Call this my rationale for becoming a fan of the Cleveland Browns American Football team. Or even my credentials. It’s a mangled regurgitation of words I’ve written since 2015-ish, originally intended to be posted at the start of the 2019 NFL season but left unloved in my Drafts folder until today.
In the dim and distant past (the 1980s & 90s) I was a fan of the San Francisco 49ers when they won it all a couple of times (plus the talk of a ‘threepeat’). I then aligned with the rebirth and ascendancy of the Jones’ Dallas Cowboys, and then, then… went off the boil a bit (see below). I still watched the games with friends, went to see the Scottish Claymores in the NFL Europe league, even participated in a peripheral manner in helping out an amateur youth team and helping out with a fanzine.
A new century dawned and 2004 brought a trip to Ohio, for which I’ll add detail another time. An amazing week! It started with the Wauseon Indians High School team (they beat Swanton), following up with Bowling Green (they beat SE Missouri State), and culminating in an extraordinary day in the company of the Browns (who beat the ratbirds (Ravens)!) The icing on the cake: meeting Kevin Mack (who signed a practice ball for me), Dante Lavelli and his wife, and Sam Rutigliano and his wife. Yes, I was very much over-awed (and rendered part-mute by a miserable ear infection.) And a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I’ll admit I wasn’t an actual fan of any of the teams we saw over the week, but it didn’t matter, it’s football!
Back to the jersey. It’s a #57, Clay Matthews Jr., by any measure one of Football’s all-time Linebacker greats, but likely destined never to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame (I’ve visited there too!) He seems to have been in the wrong place (Cleveland) at the wrong time (all sixteen years before he left for the last three of his career); it’s got to hurt. As I originally composed this before the 2022 update his name was in the list as a supplemental potential pick after his full eligibility expired. He didn’t make it, which bothers me more than it should.
And then bang; I got married, we had children, and my hobby time evaporated somehow.
In 2016 I needed Football in my life again. I chose the San Diego Chargers despite my interest in the Browns purely because San Diego was the city I landed in way back in 1992 on vacation. They just failed to grip my imagination.
Mid-April 2019 I found my Browns jersey again. Not just any football jersey, but one bought at beginning of my life as a dad and the end of my life as a regular American Football fan. I have to say it must have shrunk in the box, it no longer fits in quite the same way as it did when I knew why I’d bought that jersey. So yesterday evening I searched here and the Internet at large and the reason became clear. Finding it, a replica #57 jersey, brought back memories of a road trip at the start of the 2004 season.
2018 rolled round and right now in 2022, heading into my fifth season as a Browns fan, I’m looking at Reddit’s r/Browns multiple times a day (even on the toilet, but shhh…), professing nothing but attempting in my singularly-inept fashion to absorb, er… stuff. It remains an uphill task even attempting to chat with folks bringing the conversation down to my level! So I tried the #browns IRC channel! It was friendly, quiet (ok, almost unused.) I’ve also looked for podcasts to fall asleep to, thinking I’ll be able to subliminally absorb chat and regurgitate on-demand.
The summary, before I overwhelm myself with words: I felt something stirring again.
I swallowed my concern at the cost and, after the week’s trial, signed up to the ‘Pro’-level of NFL Game Pass. Sure the Browns game was blacked out here in the UK, but I caught all the plays during the 40 minute version the 30 minute lunchtime the day after. It’s simply down to me getting old and unable to function like I used to after a game starting after 1am UK time!
The 2020 and 2021 seasons were eventful and stressful to day the least, everything affected by covid and far more devastating injuries than I remember from any of my previous seasons. But maybe my nerves were on edge throughout, so it seems worse than it was. And it was bad.
Now, as the 2022 season grows and controversy follows our team everywhere (more on this another time), looking back to 2018 when this started for me, we Browns fans are currently left with no Jarvis Landry, no Jabrill Peppers and of course no Odell Beckham Junior either, no Rashard (Hollywood) Higgins, no JC Trotter, no Jamie (The Scottish Hammer) Gillan, and most important for me, no Baker Mayfield – our inspirational quarterback.
This last loss hit me more than most for many many reasons, so much so that I scoured eBay for a suitable jersey to mark the time since I became a Cleveland Browns fan. I found it, a black ‘Color Rush’ Lights Out thing stitched throughout with orange numbers and… ok, so the NFL badge at the neck is misaligned with the central ‘6’ but it doesn’t really matter it’s off-centre – so am I.