Home / Patience and Optimism: The Ballad of the Cleveland Browns Fan

Patience and Optimism: The Ballad of the Cleveland Browns Fan

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To be a Cleveland Browns fan, you have to have patience and optimism. Without the two, it’s hopeless. The Browns have been like a bad soap opera lately.

Some people say, correctly, that Cleveland has not been any good since returning to the NFL in 1999. That’s true, but it’s only part of the story.

The truth is the Browns have been bad since way before the move to Baltimore in 1995. Cleveland has had just one 10-win season since 1988.

Since that season, the Browns have won seven games or less in a season 11 times, and have made just three playoff appearances.

Since 1988, the Browns have had seven head coaches, and they didn’t even have a team for three of those seasons.

But the fans keep coming back. The Browns have sold out every home game since 1999.

The Indians won 93 games in 2005 and just drew 2 million fans. The Cavaliers are only drawing because of LeBron James and the promise he brings. It’s true Cleveland went NBA-crazy last May, during the Cavs’ playoff run. But before LeBron, the Cavaliers were an afterthought.

Some say the Cavaliers were a bad team, but they certainly were no worse than the Browns have been.

Yet the Browns keep packing them in.

The fans have kept coming because Cleveland is a football city. I grew up in the Cleveland area, and even though the fans have gone nuts for the Indians and Cavs, the Browns are different. The Browns are like part of your family. A dysfunctional part, but an important part. How much do people care about the Browns? Here’s a few things I’ve seen:

• On a 1992 Sunday I attended church, and the priest finished with the usual “Go in peace to love and serve the lord.” Then he followed with: “I hope the Browns do better.”

• In 1995 I attended a Cavs game. The JumboTron was showing random fans on the screen, and there was little reaction. Then they showed a fan wearing an Andre Rison Browns’ jersey. The place erupted in boos. Rison had been critical of Cleveland fans after the Browns announced their move. Now, the poor kid had to pay the price. It was the loudest the arena got all night.

• In 2002 I served on a jury in a civil case involving the wife of a former Browns’ player. The player had since moved onto another team, and the attorney for the woman wanted to make sure none of us would hold that against her. She was serious.

These events all occurred years after the Browns’ good period in the 1980s. Then, the whole city appeared to be in orange and brown. After many difficult seasons, fans keep coming back, because they’re the Browns.

They keep coming despite not having a team for three years.

They keep coming because Charlie Frye will be as successful as Bernie Kosar or Brian Sipe. They keep coming because Kellen Winslow will stay away from bikes and live up to his promise.

You keep thinking loyalty will be rewarded. You keep thinking Tim Couch, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren will not be first-round busts. You keep thinking well-spoken con men like Butch Davis actually believe what they’re saying. But most of all, you keep thinking next year has to be better.

Cleveland was 6-10 last year under new coach Romeo Crennel. Browns’ fans know it might be a few years before the team wins big again.

So we wait. And we hope.

What choice do we have? You don’t neglect family.

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  • If NFL teams were Back to the Future characters, the Browns would be George McFly.

  • Kristopher

    speaks from the heart man, speaks from the heart…only true browns fans like us know what it’s gonna take and how long it’ll be. we’ll have our cake soon

  • A good buddy of mine is a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan. I am a die-hard Detroit Lions fan. Football season is like suicide watch for both of us…

  • Mark Saleski

    rj, isn’t it difficult not being a dolphins fan in florida?

  • Bengal Fan

    Wow… reading that gave me flashbacks. Even in the years that the Bengals went 2-14, we’d still put 55,000 people in the stands. For us Bengals fans, we had to endure 15 long years of hell, each year holding out hope that something or someone would save us. Then we got Marvin Lewis and Carson Palmer and it’s like the past 15 years are a distant memory. Don’t lose hope. Romeo is the first step in the Browns turning it around. Now if they could just avoid all of the bad luck……

  • “rj, isn’t it difficult not being a dolphins fan in florida?”

    There are more Tampa Bay fans around here than Dolphins fans…

  • Mark Saleski

    oops….remember rj, i lived in florida (and was, like, ten years old) when the dolphins went undefeated. so i sort of tend to forget that there are other teams in that state.

  • Yeah, the Bucs have had some recent success, so it seems like all Central Floridians are Bucs fans now…

    South Florida fans of course support the ‘Fins…

    And North Florida fans root for the Jags…

    Florida is pretty heterogeneous, you know. South Florida is comprised mostly of Cubans, Haitians, and Jews from New York. North Florida is basically just South Georgia and South Alabama. Central Florida, however, is where the normal, Mid-Western people live (amongst the Puerto Ricans, illegal Mexicans, Disney characters, and infirm elderly…).

  • Mark Saleski

    yea, we had a bunch of friends from cuba where we lived (just sound of palm beach). it seemed like most folks in that area were transplants.

    the sports landscape has certainly changed in all of these years…what with the new football and baseball teams. nothin’ like that back then, though we did get to see a bunch of spring training atlanta braves games.

    my dad and his friends used to drive up north on sundays north of the “blackout radius” just to watch the dolphins games on a hotel room tv.