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Ravens-Browns Proves, Yet Again, That We Needed Sports in 2020

What’d you think of the game last night? That’s what people used to say on a day like this in the office, back when people saw each other face-to-face. Those were the good old days, way back around February or so. Seems like forever.

But on Monday Night Football last night, the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns 47-42 in a moment that emerged like an unexpected sunrise on a gloomy day. Baltimore quarterback and league MVP Lamar Jackson left the game because of cramping — yes, cramping — and got an IV. Then, with two minutes left and the Ravens about to lose with fourth down and the backup QB lying on the field in pain, playoff hopes fading, Jackson emerged from the locker room, scrambled and threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Marquis Brown with less than 2 minutes left.

What did you think of the game? It wasn’t over. Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield took the Browns 75 yards in 47 seconds for another touchdown. What did you think? Still not over. Jackson got Baltimore back for Justin Tucker’s 55-yard game-winning field goal. That still left a fluky multi-lateral, multi-fumble play for Cleveland, ending in a safety for Baltimore.

What did you think of the game last night? Here’s the story: Sports were simply fun. That game was transcendent. Everything in sports now is so clouded and blocked and skewed. It’s hard to remember how great a great game can be.

Luckily the governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, extended the state’s COVID curfew for a few hours so they could play the game. Apparently, big gatherings are an issue for everyone except sports.

But just think of the past 72 hours and the other sports news that Jackson’s emergence from the locker room had to contend with.

Am I talking about COVID and cancel culture again? That’s all we ever talk about anymore. 

Cleveland was able to take a breath after its beloved baseball team announced it was going to change its name and not be the Indians anymore.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL won’t try to butt into line for the vaccine. The attorney general stepped down Monday after his little flap with lame duck President Trump. Lame-duck ACC commissioner stood up for his decision to allow Notre Dame and Clemson to take off their final regular-season game. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey had been critical of the ACC for that, most likely because he hadn’t thought of it first.

“That rings pretty hollow to me,’’ ACC commissioner John Swofford told ESPN.

Yeah, sure. It was clearly a play to try to get two teams into the College Football Playoff, allowing Notre Dame and Clemson to dodge the risk of an upset before they play each other in the ACC Championship Game. Meanwhile, everyone was beating up on the Big Ten for allowing Ohio State to get into its conference championship game without having played enough games to get there.

Let’s see: Auburn fired football coach Gus Malzahn and gave him more than $21 million to leave while athletic departments around the country are cutting out non-revenue sports as a way of making sure the football teams don’t have to suffer at all following revenue losses because of COVID.

So we’ve covered COVID, the vaccine, cancel culture, Trump. Oh yeah, Kyrie Irving and … wait, where was I? 

Oh yeah, the game. 

Years ago, I was hired by the Akron newspaper to write about these Browns. These Browns, not the ones who longtime Cleveland owner Art Modell took from the city and went to. . .Baltimore. Yes, this was the current Cleveland Browns vs. the former Cleveland Browns.

I do remember going to the Ravens’ first home game and seeing Modell sit up there in his suite, newly beloved. Meanwhile, Cleveland was the loser again. Just like with so many rustbelt cities, the town’s identity was its NFL team. The Browns were about being on the wrong end of John Elway’s drive and the wrong end of Bill Belichick’s career, though Cleveland’s basketball team was on the wrong end of Michael Jordan’s shot, too.

In the years since the NFL gave Cleveland another Browns, they haven’t been close enough to lose the big one. They had Johnny Manziel, instead.

But now they finally have a real team, and a win Monday Night would have given them a shot at winning the division over Pittsburgh.

It was a magical finish for the Ravens followed by one for the Browns followed by another one for the Ravens.

Other than maybe the Notre Dame-Clemson game, this was the sports moment of the year. That could’ve been LeBron James and the Lakers, but we were overly inundated by Black Lives Matter and social justice. There was no escape for pure, simple fun.

I know gamblers were hurt/helped by that final safety, as it made the difference in the spread. Too bad. Also, social media is about snark, so everyone decided that Jackson wasn’t cramping at all, and just going to the bathroom.

If it takes bathroom humor for some people to enjoy sports, that’s sad. As my wife, daughter and I somehow gravitated toward a game together maybe for the first time since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, it was just a sports moment to enjoy.

That’s what I thought of the game last night. Football broke through the clouds of 2020 and carried the day.

Written by Greg Couch

Greg earned the 2007 Peter Lisagor Award as the best sports columnist in the Chicagoland area for his work with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he started as a college football writer in 1997 before becoming a general columnist in 2003. He also won a Lisagor in 2016 for his commentary in RollingStone.com and The Guardian.

Couch penned articles and columns for CNN.com/Bleacher Report, AOL Fanhouse, and The Sporting News and contributed as a writer and on-air analyst for FoxSports.com and Fox Sports 1 TV. In his journalistic roles, Couch has covered the grandest stages of tennis from Wimbledon to the Olympics, among numerous national and international sporting spectacles. He also won first place awards from the U.S. Tennis Writers Association for his event coverage and column writing on the sport in 2010.

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  1. It was a great game no doubt. But it felt so empty. Hardly any fans and the businesses in the area can’t capitalize. So really the real winners are the tv executives and the players who get the money. Everyone else… “Stay home be safe and wear a mask 😷”

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