I could nail you with a ton of stats or a ton of numbers to make my case. One playoff appearance (a loss) since 1999. No Super Bowl appearances or championships, ever. I could go on and on, but I won’t. No, I want to give you some purely non-numbers related reasons why being a Browns fan is the worst spot to be in as an NFL fan.
5. It’s tough to defend Cleveland.
Not just as a sports franchise. The Dolphins have been similarly futile over the past decade as an NFL franchise. Constant changes at head coach and at key positions like quarterback. Few playoff appearances. No championships. But fans in cities like Miami can shake it off a lot easier. Partly because they have had and will continue to have viable teams in other sports. And partly because at the end of the day, if we’re honest with ourselves, their cities have a lot more to brag about.
Cleveland is cold. It’s dark. It’s decaying. The economy is a mess and the city is run down, rusting and old. And it’s cold. So very cold. You don’t notice the cold quite as much as those of us who have left and come home to visit. It’s seriously one of the worst climates I’ve ever encountered. The wind off the lake is brutal in winter, and the summers are short and unsatisfying. But more than even the weather, Cleveland has become a city that hopes and hopes, but very rarely sees a fulfillment of that hope. So many “heroes” come up short, turn their backs on us, and walk away to greener pastures. They move to better teams, better money and brighter futures elsewhere. Cleveland is the bastard child that everyone wants to see get their shot one day, but never seems to have a real shot. And when sports fans in other sports towns have a retort to insults or smack talk, Cleveland fans are left groping at straws. The rock hall. The “vibe” of the city’s historic districts. Stuff that no one else really cares about. It’s rough.
4. Football actually MATTERS to us.
All cards on the table. We, Cleveland Browns fans, actually care. We love this dreadful team with their hideous colors and non existent logo. The wins, the losses, all of it actually make a lasting impact on our moods. We feel the wins and losses more than the players, or even the staff whose careers are measured by their performance. At the end of the day, even if we have a pretty good idea going in that our hopes for relevance are likely to come up very short, we still hurt when they fail. We still have the same deep-down hopes and expectations that winning franchises have, except that we literally never have them met.
Non-Browns fans, do you have any idea what that’s like? No, no you don’t. You can’t. You’ve never lived your entire life (I’m 28, for the record) waiting and hoping for a winner, believing that one is coming. You’ve never spent 28 or 56 or 72 years watching the team you love represent the city you love so pathetically. You can’t possible grasp how awful it is, how much it sucks, and how low it can take you. Which brings me to the next point…
3. No one understands our struggle.
No one. Not one single outsider can ever empathize with us how we feel about our team or their lack of competence. They will never get it. They will never be able to walk in our shoes, to see things through our eyes. They might be able to look at it and say, “Man, it must suck to have THAT be your team. I’m glad it’s not my team,” but that is a worthless sentiment, because they’ve never lived it. They’ve never had to watch, year after year, as their beloved team is broken apart, rebuilt, hyped up, only to fail miserably, be broken apart and rebuilt again with the same result. They can’t ever know what that feels like, or the stress it adds to game day, the draft, and the off season. Most teams view draft day as a great time, when they get brand new talent and potential. Browns fans always know draft day is going to be a day when we draft a Brady Quinn or a Tim Couch or a Brandon Weeden. Not the guy we wanted, because we know that the team will blow it on a guy who was doomed from the start. But we keep hoping, because…
2. We are loyal to a fault.
I’ve been asked literally hundreds, if not thousands of times… Why? Why are you still a fan of a team that is so consistently terrible. Why do you keep rooting for a team that, at best, will be mediocre? The answer is as simple as it is complex. My answer, invariably, is, “I’m loyal.” When pressed for more, I usually follow up with, “They’re my hometown team. I couldn’t bring myself to cheer for anyone else.” Which is so ridiculous if you think about it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing on loyalty. Loyalty is an amazing character trait. But think about it honestly for a minute. Do you like the colors burnt orange and poop brown? Do you like them together? I certainly do not. Do you like that our team name is the an ugly color while other teams have cool pirate/animal/warrior names? I feel gypped.
I’m pretty sure the majority of Browns fans feel the same way I do. Our team name sucks, our colors suck, our jerseys suck. Our team is either losing or rebuilding. Yet, here we are, unwilling to cut them off. Unwilling to be disloyal to the team that bears the name of our city. So we suck it up, buy their ugly gear and watch them lose game after game.
Because of loyalty. No other group of people are this loyal.
1. You know, deep down, that it’s never going to get better.
Let’s be honest with one another. We all know the Browns are never going to be a dynastic type of franchise. They’ll never be what New England has been. They’ll never be a perennial contender. And the strange thing is that most of us are okay with that. I find myself wishing for 8-8 seasons. 8-8! God, how I wish we could just break even. Who thinks like that? Browns fans, that’s who. Because reality, after nearly 30 years, has finally sunken in. I still hear some people talk about the “traditions” of the Cleveland Browns. That’s idiotic. Tradition? Our tradition is futility. Our tradition is last place in our division. That’s what we’re USED to. It’s all we know.
So anyhow, I’m sure this year will be be our year…