Browns fan longs for new AFC Championship memories
The Cleveland Browns have been irrelevant for far too long, but Sunday’s league championship games brought back memories of a better time.
It was Championship Sunday across the NFL this weekend, which brings back memories of when the Cleveland Browns played in the AFC Championship Game. However, before the Browns can once again become part of the national conversation, some fences need mending with Browns Town.
I grew up in Northeast Ohio, but now live in Michigan, but returned home for the holidays. On Christmas Eve a lady friend invited me to a holiday lunch to meet some of her family members. After accepting the invitation my mind sought to reconcile two competing thoughts: lunch was at 1 p..m and the Browns were playing the Chicago Bears that day at 1 p.m.
Being a good Browns fan, and knowing the restaurant would have plenty of televisions, I figured I could multi-task watching the Browns game while politely celebrating the holidays with these new friends. After all, Michigan doesn’t care much about the Browns, but I was among my people. Let the party begin.
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Much to my surprise only one television in the entire restaurant was carrying the Browns game. There was no buzz. In fact, much like Ignatius Thistlewhite in the children’s classic The Year Without a Santa Claus, the general sentiment in town was apathy. It’s a pathetically small sample size, admittedly, but it was still eye-opening.
The situation was particularly saddening when you think about what this time of year used to mean to Browns fans: playoff football in Cleveland. The question wasn’t if you were watching the Browns game, it was where you were watching the game.
Church services ended a bit earlier on Jan. 11, 1987, when the Browns hosted the AFC Championship Game (mine did for sure). Grocery stores were bustling with customers stocking up for one party or another. And everywhere you went, people wore Browns gear. At work, at school and always on game day.
My heart sank a little with The Drive, and sleep was lost over The Fumble. And two years later, although the Browns, with an injured Bernie Kosar at quarterback, were literally bringing a knife to a gun fight, what a ride the team gave us as they made it back to the AFC Championship Game for the third time in four years.
Fast forward to today and fans are hosting a parade for a winless football team. My 16-year-old son says I am like the Peanuts character Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin. But that’s where he’s wrong. Because, unlike Linus, I have seen the Browns reach the height of at least the AFC Championship Game. As Browns fans we are all still waiting on the Super Bowl, but those old enough to remember the teams of the late 1980s we know what’s possible.
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So to general manager John Dorsey, head coach Hue Jackson, and owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, Browns fans have just one simple request. Please fix this mess and this team relevant to a new generation of fans who you are in danger of losing.