by Nick Rose

I grew up in Vermont and currently reside just outside Boston. So, whenever I tell someone I’m a Cleveland Browns fan I’m in no way surprised when they ask, “the Browns . . . why?” Believe me, I ask myself that question pretty much every week during the season. Since it’s such a poignant question, I probably should use my first article to explore it. If for no other reason than my own mental health . . .

When I was eight I went to my first NFL game. It was 1995, the Browns were playing the Brett Favre led Packers, and, oh yeah, they had just announced they were relocating to Baltimore. As long as I live, I highly, highly doubt I’ll ever find myself in such a hostile environment. Purely by coincidence that was the year I learned the word “fuck” from some classmates. That frigid day in Cleveland I learned all the different ways that word could be used. On the news when we first landed, I also learned that there were things in this world that could inspire people to make dummy versions of real people, in this case Art Modell, and hang said dummy with a noose. And for some reason, one of those things was Cleveland Browns football. Memories like that tend to stick with you.

Once the initial shock wore off, the next thing that hit me was the cold. Winter on the lake in Cleveland almost makes winter in Vermont seem mild. I was dressed in snow pants, two sweatshirts, a coat . . . basically the kind of outfit you would associate with a casual stroll through Antarctica. Even at eight I could tell that it took an extreme level of commitment for all these things to be happening. Clearly the Browns meant everything to the city of Cleveland and since my dad grew up outside Cleveland, they have come to mean a great deal to me. To see people be that angry, that sad, that confused is what has stuck with me. It is what has made me unable to stop believing: the hope that the level of loyalty is some day repaid with a Super Bowl.

That’s my reason for staying a Browns fan. In the midst of all this losing, if I wanted to turn my back on them, I could. My mom grew up outside Boston and if I wanted to become a Patriots fan no one could really judge mean since if anything it makes much more sense now that I live here. Yet, I am still a Browns fan. A surly, exhausted Browns fan.

So, there’s the “why”. Now for the “what” (as in what it’s like). I once searched “What it’s like to be a Browns fan” on Youtube. Amongst all the slideshows with depressing music that blended perfectly with the somehow more depressing memories, there was a five second clip of a man being kicked in the nuts. It still bothers me that I had never and will never see a more accurate depiction of what it is like to be a Browns’ fan. Seriously take a second and ponder just how messed up that is because that’s honestly what being a Browns fan comes down to: year after year getting kicked in the nuts.

Wanting to wallow even further down into sorrow, I also have a wonderful habit of allowing myself to be optimistic each year. I guess for me the feeling is worse because every year the Browns say, “don’t worry, Nick. This year is going to be different. We promise we won’t kick you”. Like an idiot I say, “OK, the Browns. I believe you!” I’m sure you can guess the end result . . .

That optimism has seen the franchise go 88-216. To really break down how mind bogglingly poor that is consider the following:

  1. 216 divided by 88 equals 2.45. That means over the past 19 years for every win, the Browns have lost almost 2.5 games.
  2. They have won 88 games. They lost their 88th game in 2006. That was 11 seasons ago!
  3. The year after loss 88, they actually went 10-6, barely missing the playoffs in 2007.
  4. That was perennial All-Pro tackle Joe Thomas’ first season. Since then they have been 34-110 winning more than 5 games in a season only once. That was 2014 when they went from being 7-4 and in good playoff position at one point to finishing the season 7-9.
  5. Both 2007 and 2014 failed to build sustained momentum due to impulse quarterback changes (Brady Quinn over Derek Anderson and *suppresses rage* Johnny Manziel over Brian Hoyer)

I’ll dig further into the stats in subsequent articles, but for now let me wrap this up. What was the point of this article? Three things: it was cathartic for me (the Browns require regular venting), to illuminate my passion for football, and finally to establish my objectivity. I’m a Cleveland Browns fan, so you, the Reader, can trust me to be objective. My favorite team went 0-16 last year and, as you can see above, based on past seasons this was shockingly close to par . Therefore, I really can pass no judgment on any other team. I hope you’ll keep this in mind as a embark on this quest to deliver well informed NFL coverage. 88-216, dear reader. 88-216.

Nick Rose is FANTOM’s newest NFL writer.