The Cleveland Browns have made the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Just barely. They squeaked into a wild card spot after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just barely. As I have worked on this article the obstacles towards winning their wild-card game have grown. In true Browns fashion, 3 members of the coaching staff have contracted COVID-19 including the head coach. Four other offensive coaches are out due to COVID protocols. Despite everything standing in their way, there are believers in a Browns upset out there.

From 2016-2017 the Browns were 1-31. They were terrible. It was hard to watch. It was hard to be a fan. Those years were hard for many of us to be NFL fans. Concussions and CTE were being discussed heavily in the media. The 2016 season was the season that saw Colin Kaepernick take a knee. It was the year I thought my NFL fandom was over. It was hard to stomach an organization that would treat its players the way Kap was treated.

But still, I kept watching. I like the game. And I’m a sucker for the bandwagon. I like cheering for my teams when they are winning. Really who doesn’t? Not only that, I’m a Browns fan. Browns fans are different. They stick around. They were there for the bad years and now for the better years. I will admit I wasn’t the most ardent Brown’s fan during the bad years. But I still cared. I still hoped they might be good. That they might turn it around. Now, here we are.

The NFL is exciting. I truly enjoy watching the game. You can tell they are working on making the game both safer and more exciting. Defense for most teams has been put out with the trash in favor of higher scores and fewer injuries.

Can you separate the game from the league? It’s hard that’s for sure. With this most recent wave of COVID cases, it becomes even harder. Fans have to ask the question as to whether the season should have been played at all. Several teams have been hit by coronavirus outbreaks and had to play without starters, coaches, and in the case of Denver Broncos in Week 12 any of their four quarterbacks. Here like with the Browns heading into their wild-card game, the league wasn’t just sacrificing player health they offered up competitive-fairness.

Even with near-empty stadiums, those TV deals are lucrative. The NFL didn’t want to or couldn’t afford to lose those. You could argue that they sacrificed the health and safety of their players and coaches in service of the larger profit. And as I continue to work on this article the state of US politics continues to deteriorate. It must be noted that there are several NFL owners who supported the current President in the past. The current president, who incited an insurrection, has received campaign donations from some of these owners.

I want the NFL to be a better sports league. To treat their players fairly. To maintain safe working conditions. I want to know the profits won’t go to the political campaigns of feckless leaders. I want games to be competitive and fair. Ultimately, I want to be able to watch the game with a clearer conscience.