This week marks the one-year anniversary of “The Remote Report,” and I still type “Remore” every time. The initial idea of this column was to assess the community of being a Cleveland Browns fan, particularly in a city that isn’t Cleveland, due to my living in Chicago. As you have seen (or haven’t), it has morphed into being loosely about Cleveland Browns football and about nuanced things that are football-related and catch my fancy. But as the new season approached, I had a new revelation and a new conundrum: I didn’t know what to do when it came time to watch the Browns’ season opener.
As of several weeks ago, it began to look like I would be watching the opener at a friend’s house. I was thinking this because it’s a nice, laid-back setting and I can relax in a comfortable chair/couch/bean bag or something. Additionally, good people will be there. That seems like a no-brainer, right?
Well, the next thought was that I remembered Vaughan’s giving out free T-shirts at the opener last year, and I’m easily swayed by free T-shirts. Additionally, I know a solid group of guys who frequent Vaughan’s; it’s a great place to catch a game, particularly if you manage to get a seat.
The next thought was Red Ivy, where a few people I know go to watch games. Red Ivy is right by my house, which is a huge draw. Big ol’ pizzas, much bigger venue, loaded with Browns fans, maybe a slightly classier vibe than the other options. I have only been to one game there, and I think the reason was that I didn’t know as many people.
Then I thought of another friend’s house. Same features as before. It’s wonderful to watch Browns games with fellow fans. If the team wins, we freak out together. If the team loses, we make defense mechanism jokes, swear, and generally shut up together. One or two guys will get really loud and angry, while the rest will just be annoyed. It’s easy to talk about this situation because it usually happens.
Then something amazing happened. I was walking home from the gym on Monday night, thinking a little bit about the sense of community that we fans feel, when I noticed a group sitting on their patio a couple blocks from my house. Something caught my eye – an “Ohio” shirt. I acknowledged the shirt because I was wearing a Kent State baseball shirt, which prompted one of the guys to call out “Teach your guys to run the right way, man!” If you missed it, watch this. This prompted a few laughs, and I told them I was actually an Ohio Bobcat. One of them expressed his pleasure as he, too, was a Bobcat. Next question: “Wait, are you from Cleveland?” I said yes. One guy, Mike, shifts his chair to show a beautiful Browns sweater vest, which prompts smiles all around and “Pull up a chair, man.”
I spent the next half hour hanging out with strangers, talking about the Browns, the NFL, fantasy football, Brandon Weeden, Tyler Tettleton’s Heisman candidacy, and a mutual friend hanging from the crossbar of Peden Stadium in a Speedo when Ohio beat Pittsburgh in the fall of 2005.
And that’s what it’s about. It’s not about knowing exactly who you’re going to watch the game with or where you’re going to watch the game. It’s not about what bar has the biggest TV or what friend has the most comfortable couch. It’s not about who has the best jersey (Bernie Kosar’s University of Miami Orange Bowl jersey is the leader in the clubhouse, for the record) or who brought the best guacamole. It’s about the bond that brings us together.
This may go beyond being a Browns fan or an Ohio guy, and it may go for every team and its set of die-hard fans, but I can only speak from my own experiences and the experiences of those around me. I know that the only reason I hung out for more than a couple minutes was because I met people who I identified with. Maybe it’s insane to think that being a fan of a certain team is something that is part of you as a person, but it worked.
This ridiculous, stupid, violent, over-hyped, over-commercialized, barbaric sport is something that millions of us love and bond over.
So thank you, Browns, because now I don’t really care where I go for the game. I know the experience is going to forge lifelong relationships, whether it’s because we all get to watch our team win together, or because we all continue to watch our team embarrass us. Hey, misery loves company, right?