Dear Cleveland Browns,
Hi. I’m Shawn. I’m a 29 year old Army Sergeant, husband to a beautiful wife, father to three fantastic kids (with one more on the way), and life-long Cleveland Browns fan.
For reference, I mean it when I say I’ve been a Browns fan my entire life. I went to my first Browns game when I was two. One of my earliest memories was of the Browns playoff loss to the Dolphins in the 1986 season. I remember how excited my family was at halftime, how my grandfather called Dan Marino a “lucky son-of-a-bitch”. I remember how he was sure that Bernie was the guy to lead us back to the promised land.
I remember being a young kid sitting in the Dawg Pound, at first a little wary of all the people who looked completely insane to a six year old boy. I remember how rowdy they got, but how incredibly kind the people truly were to me. They embraced me, made me feel like I’d been apart of the place for a hundred years, and kindled a fire in me for Cleveland football and the Dawg Pound itself that has never once gone out.
I remember how I learned to hate the Steelers, well before I understood what hatred even was, or why we hated those guys so much. My grandfather and those crazy people I met in the Pound hated them, and that was all I needed to know really. So, even though that rivalry has been dead on the field for a long time now, I still hold my hatred for the Steelers near and dear to my heart.
I could go on with the background stuff, but what I’ve said already is enough. The reason I’m writing this is because we need to get a few things understood between us. By us, I mean the fans, the “Dawg’s” and you, the organization. There has apparently been a major disconnect between us going back a long way, back to the days when that soulless coward Art Modell still roamed the Earth. I assume it’s a disconnect, because if you really understood what you had in us, I can’t imagine things would have gone the way they have.
We are loyal. Ridiculously, probably stupidly loyal. We’ve stood by this team when any reasonable group of people would have gladly left it for dead. We’ve suffered, arguably, more than any professional sports fan base in America. We’ve endured things like Red Right 88, The Fumble, The Drive. We’ve endured through The Move and been humiliated by The Decision. We’ve watched as players we’ve cheered for have come and gone, while many have turned around and mocked us. We’ve dealt with owners who don’t care or don’t get it. We’ve watched inept, weak leaders flounder and fail. We’ve heard their excuses. We’ve seen the reasons, and while sometimes fans are irrational and illogical, we get what’s happened. We understand the failings of the past better than you ever could, because we felt them. We’ve felt more of those terrible moments than you could ever understand.
So, when inevitably more bad times come (and they will), don’t give us lines like “it’s a process”, or “we have a plan”. We don’t want to hear about how optimistic you are. Simply put, when you put on that brave face and give us rehearsed lines from written speeches, we’re smart enough to see through it. We know you’re lying, because we’ve been lied to more times than you can possibly imagine. We’ve felt our teams wins and losses more than any fans of any other fan base, and that’s not hyperbole. They are very real to us, very much as if something awful had happened to our own family or loved ones. You may feel a hit to your pride, or a financial loss. It’s a business to you, and I’m sure seeing your business have set backs is an unfortunate feeling. Even still, you don’t have the same attachment to this team as we do. The Dawg Pound existed, in spirit if not name, for long before any of you were born, and it will still exist long after you’re gone. It’s passed down from one generation to the next, from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters. And you will never, ever know our pain.
What do we want? Simply, we want you to get this right. We want you to take pride in the fact that you own or are running the Cleveland Browns, which mean more to us than it does to you. We want you to act like this belongs to us, and understand that we are placing a special trust in you. We trust you to at a minimum not bring further shame and humiliation on us. We want you to treat this team like it matters to you, that it’s special to you. This is Cleveland, and we don’t want to be treated like a “stop on the road”. Maybe that’s the reality, but if we get the feeling that you’re here until you can move to greener pastures, don’t act shocked when we despise you. Our city and our team matters to us, and since you have much more sway over how it performs, it should matter even more to you. Not because it’s a job, but because, simply, it exists. Because it’s special to us. Because Browns fans, after having endured years of torment and crushing failures, still have the sense of humor to request the Browns to send players as pallbearers. If you got us at all, you’d have sent some guys to let Scott Entsminger down one last time. You wouldn’t, but you should.
Last, stop taking for granted the passion and loyalty that we give you so freely. Just like an unappreciated spouse, if we’re neglected and mistreated long enough, eventually we will wise up and move on. It hasn’t happened yet, because hope springs eternal in Cleveland it seems. But understand, we DESERVE to be rewarded for holding up our end of the bargain. We’ve watched you give us shitty teams. We’ve paid you money to watch games that are unwatchable. We’ve bought jerseys of players who were gone before they went through the washer one single time. We’ve cheered and roared every single time there has been cause too, and kept a fantastic sense of humor for the other times. Simply put, you owe us. And it’s time to pay up.
Shawn is the Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer for Dawg Pound Nation. He’s also an Army Sergeant, married to the beautiful and brilliant @MrsStarr, dad to three and aspiring Browns Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @ShawnMStarr or @DawgPoundNews, as well as on the Dawg Pound Nation Facebook Page.