Where, oh Where, Have Cleveland's DAWGS Gone? Where, oh Where Can They Be?

Greg CookseyCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2008

Have you had it yet? Most fans have. When the Cleveland Browns came back in 1999, Cleveland once again was buzzing with pride. Sure, the sports fans here had the Indians, who were in the midst of an amazing run and there was excitement, but it was not the same.

The Cavs were around, however, no one really cared. It was the pre-LeBron era, in which the team was terrible and you would not have been able to give a ticket away if you tried because if you did, it was considered an insult to the other person's intelligence.

There is a saying that Cleveland's pride has always been reflected by its sports teams, and Clevelanders do love their sports, make no mistake about that. The fans love it when the teams do well, and if you are an outsider who travels there on business or what have you, while one of the teams has done well, you know what the atmosphere is like.

There is one thing, though, that separates all Cleveland fans from the rest- the Cleveland Browns. For years, the Browns have had a special relationship with the fans in Cleveland that neither the Cavaliers or Indians can seem to muster, try as they may. If the Indians or Cavs do poorly, the fans' attitude is, "oh well, if they won't do what it takes to win, then we won't go to the games, maybe then these teams will get players that can win on the team." 

This is reverse psychology at its best because for seven out of the last nine seasons since the Browns have returned to the NFL, the team has performed miserably and they have been rewarded for it with a packed house every Sunday!

Yes, the Browns are to Cleveland what the Yankees are to New York or what the Lakers are to LA. The fans' first passion. The one that they love so much that they cannot be apart from them.

If there's church to go to on Sunday, fine, we will just go to an early service so that we can be home well in time for the 1 PM kickoff, if there is a birthday party to go to on game day, it better not be until 5 PM, regardless of it being a school night or not because, I'm booked with the Browns game from 1- 4:30 PM, at least.

That is the attitude of most Browns fans, nothing stands between the fans and the team.

So it stands to reason that these fans are finally getting frustrated and angry about how this franchise is being run and performing right now.

Most fans, young or old, remember the good times the city had with this team. The older crowd has fond memories of the teams from the late '40s, '50s, and '60s that dominated its opponents and either competed for or won the NFL championship every year.

Younger fans have their own exciting memories of teams like the Kardiac Kids or the teams from the mid 80's who also have some of the greatest moments of the franchise's history. Whatever the case is, this city has always been madly in love with its football team, and the football team has always been in first place.

Why is this so, you might ask? One reason could be that this team has always had players that reached out to the fans the way the fans did to them. The teams of the mid-80's especially had a great connection with the team. Hanford Dixon and Frank Minifield started the tradition of the DAWG POUND which was the bleacher end of the old stadium.

They were the ones who introduced the dog barking to the fans; it was their way of connecting with them. While there was some merchandising around it, it was nothing like today. Today, Dixon's and Minifield's ideas have been turned into a marketing identity for the team, not that they mind because I am sure that they don't, but I'm also sure they have not seen a penny out of what they started ether.

This team has, for one reason or another, always represented what a Clevelander is- a blue collar, hard-working town that both lives and dies hard. Just like the football team does on the field, the citizens in Cleveland have to grind for everything that they have.

So, for the fans being able to go the stadium, pack the lake shore area and hang out and have a beer or two and eat a bunch of food outside of the stadium while they listen to or watch the game, or to sit in their own living room on Sunday afternoon and be able to watch a team that did the same thing on the field that they do every day representing them, it was like a reward comparable to none other.

The mid-to-late 80's team understood that. Even though they could not produce a championship for the fans, they gave back the respect admiration, and love to the fans that the fans gave them. They were part of us, and we were part of them.

Today, we have people running this team that just don't get it. We have players like Braylon Edwards who can't catch a ball or does not play to his potential and then wonders why the fans can't just let him be the player that he is.

We have situations like the Kellen Winslow drama that never would have happened with the team prior to them moving to Baltimore. We have general managers that send unprofessional e-mails to fans, we have had hot heads like Carmen Policy who bolted when it looked like things were not going to go his way running the team.

It has been a certified mess and it's not funny to anyone who bleeds orange and brown now or has in the past.

Perhaps that is just the problem. Perhaps we have been sucked into believing and accepting that this is the same franchise that we were connected to in the past when all it really is, is a start-up expansion franchise that was given the history of a team with fans who would not let it die.

This team has turned off some of the former players by not letting them be near the team, and while they have done a better job connecting with the players who bled for this team in the past, they most likely will never be able to have the fellowship they would like and need to have with them because the ones who have been pushed away from the team no longer feel like this is the same franchise they played for.

They feel like the Browns they played for now reside in Baltimore where they have been renamed the Ravens.

Is that they truth? Perhaps that is something that you and I have to decide for ourselves, but you must take this thought into consideration: "does this team really represent and mean what it once did both to me personally and this city as a whole?" Only then will you be able to answer that question.

It's true that Cleveland takes pride in its sports. They represent who the citizens are and what they do. It's time to demand better from its first passion, the Browns. The fans in Cleveland deserve a lot better then what they have gotten out of this team.

The question is, will the owner Randy Lerner finally realize that and start doing what it takes to make this teams now long running failures right with the fans?

He owes them that much.