmen Policy.

Associated Press

We begin with a given. It is never excusable, or sane, for a fan to throw a beer bottle onto the field.

Doesn't matter if the bottle is glass or plastic. Full or empty. Michelob or Bud or Pabst.

Doesn't matter if it's over a bad call or no call or a reversed call. Whether it hits the target or misses, and whether anyone leaves the field bleeding or just terrified.

Doesn't matter if the perpetrators doing the heaving are young or old, men or women, drunk or sober.

There is no room, not an inch, to alibi for it, rationalize it, explain it, or put a spin on it.

It is wrong. It is stupid. It is thuggish. It was that way yesterday, that way today and will be that way tomorrow.

Except, apparently, in Cleveland.

The referees botched a replay situation Sunday in the last minutes of the Cleveland-Jacksonville game. Or at least sloppily enforced it. They deserved to be booed, maybe.

But thrown at? Does a Cleveland Browns ticket now entitle violence, if the call is costly enough?

The high command of the Browns ought to be ashamed of itself. Ought to apologize. Ought to be fined a heavy ransom.

The NFL does not hesitate to fine coaches for an unkind word or two over a holding call. The league is never derelict in fining players for not wearing their uniforms just right.

This rises above that. For an owner and president of a professional sports team to wink at anarchy, to dismiss a beer bottle barrage, to even indirectly praise the motivation behind hurling something at an official ... well, in a league that so values public image, it is hard to imagine a club looking more appalling.

"It wasn't World War III," said Al Lerner, the Browns owner, after a good many of his customers littered the field with projectiles Sunday.

I take this to mean Lerner would prefer that all future fan outbursts in his stadium try to avoid gunfire.

"I don't think they carry much of a wallop," team owner Carmen Policy said, shrugging off all those flying bottles, which were, after all, only plastic.

"I like the fact our fans care," Policy said of their behavior.

No they don't. Not people who hurl bottles or anything else.

They don't care about being fans. They don't care about being adults. They don't care about football.

They care about being hooligans.

This was a football game. A close football game. In the end, a terribly disappointing football game to the Cleveland fans. But just a game.

Is that where we are now? Letting dejection in the grandstand over a fourth down incompletion grant a license for uncivilized behavior?

If so, the message is lousy. When it comes to throwing objects, the line should be clear and fixed.

Fans can't do it. Never. Ever. And if they do, the club minces no words in its rebuke. And if it takes banning alcohol, then ban it.

You start moving the line of what is intolerable, you ask for a game of chaos.