Where do you begin? Where do you receive the calling saying your part of a hallowed few? Why, after two decades of losing, and much heartbreak long before your time, do you care? Look, I’ve asked myself these questions many times. I’ve tried following other teams and it didn’t work, and I’ve even tried to follow another sport, yet to no avail. What is it, that makes the Browns such an attractive team to pull for?
Let’s have a brief history lesson. Perhaps, for a history buff such as myself, it goes back to Red Right 88 against Oakland in the 1980 Divisional Playoffs. A few years later saw The Drive, the Fumble, and the hiring of Coach Bill Belichick. A few years after Belichick hired a staff who’ve since have achieved numerous accomplishments, the team relocates to become the Ravens, and wins a Super Bowl four years later. You look at this and wonder, ‘Why anyone in their right mind would want to be a Browns fan?’
In the first paragraph, I mentioned the phrase ‘hallowed few.’ In this phrase, I mean only a hallowed few individuals capable of taking pain year after year can handle such a task. In a way, it is a task, and a task few are willing to take. During this task, which in many ways for me represents A Hero’s Journey through trial after trial, tribulation after tribulation, for decades, not a single weak soul has the blessing of answering such a call!
One-hundred and thirty-two miles south of Cleveland lies Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The City of Champions, Pittsburgh is known as. It’s also known as Sixburgh, where their fans mistakenly believe they’re the most championed franchise in football. When one explains to the smug fanbase the Green Bay Packers are more championed, and if one counts the history of all thirty-two NFL teams, the Steelers rank thirteenth, just two slots ahead of Cleveland, in rankings of highest winning percentage, they ignorantly tell you the NFL doesn’t count anything before the Super Bowl Era. Whatever makes you happy, right?
Which is why I love the Browns and hate the Steelers with so much passion I’d root for Satan’s Demons if they played the Steelers in a nationally televised game on prime time. I’m serious. I’m dead serious. Look, the Steelers are up there with the MLB’s New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. These smug frontrunners are up there with today’s Patriots fans, and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, many of whom are more likely to be ex-Laker fans who’ll change allegiances once Lonzo Ball and his hothead father start winning games for the Lakers once more.
Let me tell you something: If the Steelers lost for three straight decades, they’d have a fanbase as large as the MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays. Now, I love my Rays as much as I love the Indians, but it’s a great correlation.
Let’s go back to 2007 when the AFC North leading Steelers were getting their clocks cleaned by the Jacksonville Jaguars at Heinz Field. Reality check, Pittsburgh! I distinctly remember watching in that contest the fans leaving the stadium in droves….in the third quarter! The AFC North leading Steelers had an entire fanbase turning their backs on them after a single bad game!
Let’s go back a few years ago after back 8-8 seasons, where half the fanbase wanted Mike Tomlin to get axed. This man won a Super Bowl and Pittsburgh and went to another, and they wanted him gone. I’ve heard fans criticize Ben, who happens to be the best quarterback in the history of the franchise.
Look, one can disagree with everything I’m writing here, but back in 2006 a study was conducted, and the Browns were said to have the most loyal fanbase in football. The Steelers rated somewhere in the twenties. What about this? Back in the 1990’s, when the Browns were struggling between 1990 and 1993, they ranked between fifth and seventh in attendance. This team still had their fans attending their games in the frigid Cleveland autumns, in a crumbling stadium on the North Shore of Ohio, at a time when Cleveland faced a massive economic downturn. That is one passionate fanbase!
It takes a strong soul to be a Browns fan. It takes a warrior. Life isn’t about how hard you hit, but how hard you get hit, get up, and keep moving forward. If Pittsburgh went through this, the Steelers would have a hard time drawing a crowd to their games. If Pittsburgh went through this, Steeler Bars nationwide would go out of business. If Pittsburgh went through this, they’d be a hockey town until the Penguins faced another downturn.
Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet several loyal Cleveland fans, and I look forward to meeting more. The optimism, after three decades of torture, is unreal. You won’t find this anywhere else. This doesn’t happen anywhere else. The atmosphere at First Energy Stadium on a Sunday is enough to convert any fan to the Dawg Pound, and this is why they’re such an important part of my life, while the Steeler fans can jump on a bandwagon the second the team faces a downturn, because that’s what front running fanbases do.
Remember, those who go through the most are the strongest souls made by a power larger and stronger than all of us. We’re fans for a reason. Once, we’ve had a dream, and the dream will come. Once, there was a group of hard-headed, passionate people, who waited decades for another championship. Once, we will be rewarded with a product. The gates of the Ark are closing, and they will be closed, once the team begins to win! Kiitos!