Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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When it comes to professional football, I do not hide my allegiance. If you know me at all, you know that I am a Cincinnati Bengals fan and even though I wasn't born into that fandom, I will support Who Dey Nation until the day I die. In saying that, I am also the kind of person that will go to a sporting event when the opportunity arises, whether I like the team or not. This past weekend I took the opportunity to go watch the Cleveland Browns in action against the Oakland Raiders and while I had been to First Energy Stadium before, it was a much different experience when looking at it through unbiased eyes.
First of all, let's get something straight. I am not a Browns fan and never will be one. I think that some Browns fans can be extremely annoying with incredibly high expectations every season for a team that has been nothing short of disappointing ever since they came back into the league. Granted, I am a Cleveland Indians fan, but since I never had anyone guiding me along at a young age to cheer for the Browns, I was allowed to choose my own destiny. My last trip to Cleveland for a Browns game was to watch my Bengals and after I was spit on, cursed at repeatedly and lectured by a security guard to not cause any trouble, I never thought I would go back. Since I had no vying interest in either Cleveland or Oakland this last weekend, I decided to go undercover in a Cleveland Browns Brady Quinn jersey (that my friend, Corey Prosser, provided for me) to blend in with the crowd and to see how much the city of Cleveland loves their football.
After arriving in the city almost four hours before kick-off, it was amazing how the streets were already flooded with brown and orange, old and new jerseys alike. We saw fans representing the names of Johnny Manziel and Joe Haden to even the likes of Dennis Northcutt and Tim Couch. The fans didn’t care if that player was a bust or even yesterday’s news; they just wanted to wear their colors proudly. Corey had warned me of this on the drive up there, but I had to witness it with my own eyes.
After finishing lunch at the Winking Lizard (excellent place to eat in Cleveland), we made our way down to the stadium where it seemed every Browns fan in the world was tailgating, tossing the football and reminiscing of the yester-years. Then as we went to walk through the gates, this is what we saw:
At this point I forgot that I was wearing a Browns jersey when the security guard asked me what kind of jersey I had on. After fumbling through my words a little bit, I opened up my coat, revealed the Quinn swag and all was good with the world again. I’ll admit that wearing it made me feel dirty, but it was nice to not get spit on this time around.
We then took our seats and even though they were playing the 0-6 Raiders, almost every seat in that stadium was full to the gills. Then the game started and it was a constant up and down from the crowd. For every first down or defensive stop, the crowd cheered louder than I had ever heard before with high-fives coming from all around. But whenever the Raiders did something good or Hoyer threw an incompletion, the disappointment set in and every fan seemed to be thinking, “here we go again”.
It was at this moment that I realized what the Browns truly mean to Cleveland. After Art Modell sent the Browns to Baltimore back in 1996, the city was crushed. Cleveland missed their football and football missed Cleveland. Since getting the franchise back in 1999, Browns fans are so happy to have their team back that they will do anything to keep them. On the same hand, Browns fans have been hurt so many times that even though things may be going well, they can’t help but think about how it can all go sour again just like that. Either way, good or bad, Browns fans are just happy to have football back in their compassionate and hard-working city.
I may not be a Browns fan, but I now understand why other people are. You grow up with friends and family enjoying the good times and experiencing the hardships, just like sports. The Browns mean a great deal to the city of Cleveland, and when an outsider looking in can realize that, the passion for their team runs much deeper than any of us can ever imagine.