I’ve written about a number of talking points this offseason at Dawg Pound Daily. I’ve talked about the draft before it happened. I’ve talked about the new quarterback. I’ve talked about the freakish running back. I’ve talked about leaving it in the hands of the front office. I’ve talked about the Combine, the previous season, and Robert Griffin III. I’ve even talked about Hines Ward, fer cryin’ out loud. On top of all of that, I even wrote about how there isn’t much to talk about this offseason.
So now, in contrast to all of that, I’d like to talk about something incredibly simple: the Cleveland Browns.
Being a Browns fan is the tie that binds. It’s the reason that you’re here in summer and reading about what some guy you’ve never met has to say about the team (Except, of course, for the few of you I’ve met. Hi mom!). It’s the reason you go to games and hug strangers on the rare occasion the Browns get in for six or have a great stop on defense. It’s the reason you can be in another city, thousands of miles from Cleveland, and start talking to a stranger about whether or not Colt McCoy’s injuries cost him or if it was just not the right fit.
Being a Browns fan is like being part of a strange club. You pay money (in some way) to join, then get your heart crapped on by guys you’ll never meet but idolize anyway, and then repeat every year until you have kids and realize that some things are more important; that is, until your kid is old enough to watch the games comfortably with you.
It’s about knowing that everyone has a price, but also knowing that no one is ever going to offer the price that you’d require to give up your loyalty. It’s also about seeing someone give up their loyalty to the city/team at their price and then irrationally hating them forever.
Being a Browns fan doesn’t have rules. It doesn’t mean you can’t root for Team X in a certain game – you can, you’ll just have to justify it to the rest of the fans. Usually this is best done by saying “It’s not like the Browns are going to show up, take over for Team Y, and then win it on their own, right?” and then giving that person a beer/brat.
It’s about justifying things that seem unjustifiable, like going to an NFL game at all, for instance. After all, why do people still go to games? How is it not more fun to get ten people in front of a big TV, drop a total of $40 – or five beers at a stadium – and get food and beverages galore? Am I taking crazy pills? I know there’s something primal about chest-bumping a stranger after a touchdown, but come on, I’m not ever paying more than face value for an NFL ticket.
Being a Browns fan breeds thousands of created-then-ignored blogs about the team and infinitely more discussions about next to nothing. It takes a special kind of person to deal with it, the kind whose parents allowed them to be born within 75 miles of Cleveland.
You see, it’s not like we’re some different race where we can just say “You don’t get it” to other people, because the only reason we root for the team is because it’s where we’re from. There’s simply a sense of unity when there’s something to rally around. Mediocrity doesn’t create unity – it’s either good times or bad that bring people together.
We’ve been rallying together over the bad times in Cleveland for long enough, especially Browns fans, but I don’t need to go into detail on that. Instead, try thinking back to a Cleveland Indians playoff game from 1995-1999. Hopefully you were lucky enough to go to one, and even luckier, able to see a winner. Think back to the pure jubilation outside of Jacobs Field after that game. Can you even speculate how many strangers you celebrated with?
I, for one, vividly recall my grandmother opening the sunroof on her car and waving her index finger wildly and shouting “We’re number one! We’re number one!” after a victory over the Red Sox. People were reaching into the window to high five us. It was mayhem. It was chaos. It was heaven.
I want to bond with you again. I’m tired of shrugging and commiserating. I want to smile with you, Cleveland.