The Cleveland Indians’ closer Chris Perez has certainly made waves this year, both on and off the field. Earlier in the season, he criticized the fan base for not showing up to watch a contending team. Now, old comments about the city’s love affair with the Browns surfaced in his New York Times interview.
“Their [fans] whole thing is, ‘We want a winner.’ Well, why do you support the Browns? They don’t win. They’ve never won. They left. You guys blindly support them. I don’t understand it. It’s a double standard, and I don’t know why.”
Naturally, the first reaction among fans and many media members was that of unstoppable scoffing, a roll of the eyes, and a “You just don’t understand!” retort.
But Perez makes a point. While he needs some work in choosing his words more carefully, his main point is that, no matter how bad a season goes or how much a front office screws up the team’s roster, fans will continue to support the Browns. The Indians are simply on the outside looking in, wondering how they can garner that kind of loyalty.
It can’t be denied, and Perez’s frustrations are shared by plenty of people in the city.
So why does that double standard exist?
It might have something to do with the fact that the Browns have been nothing but bad since returning in 1999, save for one short-lived playoff appearance. Without any success to gauge against failure, what choice do fans have but to support the team? When a team finally reaches that upper echelon, even if it is for a few seasons of sustained success, losing no longer appears to be an option. What fan, after sipping from the goblet of success, wants to go back to the dungeon of ineptitude?
The animosity then develops from the desperation to keep that winning feeling alive. When that period inevitably ends, fans become distraught, unable to comprehend why the good times simply couldn’t keep rolling. They take it out on the current team and wonder why it isn’t as good as previous rosters (see Indians fans’ obsession with the 1995 team).
If the Browns had somehow gone to the Super Bowl in 2003, then had eight years of horrific on-field play, the mood might be different. Rather than blindly throwing support into a team and patiently waiting for things to finally turn, the Browns would be facing a mutiny from a fan base still basking in the glow of a far-gone golden year.
Of course, the other argument is simply, “Cleveland is a football town.” Perhaps that is true. Maybe the Browns are simply immune to fan defection. Maybe, for some reason, the city hitched its wagon to one team no matter what and feels that everything else is expendable.
If that’s the case, it’s too bad for the Indians. They are the product of a delusional fan base that is stuck in the past. The Browns – perhaps still coasting on even coming back in the first place – continue to get a free pass.
The Browns deserve to win, and they will eventually. But when they do, it will hopefully result in the same level of fan scrutiny.