Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hating on the Browns

Some days, I just can't help myself.

When it comes to Blood Bowl (or most things miniature and wargamey), I'm a big lover of "fluff." Some people love the tactics involved in crushing one's opponent (I like this, too); some folks are downright obsessive about modeling and painting (I've been known to while away a few hours myself). But really, without the fluff, the game would lose most of its character, coolness, and humor.

I started with Blood Bowl back in the 2nd edition, when the teams used to be arranged like the NFL (two conferences of three divisions each...this was was before the 2002 realignment or even the Jags/Panthers expansion franchises) and had equivalent play-offs rather than the Open Tournament format that began with 3rd edition. Back then, the fluff provided team histories that included records, stats, and rivalries akin to...well, akin to (American) football.

[you can say that these things still exist, but their importance as fluff has been significantly downgraded with the collapse of the League. When all the teams are wandering mercenary bands, that might or might not play another team in a decade, who cares what the past rivalries were? Any team can angle for a good prize purse by entering an open tournament and getting cunning with the matches they schedule. The fluff of the game loses much of its significance...which for me is a downgrade]

[and, yes, I realize that the reasons behind the changed (game) format is the practical problems that comes with running a league...scheduling problems, player no-shows, and player drop-outs due to poor records and not wanting to "play out the string." That's fine...but in MY little corner of the Blood Bowl universe, I'm allowed to run the League as I see fit...and I, of course, run my league in the American NFL format. When I run it at all, that is...]

One team that I always found amusing was The Hobgoblin Team, a team so stupid that its symbol was a hastily scrawled "X" on the side of their helmets, and that couldn't think up a better name for itself than "The Hobgoblin Team." Hobgoblins in the Blood Bowl world are a far cry from the organized warriors of the D&D mythos...they're a bit stronger than goblins, but a lot less intelligent, having issues even tying their boots (and when they get their boots on, they spend most of the match stomping on the feet of their fellows who couldn't figure it out). They are truly pathetic, having never had a winning record in living memory and often going 0 for 16.

Now, there's actually no "hobgoblin" team available in 2nd or 3rd edition Blood Bowl, but the Chaos Dwarf team of 3E uses hobgoblin slaves to make up the bulk of its players, and it's perfectly possible to field consisting entirely of hobgoblins and calling it The Hobgoblin Team. In fact, that's what I do with one of the two chaos dwarf teams in my seems important and appropriate to include such a team (in homage to the original fluff), and its easy to model the wild popularity of the hapless hobgoblins with all the money you save by not purchasing skill players. It's a pretty tough team to win with (even without adding the fan-based stupidity rules you find floating around the internet), but it gives you incentive to play low-down and dirty (which is in line with the team's fluff) and it's a nice team to have on hand to break out against a young player or someone just learning the game (that you don't want to totally thrash).

Not my minis, sorry (they're back in Seattle).
Of course, all my Blood Bowl teams replace (and model) specific teams in the NFL. The Hobgoblin Team is the one I use to represent the Cleveland Browns.

I want to like the Browns, I really do. But they always do such asininely stupid things during the football season that it's tough not to be irritated with them and say, 'hey, you get what you deserve.' Last year, I watched Brian Hoyer exceed expectations and give his team a chance to actually be competitive before having his leg nuked in the Bills game (it was a Thursday night when it happened...I was at the Baranof for my weekly role-playing fix and watched the game in the bar). It was a terrible bit of bad luck for the team, but I figured it at least boded well for the future...that the Browns had finally found a quarterback that could take them out of a really ugly slump.

[for folks who don't care or know much about the Browns, you might find it interesting that they've only had three winning seasons since 1990 and have finished only one season with more than six wins since 2002...the last time they made the play-offs. There's a reason why the Browns get The Hobgoblin Team]

[for non-American readers: the American football season consists of a 16 game regular season followed by the play-offs. More than a decade with a win percentage of under .400 is, frankly, terrible]

But now they had Hoyer, and a chance to build a team that might (in time) at least match the glory days of the 1980s (seven playoff appearances from 1980-1989), if not the championships of the 1950s and 60s (prior to the Super Bowl era). There was hope.

And then there was Johnny Manziel.

The Browns selected "Johnny Football" in the first round of the draft, a hot commodity in college (if controversial selection) and set-up the same kind of nipping-at-the-heels situation the NFL saw previously with Tim Tebow. Even so, the Browns started Hoyer and jumped out to a 6-3 record (and share of the division lead) after their first ten weeks. With seven games remaining, the Browns looked to control their own play-off destiny.

