Why am I a Cleveland Browns fan?
I get this question at least five or six times each fall, and I'm never short of explanations for my support of the Browns.
Normally, I give the honest truth. I tell people the facts, that my father was raised about 20 minutes west of Cleveland and, after moving down to Cincinnati, passed his passion for Northeast Ohio's professional teams on to my brother and I.
However, this isn't really the reason people ask me why I'm a Browns backer.
The fact of the matter is the outside world just can't understand how anyone can follow a team who has struggled mightily for the majority of the past two decades.
How could you continually get excited year after year as the autumn Sundays approach, knowing full well your team doesn't stand much of a chance?
And just why exactly would you spend your hard-earned money supporting a franchise many skeptics believe is bound to fail?
If you ask me, the answer is simple.
Its because Browns football isn't just some hobby. Its not something you follow casually every Sunday to pass time, nor is it merely just rooting for the team who resides closest to you.
No, Browns football is a religion. Its a civic pastime full of thick-skinned diehards who've seen enough tragedy to break even the strongest of men.
Being a Browns fan is about living through the pain. Browns fans share stories of heartbreak like scars of war. They unite 73,000 strong on Sunday, even though they root for a team who rarely legitimizes their hope.
Cleveland supporters will stand through everything a lake-effect winter can throw at them just to see Phil Dawson kick a couple field goals for an 8-0 win.
They'll groan in defeat if the Browns lose the opening coin toss, yet still devise crazy scenarios of how the team can pull off a win even though they're down 30 with a minute left.
Through thick and thin, Browns fans always bleed orange and brown, they're just looking for someone to stop the bleeding.
And this is why I'm a Browns fan.
The Browns were the first sports team I ever recognized, as Bernie Kosar quickly became my childhood hero. I remember my mother having to pretend to be 19 on her birthday just so we could have Kosar's number on the cake.
I also remember my father trying to convince me to talk to my grandmother on the phone by telling me Bernie was on the line (I was less than pleased when I found out the truth).
At just 10 years of age, I didn't understand the severity of the issue at hand. I couldn't fully comprehend the idea that a city just had its heart torn out in the most violent way possible. Still an impressionable youth, I didn't get why Browns fans were refusing to watch football anymore.
But it wasn't until the Browns returned in 1999 that I realized what it meant to be a true follower of this team.
Four years ago, Cleveland fans had been emotionally crippled, burying their memorabilia and voluntarily exiling themselves from the sport of football.
Now, they were selling out a brand new stadium to see an expansion team that had a snowball's chance in hell when it came to competing.
However, no one cared. Sundays were sacred again, and that was all that mattered. Fans could once again adorn themselves in orange and brown. For the first time in nearly half a decade, people in Cleveland were barking with a purpose.
This passion, this undying support for a product which is faulty more often than not, is what made me a Browns fan.
While a losing season can make a winter much colder than usual, I can rest assured, because an entire fanbase is enduring the same blues I am. Yet, as ugly as it may have been, you can bet all the money in the world they'll be back next year.
And so will I.
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