We all have them. Stories of the first game we watched. Stories of the first time we knew we were a Browns fan. Most of us became Browns fans because our fathers were. My story is similar, though I did take a different path. Looking back, there were 4 distinct moments that defined my love affair with the Orange and Brown.
- I was born in Willoughby, Ohio and moved to Maryland at the age of 5. My first memory of football was watching a Redskins-Cowboys game on our brand new Zenith color TV. I had watched plenty of western movies, I knew the Cowboys always won…so I became a Redskins fan. I loved rooting for the under-dog. My Dad scoffed at my decision as he was a Browns fan. Then came the night of January 17, 1988. We watched my Redskins beat the Vikings and head to the Super Bowl. We watched the AFC Championship game at a friends house. I remember my Dad being so angry, he was almost in tears when Byner fumbled. As we headed home we stopped at a gas station and I asked him to buy me a Redskins NFC Championship shirt. I saw the pain in his eyes as he said “It will be cheaper after the Broncos are done with them.” At that instant I became a Browns fan. I wanted to root for the team that almost brought my Dad to tears.
- I attended high school right outside of Annapolis, MD. The 1995 season was coming to an end. He who shall not be named, moved my team to Baltimore. This move was celebrated by all my friends that I went to school with. They thought I should have been happy too; afterall, I wouldn’t have to travel to Cleveland to watch my team play. I understood the feeling that my Dad had on that night back in ’88. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. I quit football.
- In 1999, I watched Drew Carey bring back my Browns on a national stage against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 43-0. I can’t describe how excited I was during the pre-game show. I was somewhere between a kid on Christmas and JoJo the idiot circus boy with my pretty new pet. I watched the game in its entirety. By the end of the game you would have thought someone ran over my dog. Logic told me that we were an expansion team and that I should not get my hopes up. But I am a Browns fan…there is no room for logic.
- The last event happened this year the week before the AFC Championship game. I took my wife and kids to Five Guys for lunch. I was standing in line when the 18 year old kid commented on my Browns lanyard hanging from my pocket. “You like the Browns?” I could hear Bill Engvall start into his “Here’s your sign” routines. I turned to look at him with his gaudy Patriots jacket. He said “I’m a Patriots fan.” At that moment I didn’t know if I wanted to lay him out for being an arrogant little prick or swell up with pride because through the 4-12 and 5-11 groundhog’s days…I’ve been a Browns fan.
As you read through my list, I guarantee 99% of you watched the video of the Fumble. You hated every second of it, but you watched it. It’s what Browns fans do. When you looked at the photo of the fans at the last home game in 1995, I bet you felt your stomach start to turn. I am sure each of you have bumped into that little prick sporting the jersey of his latest crush. I would guess that 20% of you knocked him out and the other 80% wished that they would have. Without a doubt in my mind, I know each of you remember – with crystal like clarity – the moment you became a Browns fan.
Like all of you reading this post, I have died a little inside with each loss. The wins are temporal moments of happiness that give me just enough hope to make the next loss painful. Swearing I will never watch them again every Monday; sitting down and watching them every Sunday. I am a Browns fan.