I sat in a stunned silence and watched the horror unfold.
It wasn't an ordinary Sunday afternoon, because nothing in 2020 is ordinary. But the NFL's kickoff was supposed to give people across the country at large a semblance of normalcy.
The Cleveland Browns got their 2020 season started in remarkably unordinary fashion. Baker Mayfield and Co., went up against divisional rival Baltimore in an empty Ravens stadium. It was an eerie and unfamiliar scene, but the waves of deja vu started flooding in as the action unfolded.
The Ravens raced out to a 10-0 lead thanks to a Mayfield interception // eye-twitch // and a fake punt that was doomed from the start // violent body jerk //, which set Lamar Jackson up in plus-territory in Baltimore's first two possessions.
That 72-second clip provides everything you need to know about the Browns' season-opener. Unexplainable penalties, infuriating dropped passes and maddening coaching decisions played out like a Wes Craven film, and the result was a 38-6 Browns loss that could have, and should have, been much worse in the end.
And yet, 500 miles west, things weren't going much better for Cincinnati.
That's relative phrasing. The Bengals didn't get bulldozed by one of the favorites to make a Super Bowl run. They just lost in agonizing, yet familiar fashion to a team that will likely be angling for draft position by season's end.
That team was the Los Angeles Chargers, who are exactly one game into replacing likely Hall of Famer Phillip Rivers at quarterback. Rivers' replacement, NFL journeyman Tyrod Taylor, traded blows with the Bengals' new savior in quarterback Joe Burrow, who threw for 193 yards in his NFL debut.
Cincinnati had a chance to extend the game at the end. With just over three minutes to go and his team trailing 16-13, Burrow took over at his own 18 and drove the Bengals down the field. It was an inspiring effort for a rookie playing in his first start. But after an offensive pass interference penalty against A.J. Green took a game-winning touchdown off the board, Cincinnati kicker Randy Bullock went wide right on a 31-yard gimme in the game's final seconds, giving the Chargers a win instead of forcing overtime.
Pulling a calf muscle while attempting a game-tying field goal is extremely not ideal, but it's the kind of Bengals/2020 energy we've come to expect.
This is the state of high-level football in the state of Ohio right now. High school action is of course taking place, but without Ohio State football, this is what people from the Buckeye State have to look forward to during the weekends.
It can't be this way. This can't be how we end one of the most challenging years any of us have ever experienced.
And that's where the Big Ten's excruciatingly important decision comes into play.
Since the league came down with its decision to postpone Big Ten football action back to at least the winter of 2021, there's been a cloud hanging over Ohio football fans.
That cloud hovers over Browns and Bengals fans alike, and over the years, Ohio State's successes have overshadowed Cleveland and Cincinnati's failures. It's easier to take on Sunday's failures when you can experience football's mountaintop on Saturday.
That's why the Big Ten's looming decision to resume a fall football season means so much for Ohio football fans. Buckeye natives don't get to experience football nirvana on Sundays. They rely on Saturdays for that experience.
Momentum for a fall season and a chance to be included in this year's College Football Playoff seem to be shifting toward Ohio State and the Big Ten's favor. That reality will unfold for fans of higher-level Ohio football this week.
If it doesn't come to pass, Cleveland and Cincinnati fans will have to settle for who will and won't finish in the AFC North's basement, though that answer will likely be filled out for us when the Browns and Bengals face off against each other this Thursday.