Then they ran into a giant buzz-saw called J.J. Watt who destroyed their offense as he's done most of this year (a year when he's being lauded as an MVP candidate). Dropping to 6-4 in a tight division race didn't help anyone's confidence.

The next week, the Browns traveled to Georgia to play the Falcons and they managed to pull out a needed road victory bringing their win total to seven...but Hoyer threw three picks during the game and despite leading the team to their best win record since Derek Anderson, people started to ask when they'd get a chance to see Johnny Manziel. Truthfully, some folks had been asking this all season. Isn't it possible that the poor showing was due to Hoyer being forced to throw to an out-of-position Josh Gordon, rusty and lacking chemistry after being suspended for most of the season due to drug violations? Yes, Gordon caught eight passes...but he was targeted 16 times. He admitted himself that he ran the wrong routes on two of his targets (that were intercepted).

The next two games were losses. First the Buffalo Bills (the same defense that handed Aaron Rogers his ass last week with four turnovers) and then against the Indianapolis Colts, losing by 1 point to 9-4 team that is (as of now) playoff bound for the second straight year. A rough patch for sure...though again (with the latter game especially), Gordon's failures (and others on the team) were as much to blame as Hoyer.

But, of course, the Browns benched the guy and went with Manziel. Stupid hobgoblins.

Now the Browns are left with a 7-7 record and are determined to "evaluate" Manziel over the last three games by starting him in place of the guy that got them the wins they have. In other words, they've given up the season, even while not mathematically eliminated from the play-offs. Sure, maybe Johnny Football will turn it around in the next three games but, you know...


Hey, what do I care? My team's playing for their division and 1st place in the NFC this week. Our coach has been pretty fearless in his roster selections when needed...going with the third string rookie over the high-priced free agent when the former gave the team the best chance to win. Trading another high priced skill player five games into the year...after gearing the whole offense to the dude in the off-season...because he was a poison to the team. Putting us in the best place to compete.

Maybe Coach Pettine felt the same when he chose to bench Hoyer for Manziel. Maybe he felt he was doing the same thing Denver did a couple years back when they benched Kyle Orton for Tim Tebow. The difference, of course, is that Orton was 1-4 five games into the season, not 7-6 with a playoff berth on the line.

But like I said, it's not my team. Hell, the Browns aren't even in the same conference as the Seahawks.   I don't even like them all that I said, their actions irritate me to no end as a football fan. What an actual fan from Cleveland thinks...well, I'd rather not speculate. At least they have LeBron these days right? All us Seattle folks have IS the least till baseball season starts.

Like I said, I want to like the Browns. I'd like to see them do well. Maybe because I hate the Steelers and I liked seeing Cleveland taking it too them this year. But, no, I think it's more about tradition: I've been waiting to see their stock rise ever since the recreation of the team Modell shipped to Baltimore.

But I guess you can't get your hopes up too high with The Hobgoblin Team, huh?


  1. X's on the hats and can't tie a shoe or boot. Yep, sounds like the Browns to me.

    1. @ Whisk:

      Says the girl from (*ahem*) Pennsylvania.
      ; )

    2. That's right, Baby. Steeler Country. Suck on that :-)

  2. Man, hating on my Steelers, JB? They only beat your Seahawks once in the Superbowl. heh

    1. @ Tim (and Whisk):

      My friends, I will continue to hate on the Steelers at least as long as Roethlisberger is on the roster. We'll see how well Pittsburgh does next year when they're playing the NFC West and not the NFC South.
      ; )

  3. I don't follow football (or any "pro sports"), so the Browns don't bother me though they are the nearest franchise to me. But then I don't get why people take credit for "their team" anyway (mostly people from other parts of the country). Are any Browns players even from Cleveland? How many Steelers are actually from Pittsburgh? It's really very childish, IMO. I'm going back to painting my toy soldiers, er military models.

    1. @ Mike:

      Before my children were born, I often found much relaxing fun painting MY toy soldiers all Sunday morning while watching the games. Add in a big pot of black coffee...heaven!
      : )

  4. Stopped in to say Happy Christmas but then I wasn't sure if you celebrated. If not, Happy 2015.

    1. @ Whisk:

      Of course I celebrate Christmas! What kind of crazy commie do you think I am!
      ; )

      Hope you and yours had a Feliz Navidad, too!