But things feel different from 300 miles away.
There’s a communal sense to the Cleveland Browns. It teeters between bliss and delusion, except that it teeters to the delusional side roughly 90% of the time.
There are no less than five Cleveland Browns bars within one mile of my apartment in Chicago. Five are needed to satiate the rabid fan-base that comes to life every September.
Less than one is needed by January.
On the morning of the season opener, I made the trek toward a friend’s house, making a point to walk past two of the Browns bars to confirm that my brethren were in the spirit by 11:00 Central time (they were).
I heard the familiar faithful smattering of “Go Browns!” from complete strangers. At equal times it warmed my heart and added to my concern; people seemed genuinely optimistic about the team that has not given any reason for optimism since Blossom was on TV. But I kept my chin up. We shared high fives and smiles as I wandered down the road toward Tom’s house (name kept same for posterity purposes).
We had a solid group of seven Browns fans whose company – and pizza/dip/pizza-dip – helped us almost forget what we were watching.
After the game though…that’s when the story really happens. On my way home, I didn’t need to look at someone’s shirt to see if they were Clevelanders or not. It’s a look, a demeanor, and a familiar sting in an unfamiliar city.
I sat on the bus with my jersey over my shoulder because I didn’t even want people to know that I vicariously felt like a loser. I looked up after traveling a few blocks and noticed someone with a vacant stare and a shirt over their shoulder.
We caught eyes, nodded, sighed, and went home.
The silver-plated lining is the hope that next week, we’ll high five instead.