With FanSided recently declaring the Cleveland Browns having the best fans across sports and entertainment in their Fandom 250 rankings, my simple response to this announcement can be summed up in two words.
Well, duh! 🙄
At 4-7-1 with Cam Newton and the visiting 6-6 Carolina Panthers set to invade the Dawg Pound on Sunday, Cleveland being named as having the best fans across sports and entertainment is an honor that fans have already known for years, and was long overdue in finally being recognized.
Often, as the Founder, CEO and Publisher of this fine digital magazine, I get asked “What’s it like being a Browns fan” or “How can you be a fan of a team that always loses”
The answer to that is simple: Blood and loyalty.
If you’re from Northeast Ohio, you were brought up hearing stories of Paul Brown, Otto Graham, Jim Brown and my hero, Bernie Kosar.
Stories of the Browns NFL championships past are passed down from generation to generation of the great teams that won eight NFL titles in both the old NFL and the All-American Football Conference (AAFC) pre-Super Bowl merger days.
If you’re a present day Millennial or even a Gen X’er like me, even thought you’ve never seen them play, you already know of Hall of Famers such as Lou “The Toe” Groza, Leroy Kelly, Marion Motley, Dante Lavelli, Paul Warfield, Frank Ryan and Joe Delamieilleure.
Again, what separates the Browns from many franchise is the proud history of winning and players that are ingrained into the very fabric of the region.
Being born in 1976, I am a Bicentennial Baby and barely remembered “The Kardiac Kids” of the late 1970s and early 1980’s led by 1980 NFL MVP QB Brian Sipe. All I heard were stories whispered and spoken in the sports pubs and bars of my youth of the last-minute heroics of Ozzie Newsome, Greg and Mike Pruitt, Reggie Rucker, Dave Logan, Doug Dieken, the late Lyle Alzado, Clay Matthews, Bill Cowher and Don Cockroft.
As with many Browns fans of my generation, the ill-fated “Red Right 88” would serve as a painful prelude of what life would be as a Browns fan.
The Drive. The Fumble. The Move. Need I say more.
It was during the heyday of the Kosar era, that my fandom would forever be cemented in watching the former University of Miami, Boardman, Ohio native lead the Browns to three AFC title games vs. the Denver Broncos, only to lose to John Elway in gut-wrenching fashion.
Yes. We know. But, as the popular sports refrain in Cleveland goes, “wait till next year!”
Sadly, next year wouldn’t come for a long time as Art Modell would move the franchise to Baltimore in 1995.
But Browns fans would do what any tough-minded, blue-collar, white-knuckle die hard member of the Dawg Pound would do and help flood the NFL headquarters with an avalanche of letters demanding a new NFL expansion team that would scare even the hardest eco-loving Greenpeace activist.
Football means more than just Super Bowl parades, Lombardi Trophies and NFL MVP’s to us here in Cleveland. It takes a special breed of fan with an iron-clad stomach, a extremely high amount of patience, even-higher threshold of pain, self-loathing and Fort Knox-level, iron-platted like thick skin to be a fan of the brown and orange to roll with the Dawg Pound, because it is not for the fickle, thin-skinned modern-day Millennial bandwagon fans of today.
For a non-Clevelander, it’s kinda hard to explain and even harder to put into a blog in digi-space. The best way I could try to summarize how much it means to be a fan of a franchise that can rival the Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers in terms of storied history, but also share some dubious accolades with the Detroit Lions says something.
Yes, the Browns have had a horrific record of hiring and firing coaches and going thru first round quarterbacks worse than Taylor Swift goes through men, but it’s just what we do and have come to expect in The Land.
Yes, we have seen Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel pass thru the Factory of Sadness the way American immigrants passed thru Ellis Island, but hopefully Baker Mayfield will be the last name in that infamous QB jersey of names. Hopefully, finally! Maybe.
If you’re a long-suffering, cautiously optimistic die-hard, you are naturally conditioned to wait for the other shoe to drop, and because of all of the other QB busts that have lined up under center, are jaded beyond any kind of hope.
But maybe Baker is the guy…just maybe!
If you’re a Browns fan, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, Google it, and prepare to laugh.
I grew up playing the popular fighting game, Street Fighter, and of you’re a fighting game fan like me, I equate the Browns to the satire ripoff character, Dan Hibiki, who is a walking parody of the two main protagonists, Ryu and Ken in terms of being so bad, it’s good in a weird and funny way.
That is the Cleveland Browns!
For all of their recent losing, perennial dysfunction and laughable and painful moments both on and off the field, as we say here in Cleveland, “Only In Cleveland!”
The Browns have the largest fan club of all the NFL in Browns Backers Worldwide, which boasts roughly 200 clubs around the world in 75 countries. If you are a member and fan, you can literally go to any major city in the world and likely find a Browns Backers club.
Steeler and Raider Nation travel, Cheeseheads travel, but Browns fans TRAVEL. and travel very well!
When I lived in Pittsburgh, I joined up–and still to this day–am a member of the Pittsburgh Browns Backers, led by former Cleveland-area native, Paul A. Carson. I consider Paul to be both one of my earliest mentors, benefactors and a real big brother, as he has supported me as a blogger and journalist ever since I first wrote back at Bleacher Report and my own personal blog, UNLEASHED.
I cannot thank him enough for all of his words of encouragement and advice in my writing over the years, so imagine my surprise when we caught up with each other at the recent Browns Backers Tailgate down in Tampa at The Wing House with Earnest Byner in attendance signing autographs.
It’s been eight years since we last saw each other in Pittsburgh, but the love and respect I had for Paul was as strong as ever, and was one of the highlights of my time down in Tampa, as well as meeting some many new Browns Backers groups from all over the country that descended upon the Gulf Coast, and would fill up at least half of Raymond James Stadium.
I also had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Euclid-born Melissa Wilson, head of the Southwest Orlando Browns Backers, who is helping facilitate my future move to the Orlando-Tampa area, and has helped me greatly in meeting and making so many new friends from The Friendly Confines down in the MetroWest Orlando area.
One common thread in both Paul and Melissa is the Cleveland connection I have with both, and whether it was in Pittsburgh, Orlando or Tampa, there’s nothing like meeting people from Northeast Ohio that helps bring little slice of home with them. As with all Browns fans living out of state, meeting people from back home just brings a sense of comfort and familiarity.
Win or lose, Browns fans still show up en masse on Sundays, new coach, new quarterback, don’t care we still ready to bark, cheer and support our team through the good times, the bad and the ugly. We are not like fans of other teams, and we okay–and proud of that.
Whether it’s the old Cleveland Municipal or the current First Energy Stadium, the Browns have what few other franchises have: legacy.
We may not have won a Super Bowl, but we have eight NFL championships that we lay our heads on every night. We have the greatest NFL player of all time in Jim Brown wear our colors, the Hall of Fame is our backyard and we have the best–and most passionate and supportive–fans in the whole NFL.
You can make fun of us, poke fun at our failures and lack of Super Bowl rings and relevancy, we don’t care, for as our proverbial dog mascot, we are loyal to the end, and our devotion is unwavering.
Can YOU say the same? Don’t think so.
Only In Cleveland! Dawgfather Out!