Life as a young, post-1999 Cleveland Browns fan
Cleveland Browns fans of all ages have different associations with the team and its history.
The film Believeland premiered on ESPN Saturday night, recapping all the heartbreak associated with Cleveland sports.
The film covered the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers, but only the Cavs received a significant amount of post-2000 focus, which was fair considering LeBron James has been the face of Cleveland sports for much of the new century.
James debuted in the NBA when I was still learning basic arithmetic and when my responsibilities involved absolutely nothing.
I watched the Browns make the playoffs and thought that was a normal experience, while the Indians were at the end of a run of dominant baseball.
The Cavs were on the rise and Cleveland sports seemed to be a collection of winning teams to my young, naive brain.
The only major heartbreak I have personally witnessed in any Cleveland sport is The Decision. I know exactly where I was (my couch) and what I did (put my head in my hands for 30 minutes) when James went on national television and broke up with Cleveland.
The Indians losing to the Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS after holding a 3-1 series lead is a close second, but that is still nowhere near as bad as what James did to the city.
Believeland focused on events that are part of the city’s sport history, but the events are simply historical for those of us who were not old enough to experience any of them.
My only knowledge of The Drive and The Fumble is through the oft-played Cleveland sports montages that national media outlets love to play, like it is some sort of sick joke.
The film surely brought up a world of emotions for those alive during the great run at the end of the 1980s, but Earnest Byner crying and apologizing for his fumble fails to bring up any real emotion for those of us not alive during that event.
Then there is the fateful announcement of the Browns moving to Baltimore. I was watching the film with a friend and we talked about how we cannot even comprehend such a thing happening, as if our brains would not believe it even if we saw the trucks being packed and the move happening right in front of our eyes. Art Modell is a name I was taught to hate, but he has never been more than a name to me.
The current version of the Browns is the only one I have ever known, creating an inability to relate when people look at the Baltimore Ravens with contempt and wonder of what could have been if the team never moved.
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A losing season is the norm, while the thought of being in the playoffs is simply fantasy. If I had been around for the AFC Championship Game appearances, watching this current team would make me sick.
But just like people reminisce about the glory days in any aspect of life, all I am able to do is sit and listen to how great things used to be, hoping for that glory to return to the city I love.
I carry a general sense of optimism into each season, which is tough to do for those who remember how great the team used to be.
The optimism is slowly beginning to turn into pessimism after nonstop losing seasons and personnel moves that one wouldn’t even make in a video game.
But as I have yet to experience a truly great Browns team, that deep down hope of a playoff run will keep some semblance of optimism alive. I cannot blame older fans who have no optimism because of the decades of torture since the losses to the Denver Broncos and then The Move, but us younger fans have the benefit of not having that weigh on our collective consciousness.
We may be fooling ourselves by thinking that things will eventually get better, but what is the point of rooting for the current version of the Browns if that belief is not in place?
Next: Cleveland Browns: Top 30 moments of all-time
Sports serve as an escape from everyday life, and the hope of some joy from the Browns is what keeps us watching the games and hoping for better.