On Sunday, we all sat in a bar, transfixed, as fans of other teams. There wasn’t a single Cleveland Browns jersey in sight, but the whole bar was whisper-quiet as we watched the Cleveland Browns kicker line up for a (almost literally) last-second field goal against the once-Cleveland based Baltimore Ravens. The kick wasn’t pretty, but it was good.
The entire room (and other sports bars in the area) erupted with thunderous cheer. The Cleveland Browns fought their AFC North rival for sixty minutes of game time and won only their second game of the 2018 season. For a brief moment, the Packers fans who watched the Lions stymie Aaron Rogers all day, Broncos fans who watched their team struggle for the second time in the same week, and even deflated Falcons fans had a reason to cheer. The NFL’s perennial underdogs managed to avoid another loss and everyone outside of Baltimore loved them for it.
And Jimmy Haslam hasn’t even paid me to say that.
And probably Eli Manning, too.
The ‘Factory of Sadness’ is closed
Much like the rest of the history of manufacturing in the Great Lakes area of the United States, this factory has closed and moved away from the area. Instead of Mexico, that factory has moved its production to the Meadowlands. Sorry, New Yorkers. But hey, at least you have the Yankees forever.
While two wins may not excite anyone from other franchises (the Lions are so 2008), for Cleveland fans and the team’s admirers, many of whom came from watching the 2018 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks, another notch in the W column means more than just a win over the team who stole the Cleveland franchise from a loyal city and fanbase — it means making the most of a bad situation.
The Browns’ constant struggle stretches way beyond the last few years. Frustrated Browns fans have been consistently disappointed in their hometown team for almost two decades after the Browns were reborn as an expansion team in 1999 – with the exception of a Wild Card Playoff appearance in 2002. The team’s lackluster gameplay in all but two seasons in that span made for a lot of very disgruntled fans.
But the days of shouting at an empty stadium are over. After the winless 2017 season — and actually going 1-31 over two seasons — fans of the Browns began to embrace their ever-present struggle. Instead of constantly berating the seemingly-hapless leadership who drafted QB after QB, always making way for the next flash-in-the-pan, fans began to hope for the best, even if “the best” meant a single win here and there.
They were going to laugh along — but let the Browns know they were fed up.
After the end of the 2017 season, fans held a Perfect Season Parade, attended by thousands and marked with a pickup truck sponsored by a Funeral Home, complete with a casket on the back and headstones of every Browns quarterback since 1999. The parade drove around FirstEnergy Stadium, a message to owner Jimmy Haslam.
Browns Fan Chris McNeil organized the parade. And the city of Cleveland was happy to oblige him.
Even if Haslam didn’t get the message, the rest of the country sure did. At the start of the 2018 season, Bud Light set up “Victory Fridges” around Cleveland, connected to Wifi, set to open via electromagnets when Cleveland won their first game since Week 16, 2016. Each fridge contained 200 cans of Bud Light that would be free to any Browns fan. Their Week 1 tie against the Steelers wasn’t enough.
The fridges opened after the Browns’ 21-17 upset win (at home!) against the New York Jets, complete with by a touchdown catch from Browns QB Baker Mayfield and a — probably the only interesting Thursday Night Football (TNF is boring and I’m not alone in thinking so) game we’ll see all year long. And while Carlos Hyde’s touchdown run was critical to the Browns’ win, I watched in amazement as a bar in Los Angeles erupted in cheers for Joe Schoebert’s game-winning interception.
And I wasn’t even at a sports bar. The Victory Fridges opened, the spell was broken, and the Browns suddenly became “America’s Team.” Sorry, Jerry Jones.
Cleveland Browns fans’ newest trend is the “Rally Possum,” referring to an actual possum roaming around FirstEnergy Stadium, caught by a Browns fan during their win against the Jets. A possum was sighted again before the Browns played the Ravens in Cleveland.
Get your Rally Possum T-shirts here.