Hey, Cleveland! It’s been a tough six weeks for Browns fans, players, coaches, front office, parking lot attendants…you get where I’m going with this. We can point fingers and spread the blame for the team’s dismal efforts on the field, but I believe there is a different question to consider here.
As our losses continue to pile up like lake effect snow in January, the grumbling and rumbling from some Cleveland “fans” gets louder and louder. The same tired chorus of “Why did we lose, again?” We need to get a new (insert position here ____ coach, front office, assistant coach, quarterback, water boy) and fire the one we have! We are cursed! If we don’t win, I’m done with them!” Comments like this, rooted in deep frustration, are aggravating and annoying, but understandable.
Now, before you get all bent out of shape and say that I don’t know what Browns fans endure, let me say that not only do I understand the pain and how it becomes cumulative, I have endured this pain for nearly 50 years. I’ve had my heart ripped out so many times that I should have a zipper installed, so removing my heart hurts less the next time. I remember the glory days and the heartbreaking losses and I remember standing in the old Cleveland Stadium weeping like a child when the Browns ran out onto the field for what we presumed would be the last time.
Hearing the refrain of “move the team” made me furious. If you are saying or thinking that Jimmy Haslam should move the Browns, please stop reading right now, extend your right hand and slap yourself silly. Then toughen up, princess, this is Cleveland, we are tough as hell, no one likes us and we don’t care. Being a fan here means you hurt and bleed almost as much as the men on the field and win or lose you get up and do it again next week and the week after that. And then you keep watching, you keep believing and you keep hoping because that’s what Cleveland fans do. This was the legacy given to me from my late-parents who followed the team all of their lives. This is what I’ve taught my son from the time he was old enough to understand a win from a loss. This belief is what I hope to share with grandchildren someday. However, given the incredible downward spiral, I am wondering “Why?”
The “why” of being and remaining a Browns fan had not occurred to me. I believed it needed no questioning, just like my green eyes or pollen allergy, it was a part of who I am. Now that the team is so desperately bad, I have that question put to me by those who don’t share the passion for the Browns or the city of Cleveland. As I wrestled with the question, I asked other Browns fans these questions, “Why do you watch? Why do you invest your time, emotions, and money in the Cleveland Browns? There are 32 teams in the NFL, why do you cling to the Browns?” I got some blank, silent stares and some interesting answers.
A dear friend of mine, Janeen Mulligan, who moved away from Cleveland many years ago, was straight to the point.
“My loyalty to the Cleveland Browns is simple; once a Browns fan, always a Browns fan. I was born in the Cleveland area and although I live in Virginia, Ohio will always be my home. Cleveland has some of the best fans in the world and we all hope that one day they make it to the Super Bowl and win!”
That is the kind of positive determination that runs through the veins of many Browns fans.
Other fans shared similar sentiments a little less eloquently. “Because they are my team.” End of discussion. I often heard that answer in one form or another often. This leads me to believe that we Browns fans are just that loyal.
Another, and probably the most frequent answer stems from the legacy idea. Hearing “my whole family are Browns fans; I always watched with my grandfather and it’s a tradition” reaffirmed to me how important sports are for many people.
My son offered me an insightful answer to the question. He said:
“We keep watching because we believe something good just HAS to happen one of these days. Browns fans are still looking for retribution because of how awful things have been since (Art) Model moved the team. We keep the hope that we will see our redemption one day.”
I realize that I am biased, but he may be on to something there.
Though this was unscientific, it gave me a good bit to think about. Sometimes there are as many good answers are there are people who are answering and sometimes “Why?” can’t be answered. I do know that even though I may never fully understand why the Browns mean so much to me, they are MY team, I’m glad they are here and even when we are starting our 50th quarterback, I will still be watching.
What about you, Cleveland, does anyone want to share their reasons for being a loyal Browns fan?
Follow Senior Writer Shelley Harcar on Twitter @Shelley0514