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The Cleveland Browns Effect

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield celebrates after scoring a 2-point conversion during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018, in Cleveland Photo: Associated Press

By Royce Jeffrey |

There exists a thin, translucent layer of tightly woven fabric that separates the probable from the improbable. Pressed against this barrier, we can watch unlikely events as they unfold on the other side: the unbearable boss being transferred, or the insufferably loud neighborhood dog going to live on that big, wonderful farm all pets eventually move to. They throb and vibrate with hope and possibility, but rarely play out the way that we envision—this holds true for sports as well.

But every now and then, an improbable event slips through a tiny tear in this fabric, bursting with color and pinging off the drab walls of predictability we have erected in our consciousness: The ’69 Miracle Mets, Ali not just outpointing, but knocking out Big George Foreman, Kerri Strug sticking her famous Olympic one-legged landing off the vault.  But these occurrences are rare, and happen with about the same frequency as pay-per-view boxing worth buying.

But the Cleveland Browns winning their first game behind rookie Baker Mayfield since the 2016 season seems to have torn open this narrow slit, allowing myriad extreme rarities and long shots to stampede through, their pounding hooves rattling the sports world and leaving an almost unrecognizable landscape for us to sift through for some semblance of sense.

First it was the 29 point underdog Old Dominion Monarchs knocking off the No. 13 ranked Virginia Tech Hokies, relying on a second string quarterback who shredded the Hokies for 495 yards passing.

Next, it was the upstart Atlanta Braves turn to shake things up, clinching their division after starting the season with 300-1 odds to reach the World Series. Retrace your steps to early April and search for just one baseball writer who hadn’t already gift-wrapped the division for the underachieving Washington Nationals.

Tiger Woods even drove through the gaping hole, seizing his first victory on tour since 2013 by winning the Tour Championship; his red shirt no longer a painful symbol of lost glory, but once again burning with the desire and power we came to associate with Woods on Sunday—if only for a day.

In NFL action, we were delivered the biggest upset in the past 23 years when the previously hapless Buffalo Bills blew the lid off the dome where the overconfident Minnesota Vikings call home by beating them into their own artificial turf.

The weekend wrapped up with the similarly winless Lions humiliating NFL royalty in the New England Patriots. The Patriots had their offensive production completely choked off in front of a national TV audience, and were held to their lowest point output since the 2015 season. Their record now sits below .500 after three games. Could the undefeated Miami Dolphins be on their way to seizing the AFC East, which like the NL East had been declared a no-contest in the preseason?

Fair is foul and foul is fair— it seems like anything and everything is possible after Cleveland’s victory.

Royce Jeffrey is an elementary teacher in Baltimore, Md., and a freelance writer. His credentials include writing for the Baltimore Sun, Sports Illustrated, and the Washington Post.

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