For those who can remember, and for those who only saw it on the ESPN movie, Believeland, he is the player whose fumble at the goal line in Denver ended the Browns Superbowl run in 1987. That is what ESPN wants you to remember - The Fumble - but I have always refused to do that. Byner was a darn good football player who played on some darn good teams, who wouldn't have been darn good without him. For me, it was not his fumble, but Jeremiah Castille's great play when his team needed it. But it's not as good of theater for many.
I always thought Byner was unfairly judged. Truth is, what happened to Byner that day was tough for all of us fans to accept. It hurt. But now, 29 years later I have learned our pain, the fans, was nothing in the grand scheme of things. We got off easy.
The slow motion footage of Byner on the ground at Mile High Stadium was hard to watch as he is in emotional agony. And it's harder to watch now - than then. Because now, we realize, Byner was just a 25 year old guy, who in about 5 seconds had the entire weight of a major city placed on his shoulders, not just for that Sunday, but forever. He was made to carry the Browns, Indians and the Cavaliers failures from that moment forward. Think about that, he was only 25 years old at that time. It wasn't fair then, and it's not fair now.
Talking with Byner, it is clear he is comfortable in his own skin and has turned that early Sunday evening agony into a positive outlook. And we should be able to as well, as we only carry our own weight, and not the weight of all. Good lesson for all of us, life is filled with things that require perspective. Real perspective, and it's a good time of the year to be reminded of it.
Because if Earnest Byner can accept that what happened that day, was only a tiny moment in time, in a good life lived, the rest of us are charged to do the same.