It was a cold wintery day in 1979 and I was just relaxing on the couch watching Tom and Jerry. I was 5 years old and just starting to retain memories of my childhood. My dad came home after a long 12 hour shift from work. His blue workman uniform was now covered in black grime and the appearance of his hands told the story of his blue collar profession. Rough and cracked, nails dirty and skin weathered. He said his hello, smiled at me and then handed me a grouping of silver metallic stickers that bore the emblem of a Cleveland Browns Helmet. With this exchange I do not think that my father could have understood the impact. I personally became engrained in the fabric our city, instantly understanding and connecting with its culture. I realized that hard work is important, that you must get your hands dirty to survive, weather is not a positive attribute in this city and that the Cleveland Browns represents all of these things. I became a Cleveland Brown’s fan for life, for better or for worse.
My roots were set and he handed me the keys.
I became spoiled quickly. The following season the Kardiac Kids were born and were winners. Popular local records like “12 Days of a Browns Christmas” were released and was played repeatedly within my household. The Browns came a few minutes from reaching the Super Bowl. In 1985 the Browns drafted Bernie Kosar and suddenly made the Playoffs for the next 5 seasons. Once again they knocked on the Super Bowl door three times but fell short. The stadium was a place of worship and reflection for me. I would look around and bond with the people of the city. The crowd resembled my father and reinforced my perception of the composite of the city. The players loved the city and the city loved the players. It was spiritual.
The Browns were moved in 1995 and it was heartbreaking. They returned in 1999 into a new stadium with shine and polish, but not the grit and determination of the city that was proud to call them our own. I tried to hold onto the past. I purchased season tickets for 18 years but a disconnect now exists. The crowd is different while the players love for the city is nonexistent. The winning is minimal and there is a level of mistrust between the team and the fans. A generation of fans has been lost and I am apathetic. It was a cold wintery day a few weeks ago and my 6 year old son was sitting on the couch. I handed him trading cards that bore the emblem of a Browns. The keys and tradition are now in my son’s hands, for better or for worse.